Friday, August 5, 2011

Forecast: Partly Crappy with a Chance of Diarrhea

Grab this related post Widget!
I hate a messy kitchen. So a few nights ago after enjoying a delicious dinner of chicken marsala, oven roasted potatoes, and asparagus, a meal that was fun to prepare but dirtied a lot of pots, pans, dishes, silver and glassware, it was particularly aggravating when the water went off for the second night in a row. And didn't come back on until after we were in bed and almost asleep. And I hate waking up to a messy kitchen even more-------.

But such has been our fate since returning from the States only two weeks ago. The lost bag--internet off--retrieving the lost bag--visa problems--water going off twice--it has seemed like we've been caught in a shit storm that won't disperse.

And day before yesterday threw another log on the fire. I needed to pull some cash from an ATM. The machine I normally use was out of order, so I went up the street to another one that I intensely dislike for reasons I'll soon reveal. I put in my card and requested $300. The screen puttered around then said "Transaction Incomplete." H-m-m-m----. I went inside and asked an employee what was going on. He said ATM's all over the city were down but should be operational in just a few minutes. He asked me to wait, then accompanied me to the machine for another try. Same message, no money, no receipt. Oh, well-------.

But you know how sometimes you just have a feeling? I went home and checked my balance online. As I suspected---two $300 deductions, no money. And I always thought that people robbed banks, not vice versa. Silly me.

The reason for my negativity towards this particular machine is that I had already been a robbery victim there a few months ago. Again withdrawing money, some of the bills (worth $60) got stuck in the hole and when after the allotted time I could not for the life of me get a proper grip on them the SOB sucked them in like a spoonful of jello. I reported the incident immediately and the employee, in true Latin American fashion, said it wasn't the bank's fault because they didn't own the machine. He suggested a convoluted solution that was along the lines of solving a Rubik's cube. Plus this account was with one of the US behemoths. I decided I was going to spend $600 (or maybe $6000) worth of effort trying to be reimbursed the 60 bucks, so in the end I succumbed and didn't pursue it.

Now we were talking about $600, but this time good fortune was on my side of the pigskin. You probably thought this blog was going to be another chapter in Poor Edd's Almanac. Nope, this time I get to live happily ever after.

You see, I don't use that giant bank anymore. Nope, after that previous incident I decided to run our financial transactions through a small credit union in South Carolina where we've had a relationship for years. This is the kind of institution where when I call on Skype I can say, "Hey. This is Edd Staton. Can I speak to-----?"

And that's exactly what I did. After talking to my friend there and following up with an email to make everything official, the money was back in my account the next day. No labyrinth of "For _______ press ___," no "I need to transfer you to ____," no unanswered voicemail, no "We need you to fill out this form, provide a stool specimen, and ______." Not even, "What's your account number, sir?" They know my account number because they know me.

This incident made me think about why I ever decided to use that big bank in the first place. Then I remembered that when we first moved here they charged no "foreign transaction fee" to withdraw money. Their policy subsequently changed and a small fee was applied but my behavior didn't until the cash-gobbling event caused me to reevaluate.

Only then did I realize, "OK, this place has begun charging me money to have my own money, which sucks, and now I don't even want to call them about losing money because I know it will be a waste of time. Why in the hell am I using these guys?" Only then did I finally do some research, make some phone calls, and end up in a much simpler, better place.

Moral of this little story? Have the diligence to constantly examine the components of your life big and small and ask yourself, "Is this serving me?"

If so, continue full speed ahead. If not, change. Now.

I'm happy to report the "storm clouds" appear to have moved on for now. We've enjoyed a particularly social weekend, even by Staton standards: attending a dinner party Friday night and visits with two different couple friends exploring Cuenca, interestingly, from two different parts of North Carolina on Saturday and today. Hoping for a quiet, event-less week ahead (with the knowledge in all probability that ain't gonna happen).

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