“Marvin, you don’t understand. These are my hopes, my dreams, my only future plans hanging in the balance here!” I made some indiscernible whining noise in the hopes of emphasizing my exasperation. “You know I’m good for it, and you know this isn’t my fault.” I looked at my clock and winced at the time. “Marvin, I’m tired, it’s five in the morning here and I don’t know what to doooooo.” I surprised myself with how I howled through the o’s. Clearly I was desperate. Coyote desperate.
The Aussie on the other line chuckled warmly and said in his sexy-but-slightly-indistinguishable-accent, “I understand Miss Billings, but until you manage to get your bank on board there’s not much that I can do for you except assure you that we will not cancel your booking at the moment.”
I rolled over on my bed, staring at the plaques and medals dangling on my wall. It had been awhile since I’d spent a night in my childhood room. I was reminded of the late night phone calls I’d had with my girlfriends in high school. And reminiscent of those days, I was once again up all hours of the night.
This time it had nothing to do with the insomnia or teen angst; I was facing yet another roadblock in my plans to go Down Under. And while I suppose I was to come face-to-face with travel glitches at some point, I didn’t think it would be while I was planning for a trip in the comfort of my Vegas home.
I sighed heavily. Too bad I wasn’t a teenager. Marvin’s Australian accent would have been enough to soothe me to sleep back in the good ol’ days. But tonight (this morning?) his words were less than satisfying.
We’d been down a long road together, Marvin and I. Unfortunately it was so unromantic I was ashamed to be a part of it. But even though this was no Twilight fan-fiction, Marvin would determine whether or not I would board the world’s largest plane to Sydney. I desperately needed him; I was being screwed and I was pretty sure God was in on it.
It all started when I decided to go to Fiji to spend a couple of weeks living with the natives. I had been invited out by a friend who also happens to be one the chieftains of the Fire Dancer tribe. I couldn’t turn down such an amazing and unique opportunity, so I worked odd jobs (and humiliating ones) to pay for the airfare. Once the goal became plausible, I realized I could make my necessary layover in Australia. Suddenly I was bombarded with fantastical images of me walking past the Opera House in Sydney, scuba diving in The Great Barrier Reef, and watching the boys rip from the beaches of Surfer’s Paradise. Once the fantasy was planted in my brain it was GAME ON. I’m all about seizing an opportunity so naturally, I started shopping around to see who had the best deals on airfare for my five-stop trip.
Expedia was first. After plugging in estimated dates of arrival and departure, I clicked the search button, excited to see what the popular booking site would come back with. I could picture the possibilities popping up in my head. It was going to be good.
But the numbers that came back were perplexing. They didn’t seem right. Too expensive.
Not worried, I opened a new window to Travelocity. But searching their site led to more expensive (and depressing) flights. I even tried calling them to see if they would beat Expedia’s pricing. The snobby representative claimed it would not be possible for me to even get to Fiji on the budget I had and hung up. Hotwire, Kayak, and Priceline yielded even bleaker outcomes.
I was almost out of ideas when I decided to call Qantas directly (most of the flights I was considering were through their airline anyway). That’s when my relationship with Marvin began, many moons ago. He managed to get all the flights I wanted on the days I wanted for less money than any of the booking sites (take that, misleading commercials). He even reserved a seat for me on the A380, the world’s largest plane for my flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. I would have kissed him had he not been 8,000 miles away.
But just when I thought my happy ending was near, something terrible happened: my form of payment had been denied.
And as things like this go, I did not find out about it until a few days later when I was floating on the high of seized opportunity. And naturally, I was driving with my friend downtown (situations like these always seem to require witnesses). Angie watched in wonder as I flipped out on the bank associate unlucky enough to deal with me. “Do you not understand that this trip, this five-flight trip, took me four hours to book? Do you not realize that they are nineteen hours ahead of us in Australia? That you are dealing with a company who doesn’t do business during your bank hours?”
The bank associate was as snobby, rude, and unhelpful as the Travelocity dude (granted, I was shrieking like banshees do when provoked). “Sorry, Miss Billings, but you only have a debit card. And your debit card has a daily limit and we can only up that limit during our hours of operation. We do this for your protection.”
I begged and pleaded with her, wanting these Cold War negotiations to begin. I offered her my social security number, my word as a former Girl Scout, a sworn statement sealed in blood that I was okay with them upping my limit for a couple of days so this transaction could go through. But the bubblegum bimbo wasn’t buying it. It probably didn’t help that I called her such to her face (as Angie would put it, I lost my ‘Angel Wings’ that day). But as my home-girls sing in the movie Chicago, I betcha you would have done the same.
So here I was, once again on the phone with Marvin trying to explain to him the ridiculous process American banks make their patrons go through and how even though I had the money, I couldn’t pay him.
Marvin listened patiently as I recounted my five visits to my bank over the past week and my life philosophy on debt-free living. How I had broken down in crocodile tears in one bank associate’s cubicle and suffered vivid dreams about trying to board the flight to Australia, only to be dragged away from the gate by bank tellers. “Marvin, seriously… I have severe anxiety about this. What can I do?”
He paused and then slowly responded, “Well, Miss Billings, as much as I understand your feelings on the matter, I believe this is the time to consider getting a credit card.”
I hurled a pillow at my closet. “But I don’t want a credit card, Marvin.”
“Well, Miss Billings, I think that the universe is saying differently.” Touché, Qantas airline representative, touché. He promised to expedite the transaction process again, in the hopes that my bank would uphold their half of the bargain this time around (I mean, we were only FIVE denied transactions in… maybe six was the magic number). “Is there anything else I can do for you today, Miss Billings?”
As fond as I had grown of Marvin, I was ready for our long-distance relationship to come to a close. I bit my nails and thought for a moment. I wanted validation, comfort, and a promise that this was going to be our last all-nighter. I mean, I wasn’t sixteen anymore. My body couldn’t handle the stress or lack of sleep like it used to. In the end, I just said, “No. I don’t think there’s anything else.” Marvin wished me a good night (morning?) and we hung up. Humming the chorus to Living on a Prayer, I turned off the light and went to sleep.
The next morning (afternoon, really) I checked my e-mail. I don’t know if it was my tribute to Bon Jovi the night before, the relentless persistence, or if God just got tired of watching me squirm, but there it was: the confirmation e-mail from Qantas saying the transaction had gone through. I sighed heavily and let my forehead fall to the desk in relief.
I finally had my plane-ticket for my Australia/Fijian adventure. I mentally thanked the Universe for the break.
“Oz… Oz… Oz…” I murmured the word to myself over and over, not bothering to lift my head off my desk. My beagle poked her head in my room to see what I was up to and trotted off, unimpressed by my crumpled display.
Then a thought occurred to me. I was leaving in a week for OZ. This was going to be my farthest and longest trip out of the country. I wasn’t going to be in Kansas anymore… and I had no ruby slippers to bring me back if it sucked.
Wait, was I seriously experiencing homesickness before even getting on a plane? I sat up and rubbed my forehead. I must have hit it harder than I thought.
I sighed. Who knew my road to OZ would be so twisted? And what was with the sudden twinges of nostalgia? Maybe the universe wasn’t done with me yet…
After spending a moment contemplating the weirdness, I shook it off. Concluding I needed to go through this for a reason, I took a long look around my room, trying to burn the space into my memory. After all, there really was no place like home.
Eight days to OZ. Here’s hoping I don’t encounter any more flying monkeys…