After a wonderful week off and trip to Virginia, I crawled back to work yesterday. My mind and body are still exhausted from the trip and the unfortunate adventure I had one the way home. Instead of the normal ten to twelve hours that it takes to drive from Virginia back to Florida, it took fifteen hours to get home.
The trip started out fine. I was making good time and taking breaks as needed to give both myself and Luke breaks from the car. We made it to South Carolina and then everything slowed down. We got off at one of the first exits on I-77 and found a Shell Gas station. The car’s gauge was nearly on empty. It was five-thirty. My gauge was also dangerously close to “E” as well. I swiped my car at the pump anticipating the meal that I would getting down the road in a few minutes.
The transaction cancelled.
I tried again, concentrating on my breathing, working everything I know not to panic.
The machine commanded me to call my card company. I checked my balances and went into the store thinking it was just an error on my part, ignoring the warning. Maybe I didn’t enter the pin correctly.
The clerk looked like he was having the third worse day of his life. Misery reeked from his pores. My nerves were rattling my brain. How was I going to get home? Sure, my folks could deposit money in my account but they won’t be able to do that until tomorrow. How was I going to get home? How would I pay the extra rental charges if I stated an extra day ? Where would I spend the night? I couldn’t pay for a hotel with seven dollars and some change.
He told me to swipe.
And it declined.
I muttered something and walked out the door. Trying not to run to the car. Luke looked sympathetic
The bank operator comes on the line. How can I help you? She chimes at me.
I tell her. And she checks my account. It is open and active.
“It looks like there is a merchant error. You may need to wait two hours and then try your transaction again.” Her voice trying to maintain its little ray of sunshine.
Two more hours on the road? That would put me home at two am or later. I plead my case explaining the desperation of the situation. I was just about out of gas. I needed to get home, tonight. Why couldn’t I use my own money?
“Let me transfer you to the fraud department.” She earned points for not sounding happy to have me off the phone.
Fraud ? Oh, lord not again. Two years ago, my account was compromised and a month long nightmare ensued. The fraud operator comes on with a thick accent. He repeats what the first operator says and then adds something. I can go to another gas station and try my transaction. Another gas station? I only saw the one coming off the exit, but maybe there is another one down the road. Are you sure it will work?
“Yes.” He said rolling the word around for a moment.
I ask again. Repeating the desperation of the situation. I am seven hours from home. Seven hours away from anyone that can deposit money in my account. I have my precious Luke in the car. I am not sure where I could pull over and feel comfortable sleeping on the side of the road.
Again, he says yes.
I hang up, my nerves don’t. One mile, two miles, three miles and then another mile. There is a gas station on the left with one pump open. I don’t know why this one pump is so important to me, but I am so grateful when I slide into the space next to it that I thank heaven for it. Luke has been hanging in the backseat. He doesn’t even try and get out of the car. His eyes are sad and unsure.
I go inside like I was told. Nervously waiting to see what is going to happen when I get up to the clerk. There are six or seven people ahead of me. People seem to aggravated that there is a line. They complain bitterly about it. The two clerks work through the line, trade off smiles and pleasantries with the blank faces of the junk food/ caffeine addicts that head out the door with exasperated sighs. I’m next. It is time to swipe. Hands shaking, heart racing I swipe.
“Do you want the receipt?”
“Yes” I reply startled and relieved.
Victory is achieved a few minutes later. My nervous refuse to surrender. Twelve hours later, I pull up to my house. My body aching and just wanting everything to reset itself. My nerves finally surrendering to the pull of my own bed.