Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What doesn't kill you, part 1.

This was my mantra during my past trip.  Well, not really, but it should have been.

Mostly what I said were a lot of things that aren’t suitable to be repeated here.

I think I might dedicate a few posts to my trip, just because there was so much that happened, both good and bad, that it’d be better to break it up into manageable chunks.

Let me start out by saying Amsterdam is amazing, and if you get a chance, you should definitely definitely go.  The houses are beautiful.  The canals are beautiful.  The art is beautiful.  It’s an extremely walkable and calm city, too.  Mostly what you find while meandering around is that the streets are full of about 10x as many bikes as cars.  I think this is great.  I didn’t rent a bike while I was there, just because I was content to walk and observe everything at a slower pace, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for more activity.  Be careful though!  Because of the ubiquitous bikes, readily accessible public transportation and ever present cars, crossing the street is especially dangerous!  Bikes don't make any noise until they're plowing you down!

Only proof I was in the Dam.

And now for some of the stories that went on leading up to and during my trip.

On Sunday, in the Canary Islands, I woke up with what felt like a swollen tonsil.  This is never great news.  But, it’s happened before, and usually goes away in about two days.  So I was hopeful that things would go back to normal before I left on Wednesday morning for my next adventures.  Well, that didn’t happen.  It got a little worse, then a little better, then a little worse, etc etc.  I ended up catching the bus to start my adventure to Amsterdam feeling rather miserable, but I wasn’t about to not go: That’d just be crazy.

On top of that, my camera started fritzing on me in the Canaries, so I was frantically trying to decide what to do before my trip.  Having a camera, while not an essential part of travel, definitely makes things more fun.  I was especially upset because I just bought it in September, so there was no reason why it should be giving me problems.

I went to El Corte Inglés in Granada and asked them what my options are.  I thought there was some kind of warranty with it, so I wanted to find out the details.

The Target/Wal-Mart/Macy's/FNAC/what-have-you of Spain.

Saleswomen: There’s a 2-year warranty on all cameras sold by Corte.

Me: Yes!

Saleswoman: All you need is the receipt.

Me: Oh.  I don’t have that…what can I do?

Saleswoman: Well, without the receipt we can’t do anything.  But you probably used a credit card to buy it, right?  Go look online on your bank and see what you can find.

Me: Qué buen idea.

I said that to her.  She laughed.  It was a tender moment.

So I went back to my apartment and got online and looked up all the bank transactions that had occurred on both my credit card and my debit card during the month of September.  I looked and looked but came up with nothing.  I was pretty surprised, because I definitely didn’t pay in cash.  Then it hit me: Why would I have used my American cards when I had a French debit card at my disposal?

Well, in retrospect, the answer to this question would be: So that I can look up my transactions later.

To be fair, you can look up your transaction history online with your French bank account, but considering I had closed the account in December when I was in Paris for my birthday, it didn’t do me a whole lot of good.

Sometimes I’m so efficient it’s astounding.  Not only did I close my French account, but I deleted the info for how to access the account from my computer.  Not only did I lose the receipt for my camera, but I took the box my camera came in home when I was there for Christmas.  I also got rid of 90% of all papers relating to my French bank account in an attempt to remove clutter from my life.  So, suffice it to say, I couldn’t find the receipt, and I couldn’t find any trace of what the card number was anywhere.  Normally I keep a scanned copy of my cards somewhere….just in case something happens.  Not this time.

I spent the next 30 minutes tearing through all the papers I have in my apartment looking for any trace of a card number, looking through any emails I have that might be a payment confirmation or something from a time I used my card.  I even got all CSI crazy at one point because I noticed an impression in my American wallet of a credit card.  I checked the numbers against my American cards, and unfortunately, it was from one of them and not from my French card.  Bummer.

Eventually, through researching blog updates, photo booth pictures, and all other manner of information retrieval, I figured out the exact date, and, thanks to the waking nightmare that is the SNCF (the French national railway union), I found 12 of the 16 numbers that were on my French card.  Incredibly random, I know, but I was looking for anything.

With this information in hand, high hopes, and a throat that wouldn’t quit paining, I marched back to Corte and presented this info to the lady at the camera desk.  I explained my situation (it was a different lady).

She took a look at the info I brought and said, “hmm…I don’t know, there might be something we can do.  Let me check with my supervisor.”

That's all for now.  Stay tuned for the next installment.

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