For inspiration in fiction, we don’t have to look much further than real life. This weekend, my family and I moved house and to help us do so, we hired a firm of movers. I am growing to love and appreciate German efficiency in more ways than I can enumerate. They moved us door-to-door in a sleek and streamlined seven hours, while taking extreme care over both our precious and our less precious belongings.
During those seven hours, my main job was to stand at the front door to direct them to the relevant room, occasionally running up behind them to ensure that they put each piece of furniture in the right place. All this standing around gave me time to observe the different personalities at play. These were:
Boss guy: short, efficient, slightly ratty or terrier-like, with a belly that indicated how much he liked his beer and some two-day old growth. He took great care of his team, telling us when it was time to get them coffee or other drinks and when they required lunch. Didn’t get involved with the banter during the smoke-breaks. Clearly in control, but lifted just as many heavy objects as the others. A hands-on manager, whom everyone seemed to respect.
Second boss guy: Taller, more interestingly bearded. Main role to stand inside the truck and hand furniture or boxes to the team. Left early to take his wife to a concert and happily engaged in idle chit-chat with me. Liked his roll-ups and engaged in banter with:
Stern guy: One of the heavy lifters, very tall and bulky. Had a comment about everything, all delivered deadpan. At first, quite intimidating because of his size and running commentary, but when I realised what a good sense of humour he had, I started to enjoy his company. When it time to lift the really heavy stuff he called on:
Baby: Medium, balding, baby-faced with blue eyes. Number one heavy lifter of the team. He and stern guy did complicated things with ropes and got some large pieces of furniture up two flights of stairs without touching or scratching the walls. Baby sang out of tune constantly, chatted to himself and didn’t always understand instructions, but was gently put right by one of the others.
Goth guy: Also large, with complicated facial hair and head shaved on both sides. Of all the team, his personality emerged the least.
Jolly guy: Full of commentary like stern guy, but always with a smile. Was happy when he got to deliver to the ground floor and particularly enjoyed carrying a toy castle. ‘I carried that castle all by myself,’ he told anyone who would listen. Was equally happy to carry heavy stuff. The smile didn’t leave his face for seven hours.
Old guy: I had the feeling he was perhaps the former manager, because he got to drive the second truck and was treated respectfully by everyone. Second boss guy made sure he gave him the lighter stuff to carry.
Cool guy: his main job was to dismantle and reassemble furniture, and he helped me estimate if certain pieces would fit into the smaller rooms. Not a smiler. Hair stayed rigidly gelled in one place all day. When he wasn’t taking furniture apart and putting it together, he hefted along with the others. Didn’t join in the banter during the smoke breaks and kept himself slightly apart from the gang.
With all these fabulous characters in place, all a writer needs is a murder, a love triangle or the surprising arrival of a space-craft.