That was how long I was supposed to be out of town this week for a class. When you lead a critter-intensive lifestyle like we do, having one of us away from home even just overnight leaves a lot on the one who stays behind. But, fortunately, travel is a rare requirement for either of us these days. So when it happens, we just take a deep breath and deal with it. We can do anything for four days, right?
My class was starting at 1:30 in the afternoon in Austin, a seventy-five mile drive west of where we live. My office is a forty mile drive east of where we live. So when they told me about the class a couple of weeks ago, I decided to take comp time in the morning and drive straight to the class from home, leaving around noon. That was my plan right up to quitting time last Friday.
Last week had not been very productive because we are short-staffed right now and I had been pulled off my own work to help in some other areas for two whole days. Everything that crosses my desk is time-sensitive so when I miss two out of five days in a week, it piles up fast. By 5:00 last Friday, my own workload was out of control. I knew it would pile up even more this week since I'd be gone four days. So I decided I would go ahead and drive the forty miles east on Monday and work from 7:00am to 10:00am ...then head to class from the office. Being that much further east made it a two and a half hour drive to get to the class, so leaving at 10:00 left me enough time to grab lunch somewhere along the way and be at class by 1:30.
I dreaded the new plan all weekend but I ended up accomplishing a lot Monday morning, so I was in a pretty good mood when I stopped at a drive-through burger joint in Bastrop. I was about 45 minutes from my destination, still a little over two hours before class started so I was feeling pretty good. We are supposed to use the corporate credit card for all meals when we travel so I ordered a kiddie burger and drink and whipped out my State of Texas Mastercard.
IT WAS DECLINED. I said, "That can't be right. Try it again please?" The girl tried it again ...and again ...then tried entering it manually. Same result each time, it was declined. By that time, I was more than a little embarrassed and the cars behind me were probably getting annoyed. So I gave her $5 in cash and paid for my meal.
I pulled over to a space in the parking lot and called the number on the back of my corporate card. After the seemingly endless number-punching routine, I finally reached a live person and ...wonder of wonders ...he actually sounded like English might be his first language! Things were looking up.
Still convinced it must be a mistake, I explained my predicament to him and asked him if he had any idea why my card was being declined. He put me on hold for a minute and then came back to say the card had been canceled ...that very morning. What?!? I asked him if there were any notes as to why and he put me on hold again to check. It's frustrating enough when you have to call these customer service lines but it always amuses me when they ask to put you on hold 'so they can check' on something. They are, after all, a Call Center. They never leave their cubicles when they're covering phones. Everything is right in front of them on a computer screen ...complete with scripts of what they're supposed to tell customers in almost any imaginable situation. If they put you on hold, it's because either they are new enough not to be familiar with the scripts or they are uncomfortable enough with what the scripts are telling them that they want to consult with their co-worker or a coach to confirm. If they put you on hold twice or three times during the same call, it's the latter.
He came back a minute later and said he was sorry but there were no notes as to why, but he could give me the name and number of a person at the State Office who would know. I wrote down the name and number and thanked him for his time. Then I dialed my supervisor at my office, hoping she had not left for lunch yet.
She answered on the third ring. "Hi! Aren't you on your way to Austin?" I said, "Well ... I stopped for a quick lunch in Bastrop and was just wondering if you might have heard anything ominous through the grapevine like maybe that I'm being FIRED??"
Brief silence then she laughed, probably thinking I was kidding. She said, "No, why?" So I told her about the card. Thirty minutes had passed by now and I told her that if I didn't get back on the road, I'd end up being late to class so would she please call the State Office and find out what was going on. She said of course and not to worry ...she'd straighten it all out and call me back.
I didn't hear from her again, but when I arrived at my class an hour later, the receptionist gave me an envelope with my NEW corporate card in it. It seems that someone with Decision Making Power and Authority had determined that our Mastercard through JP Morgan was no longer the best deal and a Mastercard through Citicorp was now the way to go. This decision had apparently been made several weeks ago because the receptionist told me 'they were supposed to mail this to you at home two weeks ago.' Nice.
It was still 30 minutes before the class was due to start so I asked to use a landline so I could activate the card ...a tedious but fairly simple automated process that only took a few minutes. I was about to go on to my classroom when it occurred to me that I should check on my hotel reservations. Good thing I did. I no longer HAD reservations. It seems that when your room is booked three weeks in advance and guaranteed on a specific credit card, canceling that card also cancels the reservation. Makes sense.
I sure am glad I called because it took them a few minutes to finally find a room for me. I gave them the new credit card number and thought 'well, things can only get better from here.'
SILLY ME .... to be continued