Part 3- 4pm to 11pm.
Note: If you're just wandering on, this is the very true story of what happened to my family early in the week, and how Bank of America managed to cause my wife and son to be stranded penniless in Brazil... read on, it gets even more appalling.
4pm. I am in traffic, on my way into Somerville, MA, one of the outlying sections of metropolitan Boston. I have to pass through the infamous 'big dig' portion of the road system. Traffic is heavy, but thankfully not awful. I am driving very aggressively for a man in a 2-ton truck. I am still driving better and more carefully than the idiots in compacts who insist on cutting me off, blissfully unaware of the effects of momentum on teeny tiny car crumple zones.
My father calls me for an update. When my parents heard about what had happened, my dad told me to make up the difference between what I had and what I needed, using his credit card. An aside: my dad is a disabled vet; he and my mother live on his navy pension, which is to say that they should not be using a credit card, and the fact that I am using theirs weighs very heavy on me.
I am grinding my teeth as I drive into the city. I am not a fan of doing this. Using my jedi senses, and also an excellent city map, I get to the travel agency with a little time to spare.
I get a nice warm welcome as I walk into the agency. I am obviously not Brazilian, and I probably look worried, so everyone knows that I am the panicked American from the phone. I sit down and tell my story to the agent, a lovely girl who grows wide-eyed as I answer her questions.
It turns out that I can get tickets for less than the $6,000 that TAM, the Brazilian airline wanted. But the same problems apply; every airline that flies into Brazil is booked solid for return flights, up until July 21st, 22 days away! Well, my family is going to have to live with my mother-in-law for that time, which is not going to be easy; my MIL is an energetic, full-of-fun person, but she's elderly, blind, and apparently a little nuts. My wife tends to keep her in check; the two of us support her, so my wife sort of calls the shots from back home; now that she's in Brazil, though, all bets are off.
Thank God my wife didn't clean out her checking account- I took the bulk of the balance to help with the tickets, but I left enough for my family to buy food... but not much more.
So, the good news; tickets are available, even if they're three weeks away. I have the money and my dad's credit card- enough to pay for the tickets;
So, I give the girl my credit card, and my dad's credit card info. My dad's card goes through for the amount I needed... my card, however gets REJECTED.
It is now past closing time. 6pm. I am staring hard at my card, cursing silently. There's money in the account... what's wrong? The little 19-year old travel agent is reassuring; she has to go home, but she waits while I get on the phone.
Oh no they din'nt. This is exactly how my day started 10 hours ago. Not only did they erroneously block my wife's debit card this morning, the dirty fatherless bastards just shut down mine, too. I used the damn thing to buy gas not 2 hours before!
Oh yes they did. The computer tells me that they have detected 'suspicious activity on my card" I am asked to verify that my transaction from 3 minutes ago is legit by pushing a button. I push, and am told everything's good. I hang up.
No go. The card is still blocked.
I call again. The same message, the same button pushing, the same reassurance that everything is now good.
The card still doesn't work, and the girl is now with child to go home. The good news is that its' after hours- no one else on the east coast can reserve tickets on this flight, either... leaving 2/3 of the US able to trump me, but oh well.
I head home. Nothing else I can do- I can't pay for my damn tickets, anyhow. I am in INSANE traffic. So, with nothing else to do, I try to talk to a real person at Bank of America. Maybe one of those rude 'security' specialists. I call an even dozen times, each time unable to do anything but 'verify' the same transaction, then get disconnected. I can't get the option to talk to a real person. Inspired, I try to NOT enter my information on the computerized phone system. I get asked for my info, and this time, I press '0.' I immediately get placed on hold for TEN minutes, but I am waiting for a real person, and in the meanwhile, I get a mile closer to home. When the real live person answers, I explain succinctly what I need to do, and ask for a direct number to talk to a person if I am disconnected. I get the number, the person says "hold on' and promptly dumps me back to the automated voice that asks me to verify my recent transaction again.
I curse, warmly, and dial the number the woman on the phone gave me. It gives me the automated system again. I again verify that the transaction in question was valid. I am immediately thanked in a computerized voice, then hung up upon again.
OK, I am heading generally home, and I have time, I call AGAIN (this being now more than 25 times I've called today!), and start making friends with the '0' key again. I wait ten or fifteen minutes again, and some young guy answers the phone. I immediately let him know that if I am dumped into the automated phone queue again, I will light myself on fire. He looks at my account, 'says' 'Oh, gosh, that's odd. We DID block your account less than an hour ago. Wonder why?' Rather than debate, the kid tells me to write down a number, which he promises will get me to the desk of a real live human. I am in doubt, but I write. He then transfers me. Glory of glories, another guy picks up, and within a minute, my account is unblocked. I don't admit that due to stress I'm levitating about a quarter-inch off of my seat, but the kid takes care of me, all business. It occurs to me that if I had spoken to this guy this morning, my family would be in the air over the US now, and in my arms tonight, however briefly, before I head to sea for another voyage.
I am more disheartened than angry. I thank the kid profusely, and hang up, and creep home.
I get to my neighborhood at 9pm. I load my seabag into my truck, trundle my cooler full of groceries into the bed, and feed my fish one more time. By the time I get my clothes sorted, shut down the breakers to most of the electrical systems and get the water heater on standby, it is 11pm. In 90 minutes I have to wake up, take a tepid shower, and drive to Philadelphia to join my vessel. I have a full day ahead of me.
My wife calls to say goodnight. She's crying, and I'm trying not to.
I've said this before, but I'm 6 feet tall, 270+ lbs. I'm not prone to tears. I try to avoid being in touch with my emotions. This is a low moment.
Part 4: Conclusion... sort of. Next time, OK. I'm burnt out, I miss my family, and I really, really don't want to talk about this right now.
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