Expensive Bonehead Mistake, The Sequel

Saturday, September 19, 2009

God, I am stupid. They never should have let me out of my own back yard, let alone out of the country. You probably all remember the first Expensive Bonehead Mistake:


Well I’ve got a new one for you. I arrived in Barcelona on Friday night. I was tired, I was distracted, and I was not feeling at all ready to tackle a new city. However, when I changed trains in Port Bou there were no connections to Winnipeg, so I had little choice. The train arrived at Estació Sants and I had to get the metro to the area where I was staying.*

The Barcelona metro has automated touch screen machines for buying tickets, and having studied my LP Spain for most of the trip from Port Bou I knew I wanted a 10-ticket pass for €7.20, which is a substantial savings over the €1.30 single ticket. I got my wallet out, but then noticed that the machine I was at did not accept bills, only coins. And because I was tired and fed up I decided to buy a single ticket with the change in my pocket and deal with the 10-ticket pass thing in the morning. So I fished out my change, and bought my ticket and plunged into the metro looking forward to a private room and a day off in the morning. I was at least five stops down the line before I noticed I didn't have my wallet. At first I thought I may have been pick- pocketed but my passport was still there in the same pocket where my wallet has been riding for the last 97 days, and I thought it unlikely that a thief would take one and not the other. Then I realized I must have set my wallet on the machine when I fished the change from my pocket, and just left it there after getting my ticket. Brilliant.

Of course I got off the train and turned around and took the next train back, but the wallet was long gone. I’m sure it was gone 2.7 seconds after I turned my back. The metro guy I talked to was nice, but there was nothing to be done. He was kind enough to let me back in to the metro without a ticket, but there was nothing more he could do.

So off I went, and after a bit of frustration I found the hostal** I’d had my eye on, and the stairwell was clean, and the place was great, and the man at the desk was very nice and sympathetic and said they had one room left. It was a double, but he let me have it for €35.00/night. I dug out my back-up bank card and my back-up credit card and checked in for two nights. And then he gave me the key and I got into the room and dropped my stuff and sat on the bed and cried and cried and cried. Up to that point, mind you, I think I was being a very brave little soldier and holding it together pretty damned well, thank you very much.

With that out of my system, I got to work. Besides about €300 in cash***, I’d lost my Citizens Bank ATM card, and my Mastercard, and my Manitoba Driver’s Licence, and some business cards of people I’ve met along the way, and the photocopy of my Canadian passport I keep so I don’t have to carry the real thing for ID. I phoned Mastercard right away and canceled my card and arranged for the delivery of an emergency replacement. Again, the hostal guy was great, he wrote out the numbers for me to call (they weren’t the right ones, but it was a sweet gesture), and he helped me figure out how to use the hostal phone to make reverse-charged calls.

I also texted Karen, my North American P.A., and she was able to get my |ATM card canceled, since I was completely unable to connect to any of the Citizens Bank numbers from my cell phone. And she figured out what I need to do to get the driver’s licence replaced. Once that was taken care of I headed out into the night with my backup bank card and got some cash and went to the grocery store to pick up something to eat, and something to drink. And since we were just having a look at my gear situation, you may not be surprised to hear that I added a new bit of kit to the team that night.

Welcome on board, corkscrew!

I’d already planned to take Saturday off – I really felt like I needed a break. And since I discovered an open wifi connection that works in my spacious and lovely €35/night room, there was no doubt that Saturday would be an easy day. Here was the entire plan for Saturday: sleep in, do laundry, hash.

I’m happy to report that the plan was carried out to the letter. In fact, I really must have needed a lie-in because I woke up at 11:15am, by far the latest I’ve slept since the trip started. Miraculously, my replacement Mastercard had already arrived. (Miraculous, but largely useless since the replacement card doesn’t have a chip in it and most places over here require a chip. Thank God my Visa card has one.) Laundry was a non-event, and easier than I expected since helpful hostal guy directed me to a laundromat much closer than the one listed in the LP. And then I noodled around on the internet and made myself a new wallet out of four pages of old cribbage scores taped together and folded cleverly.

Carefully modified to accept €50 notes. And a pleasant reminder of past cribbage triumph.

I’ve decided that I’m going to take Sunday off too. I just feel like this is one of those times when I need to stop and withdraw from the world for a bit. Catch up with the blog, update my budgets and plans, actually hang up my clothing, relax, and regroup. Get my mojo back. One day more or less will not make a difference in the schedule. The world will still be there.

And besides, I think that corkscrew is going to need a bit more breaking in.

* On top of everything, this is the first time I’ve arrived in a city with no confirmed accommodations. It was laziness. I did try and phone the hostel I was thinking about (twice) but either I was cut off, or they hung up. So when I say I was heading to where I was staying really I mean “I was heading to the area in which there was at least one likely spot for me to stay, and hoping to God that it was available and did not have anyone shooting up in the stairwell.” (Though I may have been flexible on that last point, given the lateness of the hour and the fragility of my spirit.)

** No, that’s not a typo. As the LP says, in Spain there are hostels, hostals, and hotels (those are in ascending order of cost). Hostal Campi is fantastic. Great location, big, bright, clean rooms, and a decent library of "trade-in" books that included a 2009 Rick Steves Guide to Spain (!!!), which I snatched up in no time. I've become a confirmed LP girl, but Rick has an infectious spirit and reading through his book is helping me get back into the swing of things.

*** Ouch! I’ve been getting careless about the amount of cash I carry. Everyone says you should only carry as much as you need for the day and leave the rest in your money belt or locked up at your hotel. I’ve been lazy and have been carrying it all, and I’d just made a withdrawal that morning before getting on the train, so I was loaded. Again, quite arrestingly stupid.****

**** Actually, I keep saying how stupid I feel about this all, but I'm pretty pleased at how it turned out. Here it is, about 27 hours after the event and I've got cash in my pocket, a new credit card, and a new (custom-made) wallet. The only real damage is to my ego and my budget. This could have been a real show-stopper, but instead it was just a hiccup. Maybe I'm actually am smart enough for this.


Karen said...

I think you handled it brilliantly. The phones calls, emails and texts were priority then followed immediately by the search for a drink. You're in Spain, you must drink wine. I also had one upon arriving home that evening. What a day.

Steve said...

There's a certain song I'd like to sing to you...I think you know what it is.


Natalie Duhamel, HHC said...

Hugs to you Pam. You handled things brilliantly. I would probably still be huddled in a corner of the metro, hyperventilating and sobbing uncontrollably.

Unknown said...

Hi Pam,
I went to Spain in September 1999 as a naive 23-year-old. My big Barcelona mistake was arriving on the 22nd without reserved accommodation. I spent six hours trying to find a bed. Every hostel was full because of the La Merce street festival. I had no idea what was going on. Barcelona seemed to me this fantastical city; every time I went out the streets were crowds of people watching parades, costumed giants on stilts, and musicians. The fireworks were incredible. This year it starts on the 23rd. I hope you are staying for it and if you do I'll be incredibly jealous. Here's a link:http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/events/la-merce/barcelona-la-merce.html

-leaving Toronto next week for a 6-month odyssey in South America

anne said...

Oh dear - you poor thing. I feel I want to give you a hug but my arms aren't long enough.
When we were on the metro in spain I managed to nearly get arrested because I bought the wrong ticket and didn't understand what the "man with the gun" was saying as G tried to force his way through the barrier! Luckily someone kindly translated for me and explained that I was an English idiot because Mr gun toter wasn't going to let me off lightly. I guess we all have "bonehead" stories to tell but mine wasn't as expensive.

Unknown said...

The most important thing you did in lose your wallet adventure is to sit down for the good cry. That allowed you to release your emotions and tackle the fix with a clear head. Never be ashamed of a good release like that - it is a good thing.

Personally, I have lost my passport 3 times in my life and everything has always worked out fine. If you don't want that around-your-neck-travel-documents thing, apparently I need one, no matter how stupid one looks wearing it.

I can't believe you made it this far WITHOUT a corkscrew.

BTW - I weathered through all 2685 of your travel pics (!!) so I am a little more up on the visuals of your trip. More people pics, please. Don't be afraid to pull out your camera after you chat with someone and be brave: "I enjoyed meeting you, can I take a snap for my photo album?" I am not kidding - you will appreciate having a snap of them later, and they will probably just smile up a storm for you.

Rob H.

Kathryn said...

Pam -
Ugh - sorry about that. But you're right - just a hiccup in the grand scheme of things. You handled it very well.
Let me know your [;ans in Spain - I know a couple of good day trips from Madrid.

Colleen said...

Hey Pam: Way to go, woman!! A significant problem dealt with efficiently -- you'd almost think you had a background in the theatre. I think your new wallet shows great elan! However, in solidarity for the distress you suffered, I will raise a glass in your name with hopes for less troubled days. Hugs, Colleen

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