Moving Stories: The Life of Pablo, or, the Tale of the Surprise Picasso

Moving Stories: When I Unknowingly Moved a Picasso

Moving stories worth re-telling don’t always originate with the heaviest items. During our years in the moving business we’ve moved a lot of crazy stuff. From hot tubs to pianos to rock collections — yes, that’s right, we’ve moved boxes of rocks — to entire greenhouses and swing sets, the list never stops growing.

But the most memorable items aren’t always the heaviest or the most difficult. Case in point — a few months ago, I was on what we call a “labor only” move with one other mover. A labor only move is exactly what it sounds like — we provide only our labor. There are a variety of reasons customers opt for this kind of move. Often it’s because somebody’s moving out of state and wants to hire us to load the truck they’ve rented for the journey. Or the customer is renovating their home and they need to empty heavy furniture out of a few rooms so that their contractor can come in and work.

Other times, somebody’s new home is so close to their old one that we just don’t need a moving truck. On this fateful day, that’s exactly the kind of job we did.

These clients were moving from a high-end downtown building. And they were moving to another one just next door. To make the move even easier, an underground walkway connected the two buildings.

Best Moving Stories - Moving Picasso ain't easy

We didn’t move this Picasso-designed costume representing skyscrapers, but I can’t imagine it would be an easy process. (Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons)

How it Happened

The move itself was mostly uneventful. Usually, this kind of move just involves transporting the furniture on dollies. Consequently, rarely is any heavy lifting required. As long as the customer has reserved proper elevator access things should run smoothly.

Once we had emptied the first apartment, we asked our client to do a walk-through with us. This is a standard practice on all of our moves. It ensures that we don’t leave anything behind.

It was a good thing we did the final walk-through on this particular move. The customer opened up a closet and found two framed items. He asked us to take them to the new apartment. So far, no big deal.

The frames were light, so Andrew, the other mover on the job with me, grabbed one. And I grabbed the other one. Then we walked over to the elevator with our client. Once inside the elevator, we made a little small talk. Nothing too memorable, as I recall. We just joked about how small and light our load was.

That’s when it happened.

“That’s an original Picasso etching,” our customer said to Andrew. We laughed, as we’ve heard all the standard jokes people like to make to their movers. But then something strange happened. The customer didn’t laugh back. He didn’t even have a follow-up joke. That’s when we realized that he was serious, and we became more than a little scared.

Unknowingly moving a Picasso is one of my favorite moving stories.

Reflecting on the Unexpected

Sure, all Andrew had to do was walk about 100 feet without dropping the thing. But, as I understand it, Pablo Picasso is dead. So it would be a very difficult item to replace.

Normally, this is something one would only see in a museum. On this day, it was entrusted to our care. If we had dropped it, we wouldn’t have been able to go to Ikea or order a new one from Amazon. I have no idea how much our customer paid for the etching, but I’m sure it wasn’t cheap.

There’s no crazy ending to this story. When we arrived at the new apartment, Andrew gently set down the etching, we got paid, and went on our merry way. We exchanged a few words in the elevator — mostly, “did that just really happen?” Andrew and I then shared the tale with the rest of the crew, and our day was done.

Ever since then this story has become one of my stock moving stories when a client asks, “Wow, you guys must move some crazy stuff, huh?”. Yes, yes we do. But we don’t always know it while it’s happening.

Chris Amaral is the owner of Safe Responsible Movers, a moving company in Boston, Massachusetts. To get a moving quote from Safe Responsible, click here.

Featured photo by ceridwen [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons (Photo does not represent the etching we moved.)