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Monday, October 24, 2011

Do You Know Where Your Credit Cards Are?

Well! A new topic I did not expect to talk about! Are there any dreaded events that can ruin your genealogy cruise or research trip?

Have you thought about: 
     Losing your passport? 
     Not getting back to the ship on time? 
     Suitcases that do not arrive with you at your destination? 
     Suitcases that land in the "drink" next to the ship? 
          (We saw that  happen  one time.) 
     Getting mugged on a dark street? 
     Taking a bus or train the wrong way and not finding your way back? 
     Need to leave the ship due to health problems? 
     Losing your wallet? With everything in it? 

Of all of those scenarios, I didn't think that we would leave and then lose my double-wide "can't miss" it, large, black fabric zipper wallet under the passenger seat of a rental car after a one-day rental in New Jersey. We had visited a cousin west of Bayonne Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal and the Newark Airport, and left my wallet under the passenger seat. We thought it would be safe there.  As it turned out, it was "too safe" there. Not a wise choice on our parts!

I usually keep the wallet in my larger purse--but no--not this time. Ever know a lady to carry "her whole life" in her purse or wallet? Well, that's what was in my wallet--"my whole life"--that is, what was outside my physical body and what was outside my brain. I had the rest of my "now-lighter weight" purse, my clothes, my laptop, my planned itineraries, and my husband.

When we realized that my wallet was not with us in the hotel room, panic began to set in. It took a while to remember where we left the wallet. I tried to call the rental car company at Newark Airport several times but the call always rolled over to more automated system options. I tried hitting the # key and then the 0 key but nothing would interrupt the robot voice. Have you ever tried to call a local number for an airport rental car company and they do not answer? I mean they NEVER answered their local number. 

Here it was the afternoon before the hotel shuttle would take us to the cruise ship the next day. My driver's license, all my credit cards, and my cash were missing--you know--not in my possession. Let me tell you that right about that time, I thought it was appropriate that immediate dementia would set in,  take over my body, and someone would take me to the ER on a stretcher. 

However, my husband's common sense prevailed, at least somewhat, and with my "never give up" attitude, I rode the hotel shuttle back to Newark Airport, up the escalator, rode the train, and around a couple of terminals to the car rental company. 

I thought I was lucky that I met a wonderful rental car employee in their Lost and Found Department. If I could have only been lucky enough to find that "our" rental car was still there and no one had rented it again before I arrived. NO SUCH LUCK! 

The car was already rented and off the lot with an Arizona driver who paid for a week's rental. There was no way someone could call the renter directly since only the Arizona home phone was left for reference. [At the time I didn't think to ask the car rental company Lost and Found employee to try the home phone to see if someone else was there who could contact the new renter.] 

Let's see--this was Wednesday, September 28th and we got on the cruise ship the next day, Thursday, September 29th. During the evening before the shuttle took us to the cruise ship, I dutifully called all of our credit card companies and cancelled what I thought were all of our credit cards. We had no way to know if our credit cards were just lost, or could be stolen. I thought I was "smart" and asked that the new cards be mailed to our home--not such a smart idea since we had planned several weeks of visiting relatives in New York and researching on site in several NY counties after the cruise.

Thank goodness I didn't remember to cancel our bank debit card. I forgot to call the bank to cancel it. Fortunately, we were able to use the debit card "in a pinch" although the ship, the hotel,  and the rental car company we used after the cruise were not crazy about this idea. My husband had all of his credit cards, although they were not usable. We also had our passports, which got us back on the ship after stopping at the Canadian ports.

So--please beware! When traveling, debit cards are great for shopping for groceries and goods, but not for ships, hotels, or rental car companies. In fact, some of them will add "hefty" charges to your bill until they receive notification from the bank that you have sufficient funds. For some reason ships, hotels, and rental car companies (unless at an airport location) don't want to instantly find out if you have sufficient funds in your bank account to cover their larger charges.

We were thankful that the ship, the rental car company and the hotel after the cruise believed "my sad tale of woe", even though it was true. Hubby also had enough cash and we were prepared to go to branches of our home bank on Long Island and Orange County, NY, and New Jersey to ask for more funds if needed.

The ship was incredibly helpful at the guest relations desk. Two of the guest relations officers gave me their business cards with special notes and permission to make ship to shore calls at no expense to me the last two full days of the cruise as well as add extra minutes at no charge on my ship's Internet account so I could try to contact the car rental company Lost and Found employee's email and extension at the car rental company. Their courtesy was truly appreciated. With the guest relations' desk officers' help and continually interrupting the automated system at the Newark Airport rental car company, I finally broke through and contacted the Lost and Found employee at that extension.

Complicated matters continued. I found out that the Arizona lady turned in the rental car a day early, and no one had found my wallet while cleaning the car. The car rental company Lost and Found employee assured me that the cleaning attendants were on the lookout for the missing wallet and would turn it in if found.

All along, we thought that no one would find or steal the wallet because my husband didn't just "tuck the wallet" under the front of the passenger seat. He pushed it as far back under the seat as he could. The carpet was as black as the wallet, and he thought no one could see it. He was right. The car rental company attendants were on the lookout for it and did not find it either. 

Unlucky for us, the car went out one additional time for another car rental after our rental before we debarked the ship in Bayonne, NJ on Saturday, October 8th. This time the car was rented one-way and was not going to return to Newark Airport.  Our feelings were very mixed by this time, partially despondent and partially hopeful. Was the wallet still in the car, going for a ride somewhere in New England with the occupants enjoying the fall color, or was someone trying without success to use our credit cards? We had no way of knowing.

Finally! Thank God for a persistent car rental Lost and Found employee at Newark Airport and an honest car rental attendant at another rental location. The Lost and Found employee tracked the car and contacted a car rental attendant at the off site location. He found the wallet! Glory Be! He made arrangements for FedEx to overnight the wallet to the Newark Airport rental car company Lost and Found employee.

We were able to pick up my wallet with everything in tact--my driver's license, credit cards, bills, and other important sheets of paper right down to the pennies, notes, and stamps at the Newark Airport car rental company the day we finished our genealogy cruise. We were very thankful for the diligence and persistence of two of their employees at different locations to retrieve what could have been an even more disastrous situation with greater loss.

We were very joyous and relieved to find that people all over the country, at least where we have visited, have been friendly, courteous, and respectful of others' property, especially when traveling. We have always tried to be careful with our belongings, and not lose anything. However, this time, we were not careful enough. It is not enough when on a trip to count the bags--we also must make sure that our smaller bags, like laptops, purses, etc. have everything in them that is supposed to be there.

Oh! How did we finish our trip? For one thing, we had one of our new credit cards FedExed overnight to the hotel where we stayed after the cruise. We also enjoyed visiting  four of my husband's cousins, one spouse, a daughter, and a grandson on Long Island. It had been eleven years since we had seen most of them.

We had time to visit three cemeteries, two that I had not visited  at Bay Shore where my husband's cousins' parents were buried in 1944, Oakwood, and 1952, St. Patrick's, and the Babylon Rural Cemetery where my husband's parents, paternal grandfather, paternal great-grandparents and many other Robbins' ancestors are buried.

More will follow in future blogs including visits to Surrogate's Courts in Suffolk and Orange County, NY plus libraries and historical societies at Goshen and Middletown, NY--some serendipitous experiences to report about!

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