Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 13: Normal is....

Bear Grylls has nothing on me. We both know how to survive by chewing on moxie, sipping dauntlessness mixed with a dash of spunk, and making our beds from nothing more than wit, pluck, and guts. Yeah, and we sleep in the bed we made.

We're a tough breed. In the 12 days after I arrived here, I survived -- verily, thrived -- without using a cell phone, credit card, or TV. (Oh, wait: Bear didn't do that.)

Yesterday I could go on no something.....

[Insert TV commercial here. A happy song is playing, and a happy family is dancing in a happy meadow...
Voiceover: Hello, this is your dear friend Citibank. Because we value you and your family so much, we are going to raise your APR from 9.9% to 29.9% in order to better serve you!]

I'd like to say this is why I haven't been watching TV or using my credit card, but that's not quite true. I can't find the remote -- I think I left it somewhere in my office building my first day here when they issued it to me -- and, well, hell, I don't feel like screwing with it anyway. I did cancel my Citi card -- and I encourage you to do so too, and to take your money out of the too-big-to-fail banks and deposit it in a local community bank. Anyway, I've been relying on my ATM card and the fast wireless for all my cash and entertainment needs. No, not that kind of entertainment: Qatar blocks those sites, remember? I've been reading lots of reader comments to political posts (Politico, Washington Post, Huffington, etc.) and this I know: most of the posters are unhinged. I didn't use my cell because I didn't have anyone to call.

Until last night. I wanted to leave this desert and visit another one -- and, at the same time, to travel to places that sounded like tag lines from the Simpsons, so my best option was to fly from "Doh!" "Ha!" to "Oh! Man!" (Mark, Mark, don't go all Al Gore here and explain in a patronizing way that this means from Doha (Qatar) to (Musqat) Oman. Too late.)

Why else do I want to fly to Oman, you might ask?

To find some Musqat love! ("Musqat Suzy, Musqat Sam, do the jitterbug in Musqat land...")(Al Gore: Musqat is the capital of Oman.)

If you know the Captain and Tennille version of this song, the least you can do to atone is to buy -- at whatever price -- one of the world's best albums, by the Willis Alan Ramsey, an incredibly talented songwriter who did make this one big, stinking and flaming bag of a mistake.

So. I try to buy the ticket online...and my card is rejected. I'm used to rejection, so I tried again. And again. Qatar Airlines sent me the auto-response "Are you stalking me? I said NO!"

Then I remembered that when I got to Qatar my credit card company (did I mention that it was not from those SOBs at Citibank?) had called to tell me that my card had been blocked because I had the audacity to use it, which I kind of thought was the point of having it, although I appreciate that their surveillance system had learned that someone -- probably an identity thief -- had the cojones, or its Arabic equivalent, which I couldn't find on google, which is a shame because everything should be available there, was testing their system by buying a book, which turned out to be a so-so thriller, although I felt compelled to read the whole thing, at an airport in England, which is where I transferred while coming here, unfortunately not with enough time to visit the Virgin Lounge, which has the best eggs benedict I've ever had at a layover at an airport.

Anyway, my credit card had been blocked. I thought I had fixed the problem on Day 1 but, since I had not used my card since then, apparently I had not. Which may explain why my car rental company was getting just a little curt with me (ha! my brother is nicknamed "Little Curt"), as it had submitted my monthly charge to the credit card company day after day, and each day the charge was denied, despite my assurances that everything was ok.

So, I had to use my cell to call the credit card company to clear things up. Which I did. They didn't really ask me, but I told them that Citibank sucks.

I did have to call the company back when I discovered that ALL the rental car charges had been posted to my account. Nothing quite like the thrill of paying $600+ each day for 8 consecutive days or so to rent a Mitsubishi Lancer for a month...

I still haven't used my TV, though I did think about using my cell and card to order a new remote so I could use it, which would have been a triple-play of technological catching up.

You've read this far, if you are still reading, so I owe you something a little special: another spill shot. Not ketchup. Not mustard. Not vaseline (again). In trying to put sunblock on my back, I poured a bunch in my hand and tried to sneak around my body and catch my back by surprise. Instead, I threw it on the door instead. An evocative picture, I think. Don't you?

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