Thursday, October 15, 2009


      Seems the only thing I had to be worried or scared of traveling to Mexico was me.
      After six glorious days in paradise, I was back at the Cancun airport in line to check my luggage. I handed a female official my passport.
      “I also need your immigration form,” she says.
      “Immigration form?” I ask.
      “The one you were given when you came into Mexico.”
      My mind spins! I don’t remember having this form.
      I search my purse. Nope. Not there.
      “Please move over there,” the woman says. “So the other passengers can proceed.”
      Lugging my luggage off to the side, I notice the long line of people. All had their immigration form in their hands.
      I unzip my suitcase. I don’t remember putting an immigration form in it, but I have to look anyway, just in case. After rifling through my clothes, creams, and souvenirs, I stand up, look at the woman official, shake my head and say, “I can’t find it.”
      Looking at me like I’m an incompetent gringa, she says, “You’ll have to buy a new one.”
      “At the immigration office over there.” She points to the far end of the terminal.
      I schlep over to the office sweating like a porko. That’s the Mexican slang for pig. The man there tells me a new immigration form will cost me 56,000 pesos.
      My mind crunches trying make the conversion.
      “That’s $45.00 American dollars he says reading my clueless mind.
      I grab my wallet. “I only have $30.00. But I have a credit card."
      “I can’t take a credit card.”
      My stomach twists.
      “But the bank can take your credit card,” he says.
      “Where’s the bank?” I ask hoping it’s not back in downtown Cancun.
      “In terminal 2.”
      “How do I get there?”
      “There’s a free shuttle. It runs every twenty minutes. You’d better hurry.”
      I race over to the entrance. Thank heavens the free shuttle is there and it takes me to terminal 2 that’s about a half a mile away
      “Sorry,” the bank teller says. ‘We cannot take your credit card."
      I feel the blood drain from my face.
      The woman must have noticed it because she replies, “But you could use your debit card at the ATM to get cash out.”
      Yes, I could.
      And why don’t I have a debit card?
      Because I’m one of those self-righteous idiots who think debit cards are only used by people who don’t have sense enough to keep money in their wallet or purse.
      Dragging my luggage out of the bank, I chided myself. If I hadn’t bought the bracelet from the woman by the pool yesterday, I’d have enough money to buy the new immigration form.
      But if I’d paid attention when I entered Mexico, I’d have the damn immigration form in the first place. My mind keeps replaying when I entered Mexico. I just don’t remember being given an immigration form or anyone telling me I’d need it for the trip home.
      Where was my brain? And if I was given this form, where in the hell did I put it?
      I looked at my watch.  Cripes! Less than an hour and a half before the plane leaves. I have no idea what I’m going to do now. Beg? Go to some other American and say, “Please, please, please can I have fifteen dollars. PLEASE!
      I look around. I don’t see anyone who looks like they would want to give me money.
      Tears start welling up in my eyes. I just know I’m going to start blubbering like a baby. I’ve never felt so alone in my life.
      And then . . .
      Ah ha! 
      I reach into my purse, grab my wallet, and fish out my American Express card. On the back is their 800 number. I call.
      Damn it! The recording is in Spanish. Something about . . .
      Oh wait. I remember. I need to first dial the international number.
      OMG! WHAT IS IT?
      Oh, yeah. 011.
      I hit 011 then the 800 number.
      Great! The call goes through.
      After many prompts, I finally get a human and explain my dilemma.
      “You can use your card as a debit card at the ATM,” the American Express representative says. “I’ll give you a temporary pin number.”
      I’m so happy I could kiss the phone.
      “The money won’t come from your credit card however. It will come out of a checking account. Do you know your checking account number?”
      “Yes! Yes, I do.” Proudly, I rattle off my account number. I mean, how many people memorize their checking account number?
      “OK, now I need your routing number.”
      Routing number? Who memorizes a routing number?
      My heart sinks.
      I look at my watch. Just an hour before the plane is to take off.
      My heart pounds. My guts churns. My mind reels. Sweat drenches me. I feel like I’m going to throw up.
      Then . . .
       Ah ha!
       I remember that all my banking stuff is at my friend’s house. I brought it there before I went on my vacation because my apartment complex has been having break-ins when people are out of town and I didn’t want to be a victim.
      I dial my friend’s number. Oh, please, please, please be home.
      She is!
      I explain the situation.
      She gets my checkbook and gives me the routing number.
      I call American Express back and give the representative the routing number.
      I establish a temporary pin.
      I thank the woman, then go to the ATM and get the money out.
      I catch the free shuttle back to terminal 3.
      I schlep back to the immigration office.
      I purchase a new immigration form.
      I dash over and go through the security line.
      I sprint over to the gate.
      The plane is already boarding.
      I board.
      As I take my seat, I vow that the next time I travel abroad—or anywhere—I will:
1) pay attention
2) keep emergency money stashed
3) never judge people who have debit cards. And . . .
Always, Em-Musing

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