The Lie of the Easy Access Phone Card, is my next tale of misadventure. This one is a twofer. It happened not once, but twice. First, it was in the very same German destination as the Baden Baden ham experience from Memories of Travel.
This was 2008, before the ease of using cell phones between foreign countries and home had evolved. We were told by travel experts at the time that the best way to phone home was to purchase a phone card at any neighborhood Tabac (Tobacco shop).
This is what we had done, in France on our way to Germany. My husband thought he plugged in all the right numbers and codes to use the card from our nice German hotel. So, he called his mom to chat about some highlights of the trip so far, for about twenty minutes.
The shock didn’t come until the next morning when I, alone, stood in front of a very stern, slim, dark-haired, middle-aged woman, demanding that I pay the phone charge of more than one hundred euros, which had been attached to our room bill of around two hundred euros. My daughter and husband had gone to retrieve the car from the parking garage, so I stood alone in protest – “we used a phone card for that call,” to a solid response of – “that doesn’t work in Germany.”
“Okay,” this traveler nearly cried, as she shelled out more than three-hundred euros for that little misadventure.
This incident was followed a few days later by The Tale of the Norman Bates Hotel/Prison Scandal, which ended our attempts to call home using phone cards. It was in France this time so we thought we’d emerge unscathed. Not so much, but in a surprising caper.
We were tired and again, hungry. We filled the car with gas and had to find a hotel soon. It wasn’t rural and it wasn’t urban; maybe suburban industrialish would best describe the area. We finally found a small, ranch style, U.S.-type homegrown motel.
It wasn’t great but it would do. I think we picked up some food after getting gas, because we sat at picnic tables and ate outside the front valet area of the mostly deserted motel. A few biker-type guests arrived and also meandered around outdoors.
Once more or less settled into our room, I had – after some struggle to get internet access, paid a bill via my laptop, and we planned to use our phone card at a pay phone in the hallway. It took all three of us to figure out how to place that call to our friend who was manning our business and household affairs.
Lo and behold, we had locked ourselves out of our room. I went to the front desk to beg for help and came upon the male manager, locking a metal grid across the desk area preparing to leave for the night. What?
First, he yelled at me in and out of French, but reluctantly got us back into our room. “Stupid Americans,” mumble mumble. Second, we were essentially being locked into this hotel property with nobody remaining on sight from management. Again, what?
There was a “back” door to the outside of our room and we stepped out, making sure we could get back in, to come and go to our car for bottled water and fruit, when we saw a gate had been closed to the property. Twilight Zone music began to play in our heads – loudly. I think we all jumped into bed and pulled the covers over our heads to quell the creepiness, at least until restless sleep took over.
Last in this series of tales is, The Tale of Your Teenage Daughter Hates You. If you require reference material for this story, I will suggest two movies: 3 Days to Kill and European Vacation.
We thought it would be an epic coming of age, pre-graduation gift to our seventeen-year-old daughter, taking her to Europe. Do you know the phrase, “it was the thought that counts?” But now, many years down the road, the whole thing counts as a redacted, edited, and revisionist historical blessing to said daughter.
This tale is shared by way of teenager-daughter-dialogue which is not intended to elicit a response from her parents. I think this is known as rhetorical speech.
“They have no internet service;” and the related, “I can’t get this dumb code to work.”
“I want French fries;” This is France, how hard could it be to find French fries in France?
“I have to pee;” “You want me to pee where?” “You know that is a hole in the ground, not a restroom and there’s a man peeing against the wall in there?” and “Where do you put the toilet paper?”
“No! I really mean it, NO!” – repeat – repeat – repeat….
Said teenager’s resounding no in Europe has become a yes in the telling of her own travel tales. “That was the worst meal, your spanakopita is better…, dad would have loved the feta with every meal….”
Staying inside her body like chickenpox, she had unknowingly caught the flu-like travel bug while still gestating in the womb, and it flares up periodically. Her husband caught the bug from her, “when we were in Athens…, the beer in Germany….”
So, even the most negative of travel experiences imprint on one’s memories as life-enhancing travel tales.