Saturday, August 20, 2005

Losing My Wallet

There are some things in life that are so big, so scary, that you try not to spend any time thinking about them at all – death of a loved one, divorce, getting cancer, and the like. These are life-changing events that you pray you will never have to deal with.

However, there are other things that can happen to you that may not be quite as dramatic, but would top your it-would-piss-me-off-so-much-I-hope-I-never-have-to-go-through-it list, such as being stopped by Customs and Excise on the way back home from a holiday abroad and being strip searched. Fear of my wallet being lost or stolen has always featured pretty high up on this list. So as it gradually dawned on me that I had not just left my wallet in a different coat pocket, that awful sinking hollow in the pit of my stomach was as intense as the first time I lost my pocket money. OK, I didn’t burst into floods of tears this time but I could feel the panic rising at an alarming rate.

When did I last remember seeing it? The previous day when I bought us all ice creams at the Cream O’ Galloway Visitor Centre (damn fine ice cream, though). I didn’t remember putting the wallet back in my pocket, but that’s because I would have done it automatically. Could I have missed my pocket and dropped it by mistake? Could some thieving pickpocket have lifted it? Unfortunately the phone call and description yielded no results.

Where else had we gone? Down to the beach to look for interestingly shaped pieces of driftwood for Maggie. It’s not a busy beach; in fact sometimes the access road is closed, if the military are practicing manoeuvres nearby. And the area where we found the best bits were on a stretch that we’d had to clamber across a small stream to get to. However, maybe someone could have found it and handed it into the police… Another phone call, and I was still no further forward.

Damn, damn, damn! I wanted to use much stronger language, but the kids were within earshot.

There was no escaping it; I was going to have to cancel the credit cards. Where was that wee card that had the number to phone? Ah… that was in the wallet too. Oh no… so was my driving licence… Nuts! Fiddlesticks! Kids – leave the room and put your fingers in your ears; your father wants to swear.

Off to the bank only to discover that they were not allowed to cancel my credit cards there: I had to use the phone. At least they give me a phone number to call. Twenty minutes later and the cards had been cancelled and new ones ordered. But what about the driving licence?

I spent about ten minutes selecting options on the DVLA automated phone system only to end up with a set of options that didn’t seem to apply to me. However, I was assured that I could also find out pretty much everything I needed to know at their website (www.dvla.gov.uk). So on the computer went. However, before I could get to the website I found an e-mail from ticketmaster.co.uk telling me that the Eminem concert I bought tickets for my sister to go and see had been cancelled. Apparently Eminem was suffering from exhaustion (link to BBC news article). I briefly wondered if he’s lost his wallet too. Refunds were to be made to the credit card in the next ten days.

Hang on, I’d just had to cancel my credit card; what would happen to my refund? I couldn’t find anything in ticketmaster’s FAQs about this problem, so I phoned them up. Another ten minutes of following options on their automated phone system and I finally got through to a real person. He’d not come across this kind of problem before and had to put me on hold for a few minutes while he talked to his supervisor. Eventually I was assured that it should be alright and that the money would find it’s way back into my account, regardless of me having a new credit card number by then. I hope he’s right, but will be checking my next statement very carefully.

OK, what about the DVLA website? Well, it turned out that I could order a new driving licence by phoning up with my credit card details… Not a lot I could do about that then.

As I was pondering what to do next, I realised that the panic was subsiding; actually it was no big deal any more. New credit cards were on the way; I could get a new driving licence when they arrived; and other than a few petrol receipts I’d only really lost a supermarket loyalty card and the video rental membership card, and these could easily be replaced. A strange sense of calm descended: the worst had happened and it wasn’t the end of the world after all.

My mind now wandered back to the beach. I did fall over at one point, balancing on a fallen tree trunk that moved. If my wallet was to have fallen out of my pocket anywhere, then that’s where it would be. It was a deserted bit of beach that was awkward to get to. It didn’t rain the previous night. The tides wouldn’t have got that far up the beach. It was low tide right now. It was only 25 minutes drive away. Meg was asking if we could go out somewhere, as she wanted some fresh air. Now I realised that I wasn’t going to rest until I’d looked. A few minutes later Meg and I were climbing into the car and heading for the beach.

Meg’s not the most agile and surefooted of children so I had to swing her over my shoulder to traverse the stream, stepping carefully from stone to stone, a to avoid toppling headfirst into the water. There was the tree trunk I fell off, and there… there was my wallet: credit cards, driving licence and video rental card still in it. There was no cash, but then I’d used my last tenner to buy the ice creams the day before, so wasn’t expecting to find any left in it anyway. I scooped it up, sat on the tree trunk and laughed the deep laugh of relief. Meg found this highly amusing and chuckled at me for a while.

On the way back to the car I even had to make two trips across the stream, because we’d found a few more really interestingly shaped pieces of driftwood for Maggie, and I couldn’t carry them and Meg all in one go.

Two days later the new credit cards arrived and I destroyed the originals. No big deal, and I can’t understand why the idea of losing my wallet ever seemed so scary. A pain, yes, but frightening – no. Now, let’s just hope that I never have to go through losing my passport while overseas.

2 comments:

BStrong said...

Remarkable story and you handled the situation brilliantly. After all, you did find your wallet. My wife would have been the one trying to find my wallet because I would have been locked away in some institution and deemed crazy for completely destroying my house and scaring the neighbors.

Kim Ayres said...

Fortunately for my wife she was out for the day so didn't have to deal with my tirades. By the time she got back everything was resolved so I could act like I'd been the embodiment of calm and centeredness throughout the experience. I might have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those pesky kids ratting on me...