I now think I better understand why people go berserk and sometimes kill. I also have a clearer understanding about our steadily growing divorce rate. I even believe I know the real reason that movers will not ship ammunition with household goods.

What has given me these sudden insights? I have just had a very bad household move.

After several good ones, it came as an awful shock. It brutally exposed to me what is wrong with our society. It epitomized our growing inability to anticipate behavior or expected outcomes in dealing with other people and organizations.

The moving experience is always disruptive, anxious and tiring. It is an exposed time during which one would hope that others would be cooperative and supportive. This is what one should be able to expect in our advanced civilization, and it does occur -- it has happened to me in the past. But this time the opposite was the case.

The packers arrived late, then overcompensated the next day by arriving early. Their packing was poorly done, as evidenced by subsequent damage to many items. Their labeling of boxes was illogical. A box marked "upstairs bath" had items from all over the house. This "sampler" trend was repeated so often that most boxes had to be moved several times on unpacking.

The officials of the moving company made commitments that proved to be capricious and went unfulfilled. We were assured that we could have a door-to-door move. The driver assured us that he would call us on his arrival at our destination. Instead, he not only did not call us on his arrival, he immediately had our belongings put in storage at a location 80 miles from our new home, and left, never bothering to notify us.

After some effort to find out what had happened, we had to negotiate for a move-in date with a local mover. Again, I was assured that the truck would be loaded on the afternoon before the move-in date so that it could arrive early for unloading on move-in day. When I called them on the agreed move-in date to find out when they would arrive, I was told that they had not loaded the truck the day before, and it would probably be late in the day before they could arrive. They recommended that we delay for another day or two. When I was insistent that I had to move in on the day we had previously agreed to, the agent reluctantly acquiesced, but said it would be very late when they would arrive, and the crew might not be too happy about having to work into the evening. This time the agent was right.

The truck arrived at 4 p.m. The crew was hostile and careless. Two of the men were moved slightly at the sight of my middle-aged wife sadly holding the crushed remains of a treasured ceramic fruit bowl. But generally, their conduct was insensitive and selfish.

At 9 p.m., as the ordeal drew to a close, I told the driver that the only item missing was our portable, color TV set. He replied that it was on his inventory, and that I was welcome to search the truck. I asked him why he did not search the truck. He said it was not on the truck. It was not in our house either. So this is to be the final insult, the blatant theft of our TV set?

With the driver, I had to go over myriad forms, spelling out the endless limits of the mover's responsibilities and the equally endless requirements for me to quantify and substantiate and verify claims for losses and damages.

It was late. It was dark. The crew sat sprawled on our furniture. Hardly any cartons had been opened or unpacked. A form was shoved before me: "Customer must sign either A or B."

"A" read, "I acknowledge that unpacking services itemized above were performed and that all packing materials were removed from premises."

"B" read, "I hereby waive all unpacking and assume liability for any damage to packed articles and removal of all packing materials."

I signed "B" after a lame attempt at a caveat by adding "pending further inspection." The crew left us, numb and sick with rage, sitting among our things.

The final insult was the process to claim restitution. The burden was mine, not the mover's. I had to keep up the dialogue and pressure. I had to get the estimates for the cost of repairs. It was time-consuming and discouraging, and never really satisfactory.

Ours was an experience that I am sure is repeated many times daily in our very mobile society. It is especially dehumanizing because what is mistreated in a move is more than material; it is usually the intimate heritage of a family or an individual. But perhaps that is not important anymore. Obviously, some moving companies do not think so.