Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas Anymore, Toto

I am back in the Land of the Blog! Some of you are probably like, “Oh damn.” Others are like, “YAWN!”, and then there are the rest of you—the people I love. The ones who say, “WOOT WOOT!” and don’t care who hears them.

Back on the grid! This move to Alaska has not been easy. It’s almost November, and I am just now to a point where I can, A.) Have enough time to sit down and actually write a blog (without any giant cardboard boxes looming in the background), or B.) Actually have internet access in which to write a blog (let’s just say that some things (everything) up here take a little more time (months) to get done than in other places (everywhere else on the planet).

What fun would going through about 100 complete fiascos with moving be if I didn’t write about them all and share them with you? (This is where you say, “Why, NO FUN AT ALL, WHITNEY!) And then I write a long, long, long blog about my 3,000 mile adventure to the State of Alaska.

My last blog entry had to do with the actual “flight” up to this state, and all of the fun that came with my airborne exit out of the State of Colorado. Meanwhile, all of my earthly belongings started on what would be a 4.5 week long, 3,000+-mile journey in the back of a semi tractor trailer, to my now home in Wasilla, Alaska. It just so happened, that Murphy’s Law was in full swing for this entire adventure, and so everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

AHEM!!...Mi Mi Mi

Like Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music…Let’s start at the very beginning—a very good place to start…

Upon my arrival to Alaska, I spent my first night up in Palmer, AK. That’s about 45 minutes north, and east of Anchorage. I slept in, and then went to breakfast at one of my favorite breakfast spots in the world—The Trout House (AKA The Windbreak Café) in Wasilla, Alaska. Things were going great, right up until my friend and I decided to go “look” at the duplex that I had found online, and already committed to leasing for a term of one year. Some of you might be like, “Uh, Whitney, maybe you should’ve looked at that place before you agreed to lease it…don’t you think?” And this is where I’m like, “Oh, now you show up and are a wealth of excellent advice.” (not that I’m bitter)


My friend and I drove up Knick Goose Bay road—about three miles or so from the café we had just been to, and still in Wasilla, Alaska. Pulling into the driveway of the community was fine. It was in a wooded area. Nice trees. Looked like a lot of privacy. The place had some potential. I could see my kids playing outside, riding their bikes around the cul-de-sac, it would be fine, right?

We stepped out of the car, and one of the nice neighbors came over to greet us. Probably because he wondered why we were casing the joint, and looking in all the windows—just a hunch. We started talking, and he invited us over to view the inside of his unit (since my unit was supposed to be similar). We took him up on it, and upon entering he said, “We were friends with the people who lived in the unit you will be renting. The only thing different between your unit, and our unit, is that ours has vaulted ceilings, and yours does not.

WHOA…WAIT A SECOND…BACK THE FREAKIN’ TRUCK UP. Come again say what, Neighbor Friend?

Yes, the unit I was supposed to rent was the very first unit that the builder had built. After it was all together, apparently they decided that the place looked like a cave, and decided to open up all the rest of the units with vaulted ceilings—like the one my realtor had posted online, and then neglected to mention that my place would look “a little different” (ie dark, scary, more like a cave than a duplex, yadda yadda).

Below are the photos that the real estate agent posted online of what the property I was supposed to rent looked like.
*please note the "slant" to the ceiling

So I called the realtor. I had already put down a deposit. The agent went back and forth with me saying, “I know these properties very well! We’ve rented them for years! I know for a FACT that that place has a vaulted ceiling!”

 K. Keep telling yourself that, buddy. Whatever floats your hallucinogenic boat.

The realtor told me he would call the property owner and see if they would refund my deposit. The property owner agreed, and I got the news from the agent, but he was still swearing up and down to me that the place had vaults--which it didn't. Cuz the nice neighbor guy told me so.

Then I got a phone call—it was the realtor’s father. They work as a team in Anchorage, and I kid you not—their motto is, “Making your relocation to Alaska easy!”

Yeah, right. *Scoff*Gag*Hack*Splutter*

The agent’s father had a big, burly, deep voice, with a southern accent. He said, “So you’re telling me that you agreed to sign a lease (the lease was not signed yet), put down a deposit, and now you are backing out because you are telling me the place doesn’t have vaulted ceilings, even though we know it has vaulted ceilings? And my son tells me you had someone come out to look at the property for you. So this was an informed decision, right?”

What is a helpless blonde girl supposed to do when a huge manly man talks to her that way? Shall I curl up in a little ball and let you tell me how it is? Oh...right...it's me.
**Puts on boxing gloves**

This became one of those moments where my voice started trembling. Not because I was being a gigantic Sally of a wimp, but because I was about ready to go verbally postal on Mr. Southern-fried Alaska. I tried to pull myself together by taking a deep breath—and then I started in.

“Mr. O (that’s what we will call him, since his name started with O), I had a friend go over and look at the property because I live 3,000 miles away, and could not do it myself. The unit that was shown to my friend was not the actual unit that I was to reside in, but a “similar unit”. Then, upon my arrival to the property, the neighbor graciously invited us over to his house to look at his place, stated that he was good friends with the people who had just moved out of my unit, and that he had been over there multiple times, and that the only difference between his unit, and the unit I would occupy was the fact that IT DOES NOT HAVE VAULTED CEILINGS. He stated that the unit you were trying to rent to me was the first unit built, and that all other units that followed were built with vaulted ceilings. Therefore, the pictures that you posted online, with the vaulted ceilings, next to a description of this particular unit, are FALSE. It is false advertising, and therefore, I want my deposit back.”

He went on to argue with me, and said that since I had a friend come to look at the unit, that I was still responsible for “pulling out of the agreement” and that he was going to keep my deposit. I told him that my “agreement” included vaulted ceilings—much like the pictures he posted online to advertise the joint. He continued to tell me that he GUARANTEED that the place had vaulted ceilings, to which I replied, “I will drive down to Anchorage right now, pick you up, drive you up to that particular unit in Wasilla, and gladly prove to you that not a single vaulted ceiling exists in the place.”

Then he said, “Wait, you mean my son didn’t show your friend the EXACT unit you would be renting?” I told him, NO, and that the unit I would be renting was not available during the time that my friend looked at it. He said, “Ok…I’ll give you your money back.” **CLOUDS PARTING**ANGELS SINGING**BLONDE GIRL FUMING**

One week later, the property was back up for rent online, with the same pictures, and next to it in parentheses, it said, “Unit shown in photos is similar to that which is available, and vaulted ceilings are not available in all units”. **BAZINGA**

I did end up finding a nice, modern duplex that had the 3 beds/2 baths I was looking for…AND VAULTED CEILINGS.

The first step in this whole moving process was having people show up to pack my house in Colorado. I answered the doorbell when it rang that morning, and there were five chicks in white tee shirts standing on my doorstep. I don’t know why, but I had in my mind that dudes were supposed to be movers, so I said, “Can I help you?” and they all looked at me like I was certifiably insane.
After that brief (awkward) moment, they entered, and it was like having five Tasmanian Devils whipping through my house, rapidly throwing my crap into boxes. I had heard from people who had hired movers to pack them, that it was very nice to have someone come in, take your things one-by-one, and carefully pack/load them into boxes to ship. Apparently, all of those people were busy, because they sent the white trash female mafia to my house to pack my stuff.
They were so fast. Cardboard boxes, wrapping tape, and paper were everywhere I looked. It was hard for me to watch, because they were literally flying through everything I owned, and in every single room of my house simultaneously. I had people in closets, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens—you name it, and there was a chick with a white tee shirt on in there.
There was no care taken with anything I owned during the packing process. They literally took bedding off of every bed in the house, threw it into boxes (without folding it), and there was even one box that had a pile of bedding in it, and they packed a toilet brush right on top of the down duvet. It was gag-worthy. Then, they carried my 52” flatscreen TV down to the floor, stepped on the base, reefed up to pull the top of the TV off the base, and then said, “Aw shit!...that was screwed in!” **POP/CRACK** Yes, they broke it. But they were nice enough to tape the broken pieces of plastic from the base to the box so that I could look at them later and curse at them from 3,000 miles away. (And yes, I insured the entire shipment, but never claimed it because I figured they screw up fixing it as much as they did moving it--and it happens to still function/balance just fine. It just pissed me off that it happened in the first place.)
In the meantime, I had a woman who was in her mid-40s (who looked about 70) packing my kitchen. She had some of her teeth—mostly blackened. She was very rough/gruff, with a raspy voice, and she wore Marlboro perfume. I sat on a box in the living room, and she told me her whole life story about how she used to be a truck driver, but then got a DUI, so now she’s just a packer, and how her ex-boyfriend died in his truck from bleeding out due to esophageal varacies because he was a raging alcoholic, but “not to worry, I have me a new man now. I live with him in a motel cuz we can’t find no one to rent to us with all our pit bulls and kitty cats.” This was the woman who was packing all my thousands of dollars of Le Creuset cookware as fast as Edward Scissorhands can circumcise a juniper bush.
I felt like I was being punked. I just kept thinking in my head, “Am I really paying them thousands of dollars to do this?” Unreal. Needless to say, everything upon arrival was washed in hot water, and I may need some therapy to recover from the entire experience.
Approximately 4.5 weeks after I arrived in Alaska. The moving company called me to let me know they would be delivering my things to me within a few days. I had not received a phone call from them during the entire 4.5 week period, and I just assumed everything was fine. They would contact me if anything wasn’t right, right? **WrOnG**
The morning they arrived, I grabbed oatmeal and coffee from Starbucks, and drove up to my house for the move-in process to commence. The semi truck pulled into my driveway. I was watching all of this from my upstairs living room window that looks out over my driveway. They put the truck in park, opened up the back, and my heart sank to the ground.
This is what the truck looked like when it left my house in Colorado…
And it looked just like that, minus the silver Hyundai Santa Fe, when it pulled into my driveway in Wasilla, Alaska.
Now Imagine my surprise face when it showed up with nothing in it.
It looked a little something like this--minus the flaming red hair, merlot colored lips, penciled in eyebrows, and the giant grandma brooches on each ear.
I was a little, shall we say, "Pissed".
 I immediately went downstairs, through the garage, and one of the guys who was there to unload my things, shook my hand, introduced himself, and then I said something a little like, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Driver/House Unloader Person, now Dude, where’s my car?”
He had no answer for me. He said, “I hate it when they do this to me!” (like it was a regular occurrence) and proceeded to call the moving company. I went upstairs. I was about to have a meltdown, and that is always best done at a distance. Mr. Driver/House Unloader Person called the company, and I then called them, and ended up having to leave a message—I’m sure I sounded super thrilled in it. My “moving coordinator” (hereafter known as the “moving uncoordinator”) then called me back about an hour later. She said that she didn’t know where my car was, or why it had been taken off the truck. Then she told me that she would try to call around to figure it out. REALLY? Cuz you guys don’t keep track of these things these days with like scanners, and bar codes, and things? Holy crap! I have better tracking on my UPS shipments from Pottery Barn!
She called me back again, days later, and said that they had located my car, and that “for some reason, it was offloaded in Montana”. Awesome. Cuz that makes sense, right? Why would you want the car to arrive at the house with all the other things? That would be too easy.
My car arrived in Anchorage. I drove in one morning with friends to pick it up. Surprisingly, the mileage was the same as when I had them drive it onto the semi. No one had been joyriding through a cow field with it. Then came time to sign the paperwork and move on, right? WRONG.
Upon signing the paperwork, the woman who actually owns the moving company came downstairs to talk to me. I was looking up on her walls at all of her accolades, and awards she had won for being “the finest in Anchorage”. Apparently they aren’t very picky in Alaska, because “the finest in Anchorage” had already “lost my car in Montana”. Then she told me that she had GROSSLY underestimated how much it would cost to move all of my things up here, and ended up telling me that she was 25% over her original estimate, and that “that has never happened to me before—I’m usually so good!”. Yeah. Sure. Right. “The finest in Anchorage” even, right?
Then she called me when I got home, and had one of her office assistants tell me that I owed them money. I told them that my entire move had been coordinated through the hospital I was working at, and that they needed to take things up with them. Then the girl laughed at me, and told me, “No, all other funds are the responsibility of Whitney Madison!” She then asked for my credit card, and told me she would gladly put thousands of dollars on there for me. I said, “Uh, no, you will contact my hospital, and arrange things through them.” I then called my other “moving coordinator” with my hospital, told her what was up, she took care of it, and I never heard from them again. Clearly, stellar customer service from Anchorage’s finest ( Finest freakin' hecklers who don’t know how to estimate moving costs, or keep track of vehicles apparently...).
Ever heard of Angie's List? Yeah, this girl likes to write, so I think a review of their services is in order. Maybe they can frame it and hang it next to all of their arctic awards.
Those of you who live down in the lower 48 probably think the power company is some hypothetical being that floats in outer space, and magically makes your lights come on because you give them money each month. Not up here in Alaska--oh no. You want power hooked up? Make sure you have a few days on your hands to get that taken care of.
I called the local electrical association who deals with the power up here in the Matanuska Valley. I had my credit card in hand, and thought I would just have to read them the number, they would flick a switch, and we would be good to go. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? WRONG.
The gentleman on the phone said, "Ok, well in order to get the ball rolling, we are going to need a letter of reference from your old power company."

What? Are you serious? Am I trying to get my power connected, or applying for a job?
He was serious. If I didn't get the letter of reference to them, they were going to charge me $200 to connect my power. They said if I was a good girl, and paid my bills on time, that I could have that money back after one year. Really? Really.
So, I called my power company in Colorado. They told me it would be a week to have a letter sent up, but that they could probably fax one, but it might take 5 days. 5 days to send a fax? Is this not 2013? Who do you have working at your fax machine? Your 105 year old grandmother?
So I waited. And waited. 5 days came and went. I actually had to go to the actual power company building to try to get all of this arranged. It was RIDICULOUS.
I've never been to the power company before. THE POWER COMPANY was always just someone who took my credit card number over the phone, and we called it good. Not up here! I got to go to the building, take a number from one of those circular thingys that they have at the deli counter, and wait in a lobby with a crap ton of people who were also there to get their power turned on--or I should say, BACK ON, because they hadn't paid their bills. Still not sure if they just let them shut their power off because it was summer, and it's sunny all day/night long in Alaska in the summer, or if they did not have means to pay for it. Either way, it felt a little like standing in line at a soup kitchen.
I waited for 40 minutes at the power company for them to tell me that they had not received my "letter of reference". I had to call the power company in Colorado again, they told me they had the wrong fax machine number (yeah, right, just admit it--grandma died on the job at the fax machine...), and that it would be another 5 days to get the fax sent up.
Start-to-finish--it took me 6 phone calls, 3 trips to the power company, and 15 days total elapsed time, to get my power hooked up. Yay for modern technology!!!

Energy efficient light bulbs are on--pissed off blonde girl is home! Woot!

BUT WAIT!!! Don't forget about the gas company!

As if I hadn't had enough fun with the first utility company, I also had to get the gas hooked up to the house. I called the gas company, and they said, "We're going to need you to come in so we can get your customer profile started. Then we need you to bring in a signed copy of your lease, because if you don't, you will be responsible for the outstanding balance at this address.

Come again, say what?

Yes, the people who lived in my house before me BAILED on, not only their final gas bill, but I learned that they moved out in the middle of the night after not paying rent on the residence, and nobody had ever heard from them again. Hmmm. That sucks. However, how is this my problem?

So off to the gas company I went. There was a tiny little area in front of the girl at the front desk where we all had to wait. A line was in a giant, narrow little "U" shape, all the way to the door. I shook my head, and took my place in line.

While awaiting my turn at the cashier, a gentleman from "across the pond" started to talk to me. He was going off about how Alaska sucks, and what crap the gas company is, but he was popping off in a European accent using old English terminology, so it was exponentially cooler, and super easy to listen to.

He said to me, "Can you tell me why you are here?" I explained to him that I had just moved up here from the lower 48 to work. He said, "May I ask--why in the HELL would anyone do that?" Looking at that line, and remembering every fiasco I had endured since the move ensued, I was asking myself the exact same question.

Then he proceeded to pop off about how Alaska is filled with giant herds of people who live in the woods in colonies, they have a horrible drug problem, a high suicide rate, and how 50% of the population are child molesters. I think his estimate was a little on the high end, but nonetheless. By the time he finished popping off, I was super happy I moved here. NOT!

I finally made it up to the counter. It took about 30 minutes to get through the line. One thing I had forgotten about Alaska was how good people smell up here--especially when you are with a bunch of them in a small space (I'm totally lying--it smelled like dog/B.O./Marlboro, and Crown Royal. Showers are optional in these parts.).

So up to the cashier/counter person I went. She said, "Hi." I said, "Hi" back. Then she said, "What can I help you with?" I told her that I was new to the area, and I needed to establish my portfolio with the gas company. She looked at me and said, "Oh, ma'am?...can you step aside for a minute so the person behind you can pay?"

Are you kidding me? Did I not just wait in line for 30 minutes, only to step out of line so that you could help the person behind me first? What in the hell is the matter with this state?!!!!

I finally arranged to have my gas turned on. And as a bonus--I didn't have to pay the bill of the people who enjoyed the gas at my house before me. I did, however, get to pay a $65 unlock fee to restart the gas at the property because they shut it off due to non-payment. Yay me. My enthusiasm is almost too much to contain. I should make a YouTube video of my happy dance celebration.


After dealing with multiple shenanigans with the move, I still had to go to the Alaska DMV. I would've put it off longer if I could've, but my registration in Colorado was going to expire in August, so I had to get it done. The good news? It was $100 cheaper to register my car up here than it was in Colorado. The bad news? In order to get an Alaska state driver's license, you have to take a written driver's test.

I have not taken a driver's test since I was 16. I went over to the area where they had the driver's license test manuals, plucked one up, and took my seat at the DMV to study. Page-by-page I went through the booklet. I was looking very carefully over the driving laws, DUI penalties, etc. The secretary was watching me do this. I noticed that she kept looking at me, like, "Is she SERIOUSLY reading over every flipping page of that stupid manual--WHO DOES THAT?!" Well, yes, DMV Secretary Lady Person--I am reading through every page, because 16 years old was a long time ago, and I'm going to feel pretty stupid if I fail this friggin' test.

She made her move. She actually got up from behind the desk, walked over to me, asked me what I was doing, and after I told her that I was trying to learn everything for the test, she reached out, took my manual from my hands, and then said, "Oh honey--you don't need to know all that! Here is what they ask you."

She went over speed limits in school/residential zones. She told me about their DUI laws, and how long jail time was if you were caught drinking and driving. She told me about DUI fine amounts. Then she said, "And that's it! It should be a piece of cake!"

I set the manual down, because they had just called my number to register my car. As I got up to the counter, the guy told me I did not have the proper documentation (ie SS card, birth certificate, blood sample, donation of my first born child, etc.) to obtain such a document.

I had just driven 30 minutes from Wasilla, to Palmer, to get to the stupid DMV. Then I had to drive all the way back to Wasilla, find all that crap, and then head back over to Palmer to get my car registered.

They remembered me there, so they didn't make me wait in line again. I showed them my stuff, gave them a check, and they registered my car.


I went over to the driver's test area. I was feeling uneasy about the fact that I had not read through the manual, but trusted the secretary person, who had taken the manual out of my hands, and enlightened me with key details, that I had enough information to pass the stupid thing.Then went over to the computer to take my driver's test. Sounds easy enough, right?

You were only allowed to miss 5 questions. I went through each one. I read them. Re-read them. There were some questions that were worded so ridiculously that I couldn't even figure out what the question was asking. I was starting to panic. I had actually missed 4 questions. I was stunned. I was also cursing the lady who took my manual out of my hands and said, "Oh honey!...you don't need that old thing!" Ugh.

The last question on the test was it. I had one more frickin' question I had to answer in order to be a legal driver in the State of Alaska. It was a question that said, "What does this sign mean?"

Oh shit. For reals, oh shit. What DOES that sign mean????

I went over it in my head multiple times. I knew it wasn't one I saw often, but I had seen it before. I couldn't remember where I saw it. It was like one of those horrible moments where you have something in your brain, but you can't make that final connection to put it all together--you know...the kind you lose sleep over, and then wake up at 3:00 a.m. screaming, "NOW I REMEMBER WHERE I'VE SEEN THAT!!!!"

None of the answers rang any bells. It was annoying the crap out of me, and to boot, I was sweating, and starting to panic because I knew this was the final question on the stupid test, and it was going to either make me, or break me.

I answered it. I answered it WRONG.

Let's take a brief moment to review my life.

I have two degrees in science. I had a 3.5 GPA. I've taken chemistry. Physics. Calculus. I am a nurse in a specialty area. I am certified in telemetry. I am certified in Advance Cardiovascular Life Support. I am certified in Neonatal Resuscitation. I am certified in fetal monitoring. However, I failed the effing driver's test in the State of Alaska. Can I get a, "WTF!"? **HOLLA**

After wasting my day driving back and forth through the greater Palmer/Wasilla area, and humiliated/humbled by failing the first test I've failed in I don't know how many years, I went out to my car, said multiple sentences that included the F-bomb, and grabbed my stupid driver's manual.

I was trying to figure out what went wrong. I was pissed that the secretary took my manual out of my hands, and buttered me up with her crap about how I only had to know garbage about DUIs and speed limits. And then there it was on Page 41...

First of all--let me just say that the fact that they dedicated an entire page to this, likely meant that you would see it popping up on a test at some point--assuming the secretary didn't take your manual out of your hands, and not tell you about it. It also doesn't help that I live in the middle of Alaskan farming country, and this type of sign will likely pop up when a tractor cuts me off on the highway at some point.


I used to live in Pennsylvania, and when I would visit Amish country, this is what the buggies looked like going down the road...

In a nutshell--this move has not been easy. I know that some of you have had to endure my relentless gripes on Facebook, but now maybe you have a better idea of where they were coming from. All of the above was taking place while I was simultaneously going through orientation at a new hospital. Stressful?...I'm lucky I have any hair left.

And I know you are dying to know whether or not I took my driver's license test again. The answer is NO. It doesn't need to be done right away, and the important thing was to get my car registered up here--which I was able to do. Hence my super cool license plates.

I think I'll take a little time off before I go for Round 2 at the DMV.


(and just be glad I spared you the story of how long it took to get my internet connected, and how a guy named Jim almost fell off my roof to get the job done. You're welcome. It's also why I haven't blogged in a long time. And please don't ask my why the font changed multiple times throughout this blog--ok, fine...it's because my internet went down, so I typed part of it up in Microsoft word. I'm too lazy to correct that detail so it all "matches".)