Jun 26, 2011

Moving day

July 1st is the universal moving day in Montreal. It's also Canada day, of course, so therefore a public holiday. And exactly a week prior, on June 24th, it's what I call Quebec-day (properly St. Jean Baptiste day or FĂȘte Nationale). So the end of June and the beginning of July are generally infused with a holiday atmosphere. The jazz festival has started, and a few other smaller festivals have already been and gone. Montrealers truly take advantage of the summer.

But why everyone in Montreal has to move on July 1st will always remain a mystery to me. It's an almost 40-year remnant of what was once a legal requirement. Back in the 18th century, the colonial government of New France forbade landlords from evicting their tenant farmers before spring snows had melted. Sure, that made sense in 1750. In 1866, urban leases were required to start on May 1st. In 1973, the Quebec government decided it would make more sense to move this date to July 1st so that students would not be required to move during term time.

However, this law was repealed in 1974. Yet, people persist in moving on July 1st. In fact, in 2009, more than 225,000 households moved on July 1st. Tell me this isn't a headache?

One step outside my building reveals numerous moving trucks, the weeks prior and following July 1st. Where do these trucks go when it's not "moving-day"? Do they just hang out on a parking lot all winter? Surely, the increase in moving volume during this time of year means either a massive shortage of trucks (and accompanying men), or a giant shortage of business in the remainder of the year. Do moving companies make all their money in June and July? Do they just hire a bunch of students to do the work in the summer? Presumably to accommodate the serious shortage of moving trucks, I even saw two guys on bicycles with "heavy-duty trailers", pant their way up the hill on Atwater Avenue.

The entire concepts seems insane, if quaint. You can't drive through narrow Montreal streets without having to swerve around a double-parked truck every other block. Everything, including the kitchen sink is being moved (almost literally - people have to move their fridge and stoves since these are not typically supplied by Montreal landlords). Used furniture can be found everywhere along the streets. If you haven't booked a moving truck at least 6 months in advance, you're out of luck. My facebook page is full of appeals from friends who are asking for moving help. 

Of course, some have suggested that mandating the July 1st rental contracts was a deliberate move on the part of Quebec-separatist politicians: after all, who can truly enjoy the Canadian national holiday if they're having to lug their entire apartment's contents around?

I can't help but wonder how many people break ankles, wrists or even their neck on the narrow, curved Montreal stairways. Come to think of it, perhaps moving in the summer is safer than moving during the winter. But does it all have to be done on July 1st??? True Montreal Madness.