It’s been a week and a day since my Florida Sun Trust Bank turned off the faucet on my debit card. Why? I cannot find out. There is more money in the account than I usually have, so it’s not that. I notified them that I’d be travelling internationally and I had no problem getting cash out of ATMs in Sydney, Australia, earlier in the week. It choked the day I tried to buy my new traveling computer and camera and I had to use my Wells Fargo backup credit card just to finalize that purchase.
For seven days, I have been emailing various Sun Trust offices, asking them to explain the problem and to reinstate my debit card to normal status. The uniform answer has always been that I must personally telephone either of two toll-free numbers and speak to their card security department. It mattered not that I am now in a time zone 23 hours ahead of America’s East Coast and that their business day begins in the middle of my night.
It mattered not that I do not own a cell phone and have no way to make a telephone call when the hostel office is closed for the night. The only way that I could think of to make that call would be to reserve a night in a regular hotel so that I could use their bedside telephone. But that would mean spending $150-$200 just for that privilege and I was sure there was some more intermediate solution.
Fortunately, Wells Fargo Bank is keeping me in cash and I am able to eat and remain in my $26 per night hostel bed. I will soon have more air tickets to buy for my ongoing travels in the South Pacific and I would like to use my Sun Trust account for those. “We sympathize, but you must call these numbers!” is all they could advise me to do. And they never replied when I asked if they operated those phones 24/7 or only during banker’s hours. It would be nice not to have to make that call at midnight.
Okay! So maybe God is telling me that it’s dangerous to travel without a mobile phone in this day and age. I’ve never traveled with one before and have been around the world and all over the globe many times and been just fine before. I’m of the elder generation which can’t figure out how to use the doggone tiny things and frankly, I want nothing to do with them! But, I also respect Divine Clues when they show up and this sounds a bit like one. Yesterday, I saw a half-price phone and sprang for it.
It still cost $70. when you add the voucher for minutes; but hey, that’s cheaper than a hotel room! If it weren’t for the helpful young people staying with me at the hostel, I’d have really been in trouble because I couldn’t understand the instructions on how to activate my new Telstra Indy phone and load the minutes in it. The qwerty keyboard is so tiny, I can’t discern the figures and am having trouble getting them to work when I do squint well enough to identify them.
How will this cell phone help in any future emergency once I get over this immediate problem? I can only hope that a kid is around so I can turn the durned thing over to them to call for help! Anyway, tonight, a guy from Germany set things up for my midnight call and I decided to test these bank-supplied phone numbers in advance.
Things do not bode well!
I rang Sun Trust’s International toll-free number, 1-800-7887-2835, and got the recording: “This number is not set up to answer calls from mobile phones!” Then I tried the other supplied collect-call number, 1-407-762-5777, and heard the words: “This number is not in operation at this time.”
With battered faith, I await the stroke of midnight, Australia time; which will be 10:00 a.m., Monday morning, August 20, over there in Florida. I visualize telephone operators taking their places in front of switchboards, flicking levers, causing lights to generate and calls to flow into vaulted security centers where a real human being will hear my tale of woe and take pity upon my plight. Perhaps she will even tell me what I did, or didn’t do, to cause the bank to take such drastic action and shut me out of my own account for these eight days. Perhaps she’ll ask me secret security questions and record my voice pattern to protect my pennies from misrepresentation.
But there’s a bit of cynicism in me that whispers to my heart that I’ll only hear the same old recorded excuse for not letting my phone call through. What then? I’m jumping through the hoops they insisted upon though it’s taken days to do it! I’m not in Borneo, but Brisbane.
Are they now insisting that I use a wall phone? Do those things even exist anymore? Come to think of it, if all of Sun Trust’s customers call from overseas, it’s a pretty good bet that they are using mobile phones in this day and age. Why would their only international number reject those calls?
We travelers all expect a glitch or two when we roam far and wide…..but not from our friendly neighborhood bank!
Update: 1:00 a.m. my time and I have tried my calls to no avail. Sun Trust’s International phone number has again told me that this number is not available to mobile phone users and the other just repeats that it isn’t connected and to check the number before calling again. Not something I want to hear after all these heroic midnight measures. I’m too sleepy…..but now I can’t sleep. What do I do now?
It’s so ironic! In twenty days I will turn 75 years-old. All of MY systems are in great working order as I explore the Southern Hemisphere in my second solo around-the-world trip. Only my debit card is failing me.
Here’s the challenge! Can this bank rescue me with my own money before I hit that three-quarters of a century mark less than three weeks from now? Come on, Sun Trust! Can you make it all the way around the world with me? I need a good strong runner here! A bank that can take me all the way to the finish line!
Last week, when the wind came up and my knees got weak (literally & figuratively) I decided to hie myself north, from Sydney to Brisbane for the next two weeks within this one month period which I have here during Australia’s winter. So, I fly tomorrow to a smaller town just below the Great Barrier Reef where temperatures will be warmer as it is closer to the Equator. Down here, one travels north to get farther away from the Pole. Ironically, the windy cold weather with temperatures in the 40’s, has passed and we are now seeing the sun again and days about 70 degrees.
Ah well, I’m glad to expand my horizons, even though I haven’t seen nearly all of the great sights right here in this fantastic city. This is because I was a walking-fool my first week here and I exhausted both kneecaps so thoroughly that they let me know that I must hang around the hostel during that cold, rainy flap. I would have done so, anyway. These are the terms of life on the road. One must take whatever weather and health issues that come along and find a way to bend them to one’s favor. So, I got some travel writing done. I studied the guide book on the South Pacific and made reservations for the first few nights in Nadi, Fiji, for August 31st. Another big piece of homework facing me is the design of a string of flights to keep me moving right along to the next islands: Samoa, American Samoa and Vanatu, before I head to Auckland, New Zealand.
Now I have a new computer to help me do that delicate and expensive work at my own pace, rather than the rare moments that I can snag a public computer in the hostel or an internet cafe. This is the first time that I will carry my own machine on my round-the-world journey and I hope that it will be worth the extra weight and care needed. Previous trips were shorter, so my ticketing was simpler. I just took what I could get in the way of computer time and I came out just fine. We shall see how this works out. A personal machine is so common these days…mostly ipads…. that almost everyone in an airport terminal, as well as on the plane, is deep in their own little cyberworld.
I hope that I can still enjoy personal conversations, reading and writing in my handwritten journal but I too, may fall for the ease of checking my email just one more time; or researching that burning new idea for a travel article, or simply reading all those tempting headlines that I usually ignore. Most likely, my setpoint lack of knowledge and sophistication about all the magical things that I can do on this machine will keep me blissfully in the dark about what I am missing not to be tuning in.
Heck, I’ll have enough trouble learning how to use my new 16 megapixel Canon Powershot camera, just upgraded from an old 7 mp thing that was taking blurry shots. I go forth well-equipped, with every prospect of making smart new friends in the hostels who will be happy to train me should I realize that I need it.
I do love the friends whom I have met along the way! Each one of them have become so dear, even if I’ve only spent a few hours with them. Several have been IGF’s – Intergalactic Friends – whom I have known in previous lives. That becomes apparent from the very beginning when we start off talking rapidly, filling each other in on the adventures we’ve had in the present life. One is Lois, a New Zealander on a short holiday with her niece. I’ll visit her in Rotorua, NZ, early next year and she has even lightened my load by taking with her some things that I won’t need in the meantime. Somehow, the hostel life makes this kind of getting acquainted much more possible than in more formal places, such as hotels.
Okay, time to put my laundry in the dryer and then I hope I can get everything into my suitcases. Some things never change! But, by the end of the month, I won’t need winter clothes any more and I shall conduct a giveaway. That’s another given of life on the road.
I’ve been in Sydney, Australia, for a week now and I’m simply knocked out by how wonderful this place is! Unless you have been here, you can’t imagine that such a city even exists…..and I have seen my share of the world’s large cities. This one is what all cities should look like! And when I get around to exploring this whole Australian continent, I wouldn’t be surprised if I have similar nice things to say about all of the States, places, deserts, towns and cities of this vast land.
That’s the way it often works with me on my many round-the-world junkets. My first impression usually holds up for the whole country and its people.
Okay, such generalities haven’t given you much to visualize. Sydney is so clean, it squeaks. The City Center has lots of skyscrapers and each one could win a prize for beauty and originality, plus there are green spaces and parks woven all through them, even smack downtown. It feels to me like The World of The Future, though it has been on this planet for a good many years, just quietly excelling at being excellent; and not blowing its own horn in the least.
The people are happy and their eyes kindle with smiles. I made a sport of looking at the business men having a coffee break in a cafe, talking to each other. Whereas, most the world over, look burdened with heavy responsibility, these were laughingly conversing and kidding with their companions. “Good on ‘ya, Mate!” makes more sense now that I have met the originators of that phrase.
Next week, I shall begin to post photos on this blog to describe such claims as this. I have ordered a new and wonderous camera as my old one died of age-related causes. For the moment, my postings here shall be brief, but when my time becomes lazier and the weather warmer….I shall wax more and more eloquent. Just now, I’m extremely busy trying to define my September schedule in Fiji. Which islands shall I visit and in which order? And then, I shall need to do the same decision-making for my Samoan visit the following month.
But for now, I’m enjoying winter in Sydney, brrrrrrr!, in the most beautiful city in all the world! That’s a compensation….and it does warm up mid-day.