Murphy and Me

I said that I like to head for the airport early, in case something goes wrong.  Well, Murphy strikes again—with a twist.

Got everything packed up by ten o’clock.  Was rather please with myself having only ₩100 and a few coins left.  With three Visa cards in my wallet, I won’t be forced to take a lot of 한구권 back to USA.

Went to church at eleven, put the coins in the offering, and left right afterward.

In the subway, I realize I packed the card (which also has a ₩100 balance) who-knows-where in one of the bags.  Bummer.  Have to buy a single-use ticket, which costs ₩100 more than using the card.

Hmmm, the card readers on the ticket machines have been locked—cash only.

Airport ticket is ₩5250, so I go over to the ATM.  It gives back the card with a piece of paper saying “data wrong.”  Twice.

No biggie, I think; 7-Elevens are everywhere and they all have ATMs.

Walked at least five hundred meters without seeing an ATM.  Crossed the street to go back on the other side, and wow, an ATM outside a pharmacy.  But it doesn’t work; no response to any buttons nor to putting in the card.

To shorten this post, seven more ATMs in about ninety minutes (about five kilometers): one more was unresponsive, one was labeled out of order, the first 7-Eleven had no ATM, the next 7-Eleven was locked (at noon?!?), the one in the bank also said “data wrong,” another said transaction not available. one continued to show Korean after I pressed the English button, … …

Called the bank to complain.  On hold for ages at twenty cents a minute, and then the guy says their computers show no communication after the Starbucks purchase before church.  He’s still on the phone when I reach another 7-Eleven.

This ATM says “wrong type of card,” but the bank fellow says that one didn’t contact them either.  I thanked him for trying and took out the visa from a different bank.  Another “wrong type of card.”  (I have used both cards in various ATMs here and in Taiwan for weeks.)

I stuff the cards back in my pocket and head back to the church (they have a lunch and then a discussion meeting after service).  I know that one of the ladies lives close to the airport—or maybe someone will trade me cash for a check or Paypal transfer.  Halfway there, I realized I don’t have my backpack.  Back to 7-Eleven to retrieve it.  A phone, two wallets, and three bags is less than the magical number seven, but perhaps at my age the number is five.

Back at the church, someone asks me when the flight is.  “Around eight,” I reply and pull up the e-mail confirmation.  15:15?!?  What!?!

Well, I guess God wants me to stay in Korea longer.  But I call the airline: “our office is now closed.”

After the meeting, R. leads me to her bank, where the ATM works smoothly, and since I don’t know how long I’ll have to stay, I take ₩50,000.

In the subway station, I finally remember the card is not buried in my bag; it’s in my coat pocket.  I add ten thousand to it, and head for the gate.  Tap the card to the reader, and the gate won’t open.  Tap it again and the screen says error and the gate still won’t open.  Like all subway stations in Seoul, there is a Korail information booth with no one in it.  But unlike most, it does not have a police office.  So I go to another gate, and it won’t open either, but the screen shows the balance as ₩8850!  The first gate charged me the minimum fare but didn’t open the gate!

Irritated, I stomp to a machine and toss the card in to confirm.  Yep, ripped off ₩1250 and since the automation “works so well,” there are o Korail people around to complain to.  In disgust, I head for another gate, not forgetting any bags this time.  Open the notebook where I keep the card, and it’s not there.  Return to the machine (less than two meters) but someone has already absconded with the card.

Bought a single-use ticket and went to the airport.  Air China has no one here to talk to.  Someone tells me to go to a check-in desk at nine AM tomorrow.  But if I wait too long, I’ll miss the Frontier flight from San Francisco.  She gives me their phone number in China.  Apparently no longer a good number.  I try the phone number their website says is in Korea.  Apparently no longer a good number.

I check the time of the San Francisco flight to make sure I leave enough transfer time.  Wednesday?—that doesn’t seem right. 

Finally figured out today is not the twelfth and the Air China flight is tomorrow.  Well, it isn’t the first night I’ll have spent in an airport or other transportation facility!  And I have more than enough cash for three meals at airport prices.

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