i'd like to say something here succinct and eloquent about
the importance of travel and the importance of vacation
and the distinction between the two and how we thought
this trip would be one but was really the other but i'm not sure i can. further
i'd like to delineate each day, hour, moment as a means
of capturing what happened, like a firefly in a jar, but what happened
is somewhat irreducible.

suffice to say, words are blunt instruments but here's one: spectacular.

it is strange to be back. daily grind and all.
we attach meaning to such slender things. such ephemera.


intersecting anniversaries

would like to say something eloquent here about time passage and demarcation but it is too early for insight so i'll just say this:  just went to my 20th hs reunion. this coming week holds will be 10 yrs of marriage. also this next week will mark 5 years since we left for boston so i could get proton beam radiation on my brain tumor.

recently found some footage from that time and it us both us and not us, both the past of long ago and the present, somehow fixed in time...


i hate you budget

Okay, so many years ago, for reasons to complex and intertwined to get into fully in this space i got into semi-severe credit card debt. (this is separate from the student loan debt that currently follows me through each decade like a spurned lover). The short version of the after-effects goes like this: enrolled in credit counseling, got on a payment plan, ripped up credit cards. This is all prelude to this fact: I do not have a credit card. I have a debit card that carries the imprimateur of Visa, but it's not the same as having a per se credit card. This can at times along the road of life be a problem, like when renting cars.

Since we knew I'd be in Atlanta all by my lonesome (ie, no credit-card carrying wife to hold my hand) we had to do research to find the rental car companies even willing to rent to someone without a credit card. The options were slender. Finally, we found a Budget that happened to be near S's house, on Roswell Road, where I could, on Sunday, pick up a rental car (so as to drive to Asheville NC to visit my friend Will). Prodded by my nervous nellie-ness, the wife called Budget to confirm that I'd be able to get the car without a credit card. Yes, was the answer, provided that I bring a copy of a recent paycheck that had my address on it. Done! Budget would use my debit card to take 200$ as collateral for the car which they would refund upon return of the car. The grand total would be 36 dollars for 24 hours. Fine. The day before flying to Atlanta I printed out two of my recent pay stubs, as well as a copy of our car insurance. "Watch" I joked to the mrs "I'll show up and they'll say 'oh no, who told you that?' and I won't be able to get the car!" We laughed and laughed.


Sunday. Atlanta. Noon. S gives me a ride up to the Budget on Sandy Springs. I have a long drive ahead of me - 4 hours worth -  and am eager to get on the road. I enter the Budget, knowing that everything will be fine but having the dark background sneaking suspicion that it won't.  I show the clerk my confirmation number. I show the clerk my paystubs. The needle scratches off the record. "Oh no" she says "you don't live locally". Um no, I say, that's why we called ahead of time. "I can't accept that". She allows me to come around the counter to use her printer to print out a copy of my boarding pass. She will accept that. Okay, fine. Everything good. All we need to do now is get the 200$ deposit off my debit card and I'll be on my way. The needle scratches off again. "Your card is denied" she says. What, I say. "Your card is denied" she says.  [side bar: the card denial instantly brings me back to years hence, when in the thick of financial woe i was routinely denied, or rather my card was denied, in moments that i thought i was covered, which in turn bred a sort of distrust of anything positive related to $, meaning that i was always waiting for the other shoe to drop while my interior voice was slicing and dicing me. all of these emotions swelled up in this instant] In a panic I call the mrs. She pulls up our account on her laptop. She verifies that there is a substantial amount in our account. I say to the clerk, can you try the card again? She says "No I have to wait 24 hours". You're kidding me, I say. "We can only run the card once. Because of phishing" she says.

I am at a loss. It's Sunday so I can't call my bank. I call the mrs. We don't know what to do. I say to the clerk, Can you take my wife's credit card number over the phone? "No, she has to be here in person". I say to the clerk, Can I give you 200$ in cash. "No, no cash".  I am starting to come to terms with the fact that i won't be able to drive to Asheville and see my friend. My heart is sinking. Then S comes in with her credit card and exceeding generosity. Here's the plan: we will transfer the rental to S's credit card, she will add me as an extra driver (for $13 extra dollars for Budget's trouble) and then when i return the car I will pay for it from my debit card. S will shoulder the deposit and the risk that something happens to the car. Thank you. Thank you. Get me out of here.


that night at an ATM in Asheville North Carolina. I am eager to see if my card works. it does. i extract 40 bucks. no problem. I am befuddled and confused at Budget's card denial. I look over the paperwork: I left their lot at 12:45pm. I can't tell if I can return the car anytime the next day or if it has to be by 12:45pm.


the next morning, monday, I am driving back to Atlanta. I am going to head straight to the airport to return the car. I have one eye on the clock, thinking I'll need to be there by 12:45pm. I don't know if I'll make it it. I cross the Georgia state line. I use my ATM card at a gas station. Denied. I sit in the parking lot on hold with the bank for probably fifteen minutes. Worried about time I finally get back on the highway, still on hold. About ten minutes later, someone comes on the phone. I explain the situation. "Did you let us know you were going to be in Georgia?" they say. No, I said. "Ohhh, that's the problem. Georgia is a high-risk state" they say. "Card is automatically protected in Georgia" by which they mean I can't use it. I tell them that I used it last night in North Carolina. Apparently among its merits NC can claim to not be a high-risk state. I tell them I am worried because I'm an hour from the airport and I need to pay for the car. They say, "we'll activate it for use in Georgia".

hartsfield airport. 1:40 pm. I return the car. Since I am almost an hour late, Budget has helpfully pro-rated my 'over time' to the tune of $16.50. Also, since the car was not returned at 12:45 they helpfully added the second driver charge for another full day, to the tune of $13 (or a total of $26 for two days). What was originally quoted as 36$ has tripled to 89$ for 24.95 hours. I hand them my debit card. By this point, I find myself thankful that it works so Budget can take more money than they would have got if I only had a credit card.

Okay, so the careful reader will rightly determine that if I had the foresight to let my credit union know that I was travelling to a high-risk state - provided i knew that GA was in fact a high-risk state - that perhaps there would have been no problem. However, the inflexibility on Budget's part (can't re-try credit card, can't use another credit card, can't use cash, must arrive to the minute) worked in concert with this to create a stunningly and singularly unpleasant experience. Thanks Budget.