Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Saga of the Wallet, Continued

So, I wrote about how my wallet got stolen, and about the trauma I went through over the next couple of days trying to get everything sorted out, and about how my wallet was eventually returned to me, sans cash but otherwise intact.

Last Tuesday, I picked up my new bank card (for which I was charged a five euro replacement fee, by the way), and thought that was more or less the end of the saga, other than figuring out when and how to get my new American cards, which are currently in my parents' possession.

Then last Wednesday, I took a day trip to Quimper to visit the museums there. The first thing I did upon getting off the bus was walk across the street to an ATM to get some cash.

CODE INCORRECT. (Or whatever it says when that happens.)

I looked at it for a minute in astonishment. I was pretty darn sure I hadn't screwed it up. I tried again.


At that point I started to panic, realizing that my new card must also have a new PIN, even though no one at the bank had bothered to mention this to me. I hit "cancel" and got the card back. For a second I freaked out about the fact that I was no an hour from home with no access to money, before I remembered the bus home costs three euros and I definitely had at least that much on me.

Then I thought, "Wait a second, this is ridiculous." I put the card back in the machine and tried again.

I think I was hoping that the three strikes and out rule did not apply if you started over entirely, but obviously modern technology is too smart for that, and, predictably, the machine ate my card.

At that point I was seriously pissed off. I went inside the bank (which fortunately was a branch of the one that holds my account). I explained to the woman that the machine outside had taken my card, which was confusing to me because I had thought I was using the correct code. "That's strange," she said. No kidding. I gave her my passport so she could look up my account, and then explained that I had just gotten a replacement card, but that since no one had said anything to me about a new code, I had assumed it was still the same. (I left out the part about how they had specifically asked me the week before about whether the code had been lost along with the card, a question whose purpose I do not understand if they were going to change the code regardless of the answer.) She then explained that the new code would have been sent to me by mail, at which point I must have looked horrorstruck, because she said something like, "Does that not sound familiar?" I explained that I live at the school where I work and it's closed for the holiday. No mail. I think I then tried to reiterate the fact that NOBODY FREAKING TOLD ME I was going to have a new code in the first place.

She said she would go try to get my card out of the ATM, and then she could withdraw some cash for me if I wanted.

"There's no other way to get the code?"

"No. It can only be sent to your home address. It's for your security."

Seriously? I'm standing right in front of you in person, passport in hand (a passport which contains not just one, but two photos of me, I might add). What's more secure than that? Send me back to my own branch if you must, but surely that would at least be enough for them? I even understand if bank employees aren't allowed to access PINs, but the original letter was generated somehow and handled by some person, so there's got to be a way to print a new one and hand it to me.

Needless to say, that little discovery blighted my whole day. But more than that, I had plans for my vacation: At the very least, I was going to spend a couple more days in Paris, I was going to check out Saint Malo, and, most importantly, I was going to spend four days in Barcelona with my friends. I had put off buying tickets until I had my trip to Senegal sorted out, and then until I got my new bank card, but I had intended to go home from Quimper that very day and book my trains and flights and hostel. But try as I might, I couldn't think of any way to do any of that without using my bank card at all. Even if I went back to the bank and withdraw a huge sum of cash, that would still be all I had. If something happened to it, or I ran out, in a place where my bank doesn't exist, I'd be screwed. If I somehow found myself in a situation where I couldn't use cash, I'd be screwed. There is no way to use a French bank card without the code (except online, which would get me my plane tickets and maybe my hostel, if I was lucky--some hostels prefer cash--but nothing else). And of course, I didn't even have my American cards, which are a pain to use anyway, to back me up, so I couldn't even pay for my whole trip with a credit card to be paid off when I got back.

So, wallet thief, I hope that twelve euros + however much Czech kroner was really worth it, because you ruined the next three weeks of my life. I may not get another chance to go to Barcelona, which we'd been planning since last fall, and I certainly won't get another chance to go with these people.

It's not really so bad, in the end. I think I needed some time at home to work on stuff like powering through my TESOL course and looking for jobs for the summer and next year. I'm getting some reading done. I'm working on blog posts. I'm getting some hiking in (though transportation continues to be an issue), because what better time to explore my immediate surroundings than when I'm stuck here anyway, especially since I've so far proved to be insufficiently motivated to go out and do such things during my free time when I'm not on vacation. And of course, I'm saving a lot of money; there's nothing better than lack of easy access to money to keep one from spending it. But it still sucks, because the things I WOULD have done were things I won't have time to do otherwise. I'm not looking forward to hearing about what I missed in Barcelona, and I'm not looking forward to the inevitable questions about what I did during the holidays when I go back to work. (Some of the teachers already knew about Barcelona, which will make for especially awkward conversations.) I'm trying to be as productive as possible so I can feel like the time off wasn't wasted, but I'm not sure how well that's going to work for someone like me.

Especially since there are now only a little over two months left before this is over...

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