Sometimes bad things happen. Nothing can change that.
What's important is that sometimes they don't happen to me.
Last week, we met my sister and her husband in Montreal. I was pretty excited -- it was a place I'd never been, we hadn't had any time off for a while, there was a new baby involved -- it just seemed like a good time in the making. Each one of our four planes took off and landed 15 minutes ahead of schedule, I couldn't pronounce the name of the food we ate, and we were never lost for more than a half hour at a time. I'm telling you, we were riding a big run of luck.
I tend to think there's only so much luck in the universe, and I feel a little guilty when I'm using good fortune that belongs to someone else. Imagine my relief when I found out whose luck I was using.
It belonged to my brother-in-law.
He and my sister had decided to rent a short term apartment while they were visiting their new granddaughter. They were a little surprised when they checked in and the owner said she didnâ€™t take credit cards or checks; they'd have to pay in cash.
Who carries that much cash around? But, that's why credit cards and ATM machines exist in this world. The only problem was that when they tried to withdraw some money at the closest ATM, their credit card didn't work.
Why? Who knows? Technology is not our friend, and it sure wasn't theirs. So, let me recap. My sister and her husband were in a foreign country, staying in an apartment they couldn't pay for, and the clock was ticking. All combined, it added a little spice to their visit...and that's when we showed up.
I was sensitive to their plight. A few years ago I got my first debit card and used it when we checked into a hotel for a four day conference. We had a $500 limit on the card, but what we didn't know was that when I plunked the debit card down to reserve the room, which totaled about $498 for 3 nights, it showed up as a charge every day. That meant when I tried to buy a cup of coffee and some lunch, the card was declined. That's not something you want to hear, some clerk saying, "Yeah, you're over the limit. You can have the coffee, but I'll have to take back the scone." I spent the week fleeing clerks all over the city.
Anyway, the choices for my sister and her husband were pretty obvious:
- Sneak out of the apartment a day early -- carrying all their luggage, of course.
- Turn their host into the Canadian tax police and hope for a reward -- in cash.
- Find some cash, somewhere.
We were willing to help with Plan 3. My wife and I spent one day exploring Montreal. It was interesting. "Oh, there's Chinatown -- and THERE'S an ATM! There's Notre Dame Chapel, built in 1655 -- and THERE'S an ATM!" Because it was the weekend, the machines would only let us withdraw $100.00 at a time and it only came out in twenties. It took a while to get a thousand dollars in cash, one wad of twenties at a time. By the end of the day, my wife was carrying a chunk of cash in her purse about two inches thick. I don't know the incidence of street crime in Montreal, but my wife isn't very big. She looked very mug-able, so I tried to look menacing. I was wearing my Norwegian fisherman's sweater, but I don't really know if Canadian street thugs are intimidated by Norwegian fisherman. Maybe if I'd had a Viking helmet and battleaxe...