Yesterday morning I awoke with the joy that only those with little money know: I woke up with a little money. The previous evening, my friend Rachel was kind enough to purchase a copy of Bound and Blood and Skin, and sent me an e-transfer for her purchase. I eagerly answered the security question, and daydreamed about what I would do with 300,000 Rupees as I walked to the bank.
I planned to buy a big chunk of Tuna for my landlords, who have been so kind in helping me integrate into my new life in Bali. I found a piece of metal on the street last Wednesday, which I have since fashioned into a BBQ: I thought to myself that I would grill the fish on the rooftop of Shiva’s Cave, where we would eat as the sun set on the city below.
I smiled as I entered the air-conditioned cool of the Bank, and took my wallet out of my man-purse. Upon opening my wallet, however, I found the place where my bank card usually sits empty. My motions quickly accelerated, and I was soon rifling instead of casually “going” through my bag—the speed of my motions had no bearing on the outcome, however: my card was simply not there.
I figured I’d left it in the pocket of my brightly covered shorts, so I wasn’t too panicked. I walked back to my room smiling, thinking about how I could rig a fan onto the grill to keep the coconut husk charcoal bed red. The card was not in my brightly coloured pants, nor was it in my shoes. I later discovered that it wasn’t at the Juice place I visited the previous day, and it wasn’t at the grocery store either. I was in quite a pickle!
Thankfully, my bank makes it easy to use Western Union. I figured I could easily send the money to myself in time to still make dinner for my homestay family. I opened the app, went to the Western Union function, but since I had never used it, I had to set myself up as a recipient: the app was kind enough to provide me with a phone number to do so.
Those who know me well are probably aware that I have stopped using conventional phone services for quite some time. In Victoria, I knew the passwords to all of the city’s Wifi hotspots. I have a free app called Nextplus, which provides me with a “real” phone number from which I can text and even make calls so long as am connected to Wifi.
The only catch to using the Nextplus Service is that in order to earn calling credits, one has to either watch obnoxious promotional videos or complete certain actions, which inevitably include obnoxious promotional videos. I had watched all the promotional videos allowed for the month, so I was forced to complete a few actions.
Most of the actions involve downloading a video game app, and reaching a certain level. The rewards are tremendous: often in excess of 50 minutes worth of phone credit! I SUCK at all video games except for Mortal Kombat, however, and I am only good at that video game if I use Sonya’s legs to propel me to victory.
I chose a game called Candy Confuser as it seemed easiest. The game is quite simple in theory. On one side of the screen is a “candy” which looks like a digital pimple. The name of a colour is written on it in a font of a completely different colour. On the other side of the screen is another digital zit of another colour. If the colour written on the first blob matches the colour of the second blob, you hit the “Yes” button, otherwise, you hit the “No” button. I had to get a total of 200 point to earn 57 Calling Minutes.
Already frustrated from losing my card, the game successfully pushed me over the edge within about five seconds. I vehemently swore at my phone, as it is obvious within a round or two, that the designers of Candy Confusor are colour blind and/or illiterate.
It took me well over two hours to finally get my 57 calling minutes: I was on hold with the bank for 56 minutes, and when a representative finally came to my aid as promised at a rate of three times per minute while I was on hold, the app hung up on her for me.
This time, I tried my hand at a Schwartzenegger-promoted War App. I hate war even more than I hate video games, but it was my only option. Somehow I made it to level 6, and though I am a pacifist, who comes from a long line of pacifists, I must say that I enjoyed killing bad guys. The horrible hold music from the bank was stuck in my head, and urged me on to further and further degrees of slaughter. I now had another 57 minutes of ‘free’ talk time.
I phoned the bank again, and was surprised to hear the voice of a real human. I am pretty sure he was American, and from what I can deduce from his voice, he was insanely obese. He kept breathing heavily into my ear as I gave him the information for my money transfer. He put me on hold several times throughout the conversation, no doubt to shove pork rinds into his mouth… I kept a close eye on the number of minutes I had earned for my Purple-Heart-Level participation in an imaginary war.
I’d expected a service charge would be appended to my small transfer of $30. While the thought of paying Western Union $5 to send money to myself got my goat, I wanted to show gratitude to my hosts, and maybe pick up a pack of Garams for myself. The service charge was significantly more. $15 CAD, or 150,000 RP, to be exact: 100% of the total amount of money I sent to myself. What a benevolent company!
I agreed to pay a $15 service charge on a $15 transfer perhaps because of the PTSD I’d sustained playing Arnie’s favourite game. I went so far as to repeat what the overweight American had explained to me moments before.
“Okay. So in order to send MYSELF $15 CAD, I need to pay WESTERN UNION $15 CAD?”
(Audible breath. Sound of pork rinds being voraciously consumed.)
“Yeah. That’s right.”
I awoke this morning with the joy that only those with little money can know: I awoke with little money. I did my pushups and my sit-ups, and made myself some noodles and eggs. I then walked to the post office/Western Union office: I was the first and only one there. When I got to the counter, I was instructed to take a number and sit down. I drew the number 1, and just as my bum hit the hard metal seat, the lady at the til called out, “Number One” and looked around without making eye contact. She seemed a little bit surprised to see me again.
I triumphantly presented my passport to her, once again dreaming of the Tuna I would share with my homestay family a day later than planned. She asked me to fill out a form, which I did. I must say I felt a little bit silly as I wrote my own name in the places of Sender and Recipient respectively: monetary masturbation.
I presented her with the sheet, and her nose wrinkled a little bit.
“Where is customer number?”
“Oh. I don’t have one. But it is in my name, you can look it up right?”
“No. You need Customer Number.”
“Ok. Can I use your phone to call Western Union?”
“No. Local calls only. Number 2?”
I walked out of the post office in search of a Wifi hotspot from which to phone Western Union. I sidled up beside a Doctor’s Office with free Wifi, and spent the remaining 10 minutes I had left from my tour of duty on hold with Scotiabank before the app once again hung up for me. I headed to my friend Roffi’s house to make the same call from her phone.
Finally, I talked to a joyful female representative who happily told me my Customer number, and even asked if there was anything else she could do to help. I thanked her, and headed back to the post office, where I drew number 34.
I should have known better than to be excited when my number was called. I went up to the counter again, and triumphantly presented the cashier with my passport and my Western Union Money Form with my customer number in bold. She typed the information into her computer and crinkled her nose.
“This name is different.”
“What do you mean? It’s my name. I am me.”
“No. Here it says: Nicholas Lyons. On your passport, ‘Nicholas Oswald Lyons.’ Sorry. Number 35!”
“Wait, wait, wait. There must be something you can do. All of the other information is correct. Can I talk to a manager?”
“No manager here. Sorry. You can try other Western Union office about 1 Kilometer away.”
I walked one kilometer, thinking about Tuna. I had heat stroke by this point, so my thoughts had swerved drastically from eating tuna to swimming in oceans of it. Finally I reached the other Western Union Office. When I got in, I read a sign saying that the system was down. I asked one of the workers there if there was another office in town that might be open. They pointed to the right and said about 5 Kilometers away.
I walked another five kilometers to the right, and miraculously found the other office, which was air conditioned. Once again, I smiled dumbly, confident that this one would work. The European Tourists in front of me took out their life savings and counted it slowly just to be sure that it was all there. I waited.
Once the Europeans had counted their literal millions, I went to the front of the line. I smiled and handed my passport and money form sheepishly to the clerk. He requested that I fill out a different form with all the same information and I happily obliged in my heightened state of heat induced delirium. I thought of riding on the back of a monster Tuna to Iceland where I frolicked with Bjork in the snow.
I presented the new form along with my worn out passport to the clerk. He scanned the passport and scratched his head.
“Sorry. This is not you.”
“Yes. It is me.”
“No. No Oswald.”
“But everything else is accurate, right?”
“Yes. But needs to be exact for your own protection.”
“But I don’t want protection! I sent it to myself. Don’t protect me from myself!”
“Can I use a phone?”
“Local calls only. Sorry.”
“Ok. Thank you.”
I walked back to my friend’s house to use her phone. I waited on hold for over half an hour. Tuna were flying through the air.
Her phone ran out of minutes before the promised representative answered the call.
“I am so sorry. I will pay you for the minutes as soon as I have money!”
“No problem. I will add more.”
She added more and hit redial as I crossed my fingers and legs.
Another half hour on hold and her minutes ran out again.
“I am so sorry. I will try emailing them. I don’t want to waste any more of your minutes on this silly.”
“Ok. Let me know if you need any more help.”
“Thank you so much.”
I walked back to Shiva’s Cave, and wrote an email to Scotiabank. I also wrote an email to Western Union. And then I wrote this. I still haven’t received a reply from either institution. The post office has closed, and the other place five kilometers to the right (left from here, I think) is closing in half an hour.
“So let me get this straight. In order to send myself $15 CAD, it costs $15 CAD, an hour of Candy Confusion, a three hour war with Arnold Schwarzenegger, two hours of phone time on my friend’s phone, and I’ve gotta walk about 10 kilometers in 30 degree heat?”
“Yeah. That’s right.”