Move It on Over

After being a stable homeowner for many years, the last three years have seen me moving more often than an aging knuckleball pitcher. This may seem like a negative—after all, moving is an event that many people view with as much enthusiasm as getting hit by a garbage truck or accidentally light-ing one’s hair on fire. But I prefer to look at the positives. Chief among them, I have become something of an expert at dismantling and reassembling a complex home theater system. Allow me to pass on my wisdom.


Preparation is the key. Any home theater system is complex, and a full 7.2-channel system with a second zone, such as mine, is even more so. A wise man would take the time to label each connecting wire, take photographs of the hookups, and draw out a simple schematic, which would make reassembly that much easier. As I said, a wise man would do that. Of course, an actual man would do no such thing, for such fastidiousness is a show of weakness and should be avoided at all costs. The best plan of action is to do nothing, aside from playing a lot of Call of Duty up until the very moment it’s time to move, then hastily pull apart the components and wind up all the wiring into a huge bundle. Then, put your confidence in the fact that you figured it out a while back, and you’re sure to figure it out again. (Note: such a plan of action is very likely to fail and cause bottomless frustration. Given that, it’s still better than the alternative, which, again, involves planning.)

Obviously, your gear is precious to you and represents the many hours of work, thought, and care that you put into acquiring and assembling it. Ideally, you want to put together a moving team that understands this and treats it with the appropriate care. However, such teams do not exist, any more than Santa Claus or Cher do. And if you wanted to buy the services of a team that cared even a little, well, you couldn’t afford it. So you’ll need to select a team from your friends and neighbors, or at least those who are still taking your calls after those last few moves—and that’s a pretty thin herd. A good recruiting technique is to dangle a vague reward out there, something that leaves you a little wiggle room on the other end. Example: “Boy, that first ice-cold India pale ale is gonna taste great with that steak once this is all over, huh?” When it’s all over and no beer or meat is forthcoming, you can gently explain that you meant someday, a week, a couple of months from now, when you do have your first steak and pale ale, it will taste good. Your friends can scarcely argue with your airtight logic.

On the day of the move, go through your checklist, which, if you’ve done it right, should read, “1. Guys come. 2. We move my stuff.” Item number one will be touch and go, given the quality of person you had to settle for. But they will arrive. They will be late, after going to the wrong house, twice, then back to bed for an hour before striking out again and finally finding their way. But after that rocky start, several runaway hand trucks, and a few occasions of your gear smashing into your door frames, your gear will all arrive at your new place. Sure, some of it will be in the upstairs bathroom, but it will get there.

Now for the arduous task of finding the optimal place and reassembling it to its former glory. The first thing to do is unwind your cables, which somehow in the course of a simple crosstown move have tangled themselves into a giant, intractable rat’s nest, a Gordian knot that puts the original Gordian knot to shame. Toss it, go to the store, and buy all new stuff, then re-learn how to hook up your system (consulting the manuals only as a last recourse and only if no one is watching).

Next, position your system for optimal performance. This isn’t overly difficult, but if your situation is at all similar to mine, you’ll have to parry a barrage of questions along this line: “Is that where that is going to go?” “Has that thing always been that big?” “Can that be moved behind the curtains?” And, my favorite, “I thought we got rid of that.” To survive such an onslaught, you must be resolute, or if not resolute then at least touchy, with a hair-trigger temper. In fact, why not get ahead of it and while positioning your first speaker, loudly announce, “Yes, this is where this has to go! Yes, they’re ugly, and yes, they’re big! But this is my space, my one little corner of the house I can call my own, and I will not yield! Do you want me to start questioning the color of the curtains?!” When you realize you made your bold stand at the same moment she had to run to the hardware store to get picture-hanging wire, your momentary letdown will turn to great relief.

Now all that remains is to calibrate your system. Different homes have different nodes that affect the bass or odd sonic reflections that can smear and confuse the sound. As it happens, they can also have, as my most recent home had, a huge—I mean huge—dead rat right next to the garage door, but those rarely affect the sound. Unfortunately, you won’t know until you’re all set up if yours is one of those rooms that can’t deliver the quality of sound you’re used to. If by chance you are that unfortunate, there’s only one remedy. Load up the truck, call the guys back (you might have to actually buy some beer), pack it up, and head on down the road.