Monday, July 25, 2011

A Twist of Fate

Excitement got the best of us in the morning. There were no long snuggles for Neale and I, as we were in search of plane tickets today. Cairo waited for us and Israel beckoned to be explored as well. Cairo was just the tip of the ice berg. We could see the world, but today it started with a trip to the travel agent.
Actually, it started with a phone book - to figure out where to locate a travel agency. Once that was accomplished, Neale and I dressed and headed out. I felt like a giddy school girl arranging to skip class, but far too excited to stop and think about the consequences. We would fly to Cairo and explore from there. I had always wanted to see the pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx, as well as wander through the busy bazaars. It was coming to fruitition  and I could barely contain myself. We would be stepping onto a plane heading North in a matter of days, if not hours!
Across town, we sat in front of a pleasant looking young woman and explained to her that we wanted to go to Egypt. Ideally, we wanted to leave as soon as possible, but realistically, the cheapest ticket would dictate when we left. She poured through time tables and looked at price tags, then turned to us with a smile.
“Would tomorrow do?” she inquired.
“Oh yes,” was our response.
She started tapping in my particulars first. I pushed my passport across the desk and squeezed Neale’s hand. We would be headed for Cairo tomorrow! A measly six hour flight would touch us down in a whole new country, as well as a new hemisphere in Africa for me. It was over 4000 kilometers, and I had no idea how I would be able to get back to Cape Town (where my plane ticket back to Canada departed from), but here I was stating my name and birth date.  
Tap, tap, tap…
“And how would you like to pay?” she finally asked.
I dug for my credit card and pushed it across the desk to her. The tapping stopping, then she punched more numbers into the credit card machine.
“There appears to be a problem with your credit card,” the travel agent said as politely as she could.
What the…?
“What do you mean,” I asked.
She tried the numbers again, but shook her head. She handed me the machine, so that I could see the explanation.
“CONTACT CREDIT CARD COMPANY,” it read.
Oh, oh. This wasn't part of the plan. 
Step number two was to pick up the phone to see what was going on. The travel agent dialed the  phone number that was displayed on her machine, spoke to the representative, then handed me the phone. After a round of identification questions, a handful more questions, plus some of my own, the answer was presented to me – INSUFFICIENT FUNDS.
Our plans rapidly started to unravel. My credit card was at its limit. I could not use my debit card in Tanzania and I only had a $50 US traveller’s cheque left, as well as small amounts of currency from the last half dozen countries that I had been in. Essentially, I was broke.
Neale rallied to the cause. He pulled out his credit card and offered to pay for both our tickets. I knew that once I got a hold of my mother back home, I could sort out my finances and pay him back. That shouldn’t take too long, I reasoned. The money would be back in his pocket in no time.
Fate had other plans though. Our beleaguered travel agent shook her head once more and announced that Neale’s credit card had also been denied. We were both flat broke. We could not afford even one ticket to Cairo between the two of us, let alone tickets for both of us to go. After several more phone calls and other desperate measures, we dejectedly walked out of the travel agency empty handed. Our dreams of Cairo fizzled out miserably. We were not going anywhere.

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