Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Miami Is Not Nice

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Total Black: $221.13
Total Red: $243,731.55

And I’ll say it thrice.  (Lil’ “Golden Girls” reference there.)  

But seriously, today sucked.  I’m flying to Los Angeles to attend the wedding of a good friend from law school.  My day started with more bank fiascos and then a flight delay and then a missed connection.  And a forced one thereafter, so to speak.  I wish I could just turn around and go back. 

My first dilemma involved getting myself to the airport.  I re-rented the car a few days ago, as noted in Time to Shine; today the entire amount that had been held was pushed through.  Hence the sizable drop in total black, well that and the down-payment on a new car noted in Fifteen Days.  But when I stopped at the airport a few days back, I had to obtain one of those parking tickets to gain access to the facility.  Fifteen minutes or less is free.  Fifteen to thirty minutes costs two dollars.  I ended up being there about eighteen minutes, but I didn’t have cash on me.  The attendant let me slide.  Today I figured if 30 minutes costs $2, how much would 48 hours cost.  So I opted to leave my car at work and catch a taxi to the airport.  But I needed cash first.

So at lunchtime I drove into a nearby shopping area to withdraw cash from an ATM.  But the transaction was declined.  So I called Bank of America and learned that my debit card had been flagged for irregular activity.  Fine.  I called and approved of the recent transactions, including the sizable down-payment on the car, which triggered the fraud alert.  Once that was taken care of, I returned to the ATM but again my transaction was declined.  So I called back, which, of course, involves multiple layers of automation and frustration, only to end up talking to someone who couldn’t help.  He couldn’t explain why the hold was still present on the card, especially since I had already approved the transactions via the automated fraud check system.  So I got routed to another number, presumably one that would have a person at the other end.  Or so he thought because after the transfer, the line just rang, then a recording picked up informing me that calls weren’t being answered and the call would be terminated.

I called Bank of America a third time.  And this time, somehow in my frustrated requests for “operator” and punching zero a few times, I ended up in the section related to lost or stolen cards.  So I figured I’d run with it.  I thought someone in that department might be able to explain why my card was still blocked.  She was able to.

A few days ago I spotted on Bank of America’s website an offer to obtain a new debit card, backed by US Airways.  A miles debit card.  Three thousand miles just for signing up.  So I said yes and submitted my application.  No one told me that Bank of America would cancel my old debit card before they sent me the new one.  So there I was, hours before a flight, with no cash and no way to obtain any.  That was sign Number One that I shouldn’t be taking this trip.  I haven’t ordered new checks yet because I wanted to make sure mail was arriving.  I learned today that I left one of the two Bank of America credit cards in a box at my mom’s.  All the better for my financial health—except in cases like this.  The credit card that I do have with me—the UPromise Master Card—I don’t know the pin to that card.  Or what I remember it to be doesn’t work any longer.  I also have my AmEx card but that card doesn’t give cash advances.

So after analyzing my options with a Bank of American customer service representative, I decided to just drive into town and check my post office box.  Perhaps the debit card had arrived and all this worry would have been moot.  But it wasn’t there.  And besides, they send the card and the pin separately, so if only one arrived without the other, it wouldn’t have mattered.  So I called my friend to tell him I couldn’t make it.  How could I?  I had about $80 in available credit on the Master Card and about $70 on the American Express.  Sure you can get around with credit but you need cash.  And I needed cash to get the taxi to the airport.

Once I explained my predicament to my friend, as gracious as he is, he offered to loan me cash so that I could retrieve my car from the St. Croix airport parking lot upon my return.  The thought that I’d have to borrow money from him—on his wedding day—when the money should be going from me to him and not him to me . . . it just sickened me.  And saddened me.  But then I realized I could drive back to work and ask someone to drop me off at the airport.  I could use the $8 in cash I had on me for a taxi to take me as close to the court as possible from the airport when I returned on Sunday.  As long as I could get myself there and not have to park in the parking lot.  Hell—if needs-be I could walk back to the court.  So I did.  Officemate rode over with me and then drove the car back to the court.  I was a bit nervous about having someone other than me drive the rental, but thankfully nothing happened.

Once I checked in, however, I learned that my 4:30pm flight was pushed up to about 5:30pm.  I had an hour between flights.  Per the revised flight schedule, it wasn’t certain I’d make it.  To me that was sign Number Two that I shouldn’t be taking this trip.  I didn’t tell my mother about the flight because I felt guilty having spent $775 or so on the flight and the hotel when I’m living off her generosity.  But that was silly.  I wasn’t going on some frivolous adventure.  Some weekend get-away.  I was going to a wedding.  The wedding of someone who cut school to drive five hours to my house and attend my father’s funeral.  My mother would have understood.  And agreed.  But I guess that’s what all these money woes do.  We hide our spending from each other.  But I digress.

I wavered for a bit but then opted to take the chance.  I checked in, went through customs.  I don’t know why we have to clear customs while within the United States; another example of being Inhabitants.  I hadn’t had much of a breakfast and no lunch.  And if I was going to make the connection in Miami, I wouldn’t have time there either.  So I used $3 of my $8 in cash to buy a hot dog.  I can’t think of the last time I had a hot dog.  It was good though.  But my meal was ruined because I ended up sitting next to a knowing-nod couple, the type referenced back in Time to Shine.  This woman was a tooth-pick covered in wrinkled old skin.  She looked like she ate cigarettes for breakfast.  And when she noted she hailed from Arizona, and dropped an aside praising the strong governor they finally have, I knew she was a racist as well.  She proceeded to lecture me quite loudly in a crowded airport waiting area about being white in St. Croix and how there’s only one person in each office who works so I should make a point of finding that person if I need to get something done.  The rest just collect a paycheck, she asserted.

Why don’t you just leave if you’re that miserable here?  And she’s been here for over twenty years!  I don’t understand it.

Finally, after about forty minutes of practicing my navigation skills, the flight finally started to board.  Off they went to first class.  But once we all boarded, we still sat there.  Some tropical depression had delayed us.  Three hours later we landed in Miami.  And then sat on the tarmac waiting for a gate.  I missed my connection by ten minutes.  The next flight leaves at 8:30am.  That was sign Number Three that I shouldn’t be taking this trip.

So I went to the customer service station to switch my ticket.  Because weather is an act of God, the airlines do not provide a hotel room for the night.  And without cash or any amount of credit to speak of, I couldn’t get a room on my own dime.  The American Airlines agent felt badly for me.  He told me to stick around until his shift ended at midnight; perhaps he could help me out.  I thought perhaps he’d slip me a hotel voucher.  Instead he slipped me his room number, so to speak.  He offered to put me up at home.  In his bed.  Not in so many words, but that was his intent.

A night on the airport floor or a night in someone’s bed?  Hard decision—either way you look at it.

2 Responses

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  1. I’ll bite. Why are you in Miami?


    June 19, 2010 at 18:54

  2. On the “knowing nods,” that is the number one (tied with the cost of living) reason that has put wife and I from moving down there or going for long periods of time.

    I suppose maybe it is natural, especially considering that the whites you see there are generally former mainland US citizens, and those being from an older generation. Nevertheless, I was bothered by it too. It seems like the “knowing nod” is like them saying, “Hey, when ‘they’ all turn on us when the inevitable race riot breaks out, you’ll have our backs, right?”

    I think you’re gonna have to get used to it though…moving from the US, probably from an upper class white neighborhood, to a place where you are so visibly now the minority makes people feel very intimidated.



    June 24, 2010 at 15:25

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