Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Comes With Baggage

My possessions arrived today.

Until today, I felt I had escaped my previous life, but now, with all these items here, I feel trapped. I feel that my past has found me once again, that I’ve not escaped at all. There’s something to be said for walking out of an undesirable life with just the clothes on one’s back. Sitting here in this beautiful spacious flat — the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived — hemmed in by 100 boxes of books, clothes, books, parrot cages and toys, and yet more books, I wish I’d just walked out and boarded the plane, carrying nothing at all.

With my luck, if I’d done that, I would have been pulled out of the security line at the airport and pushed into one of those “special rooms” to be strip-searched by five men.

Already by late last week, I had a few hints that the arrival of my possessions would awaken unpleasant memories. For example, I finally received the bill for my relocation expenses on Thursday.

It turns out that the price quote to move my possessions from NYC to Frankurt am Main was incorrect: I ended up being billed for nearly twice the quoted price. I thought I would have a stroke when I saw the that cost, since it is nearly the same sum as one year of rent for my rent-stabilized NYC apartment! (And some people wondered why I didn’t “just move” because I was chronically unemployed.)

To add insult to injury, I am being told that I will owe additional hundreds, or perhaps as much as a thousand dollars more. Why? I have no idea.

To celebrate that astonishing cost, I promptly developed a migraine that kept me hidden away in a darkened bedroom for the afternoon and evening, worrying, worrying, worrying about money, obsessing about my still plummeting credit rating, worrying about money; upset that I was unable to work on my writing, frustrated by my lack of German, and frustrated because I forgot all of my prescription (effective) analgesics in my NYC apartment.

No doubt, those desperately-needed pain relievers were sold on the street by a drug dealer.

And, as if that ballooning relocation expense wasn’t shocking enough, I put the entire cost of relocation on my VISA card. Mysteriously, my paper VISA bill arrived three days after the bill was due, and my electronic VISA bill inexplicably never arrived at all. I paid the bill (electronically) as soon as I received it, but it was still three days late, so I was billed by VISA for an additional $100 in late fees and interest. This late payment now appears on my otherwise spotless on-time payment-in-full record that extends back to when I first got this credit card when I was a teen. So my once-golden credit rating (already destroyed by non-payment of two medical bills) is now likely submerged somewhere in the negative digits. It’s a good thing I am no longer job hunting in the US: “failing” a credit check is sufficient to keep a well-qualified candidate from being hired for any job that uses credit checks as a pre-hiring screening tool. I know this to be true based on several experiences.

To say the least, all this is a very ugly reminder of the stressful existence that I just escaped after five-and-a-half years of struggle. And today, I find myself nearly overwhelmed with depression. I just want to curl up under the covers and cry.


  1. #1 ABradford
    January 19, 2010

    Can’t help with the credit card woes, but I had something similar happen with moving expenses a while ago, where the movers (the ones in the truck) demanded more once the move was done. I looked at the contract carefully and noted that the price could not be increased more than some % (I think it was 10%) over the estimate given before the move. When I talked to the person that gave me the quote, she dropped the final price closer to the original quote than the % I was expecting. I think that there are laws that protect the consumer this way, be sure to talk to the person that gave you the quote.

  2. #2 Stephanie Z
    January 19, 2010

    You can relax a bit about the credit card, I think. Companies almost never report something overdue by that little. It isn’t worth their hassle to fix it for everyone who had a problem like yours–something the company caused.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    January 19, 2010

    Well, I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing to say right now, but you were missed last weekend.

  4. #4 Texas Reader
    January 19, 2010

    I’m so sorry about this horrible twist to the move. I’m hoping you are able to appeal and get some reduction in your moving bill.

    Like you, I have medical debt due to being uninsured and uninsurable then becoming ill and being hospitalized. I pay $25/month on my $28,000 hospital bill, and have not yet negotiated anything with the doctors so that’s hit my credit rating. It feels so overwhelming that I just don’t want to think about it.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    January 19, 2010

    Hang in there: we all know how you’ve come through worse and kept going – with style!

  6. #6 The Ridger
    January 19, 2010

    Oh, man, that sucks. When you’re feeling better, do try and see what’s up with that bill – there really should be a limit on how much over the estimate they can charge you.

  7. #7 becca
    January 19, 2010

    Might be worth calling the credit card company. Sometimes they’ll relent on the fee if you say you tried to pay but the lack of bill made it impossible.

  8. #8 "GrrlScientist"
    January 20, 2010

    i plan to call VISA to talk with them. (that should be quite an adventure, since i’ll be calling the USA from Germany.)

    after i calmed down, i realized VISA probably will excuse the late fee since my bill is currently under dispute anyway, and because they didn’t send me the paper bill in time, and never sent the electronic bill at all (oddly, they sent the previous and next month’s bills electronically).

    i emailed my contact at the moving company and he says he will review the cost and might actually refund me the overcharge (something in the neighborhood of $3500!). not sure if they will directly refund me the cost, or refund my credit card. i should check on him since he was supposed to contact me on monday .. sigh!

    and thanks greg, for mentioning that i was missed at scio10. i certainly wished i was there, having conversations, beers and snacks with my peeps.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    January 20, 2010

    i was missed at scio10. i certainly wished i was there, having conversations, beers and snacks with my peeps.

    Actually, there was no beer this year, so you didn’t miss much.


    OK, OK, there was beer. I was just trying to make you feel better.

  10. #10 Ben Breuer
    January 20, 2010

    I can’t help with the money woes either, but perhaps I could help a bit with the lack of German? If you need some proofreading, send it. (Whether I’ll be too finicky for my own, and your, good, we’ll see.)

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