Wednesday, April 09, 2008


You know the saying…”When it rains it pours”, and you also know they say these things come in threes, so about the only thing I can be hopeful about this morning is that we’ve had our three disasters and that things will get better.

As I wrote about on April 1st, we discovered that our ATM cards expired on March 31, and apparently I didn’t bring the back-up ATM cards with us!!! After some panicky emails back and forth with my sister, we discovered that the new ATM cards had arrived, so at least they hadn’t been lost or stolen. Then we had to figure out what to do since we knew we’d need to withdraw money before we leave for the states. We withdraw money every month to cover our mortgage payment, and we also wanted to make a deposit to cover any utility bills that would come in while we’re in the states.

Luckily for us, someone had contacted us a few weeks ago after reading our blog. Julie, who with her husband runs a company called
CLOSING PERSPECTIVES had emailed us after reading our blog. This company stages homes to help them sell. We’ve all seen these shows on HGTV, and know how amazing some of these transformations can be. Sounds like a dream job to me! Anyway, Julie had found our blog and had contacted me to offer some advice about selling our house.

As we emailed back and forth, Julie told us that she was coming to Italy with her kids for several months this summer, and offered to come to San Venanzo to stage our house and take some photos. When Julie told us that she was coming for a week in April to check out her rental apartment and do a little business, we offered to meet her in Orvieto and bring her to our house for food and wine in exchange for her services. Arrangements were made and we were all looking forward to meeting, and then the ATM disaster struck!

We emailed Julie to see if she’d be willing to bring the cards with her, and if she’d be home to receive them in the mail. She graciously agreed, and we had my sister send the cards off immediately. Of course I was a nervous wreck until Julie emailed us to say they’d arrived and that she’d put the envelope into her carry on.

Yesterday, the day Julie was to have arrived in Rome, we waited for her call. We knew she’d be spending her first night in Rome, but she’d told us she’d have a cellphone, and if all else failed I knew she could find an internet point. We’d agreed to meet her train in Orvieto at a specific time, but still, she said she’d call, so we were a little concerned.

This morning when we got up Art checked our email one last time, just to see if there was any word from Julie and yes, there was….and it wasn’t good news for any of us. Julie emailed us that she was still in the states and after trying to fly out for two days, had now given up and was hoping to return home. I’m guessing she was caught up in the
AMERICAN AIRLINES FIASCO, or it’s ensuing wake.

And so now not only will Julie not get her trip to Italy, and we won’t get to meet her, now our ATM cards are in South Carolina, and we’re in Italy. We’re still struggling to decide whether we should ask Julie to
FedEx them to us, or to have her mail them back to my sister. We leave for the states in ten days and while they should make it here in that time, there’s always the worry they won’t. Although many companies like FedEx and UPS have their own planes, they also use commercial flights to send items, as does the USPS. If people can’t make it to Italy because of flight delays and cancellations, then some mail can’t make it either.

So we’ve had the ATM disaster, Julie’s trip cancellation disaster, and you know there must be a third disaster, right? Right. On Monday Art dropped the car off at the mechanic’s to have a belt replaced. It had been squeaking for a week or so, and when Art had run into the mechanic at the bar he’d told Art to just drop it by, saying that after five years, it was a good idea to replace the belts. We of course agreed.

On Tuesday when the mechanic returned the car, Art asked how much he owed. The mechanic told Art to just stop by the shop when he had a chance…no rush. That’s the standard way of doing business around here. The mechanic knows us, knows we’re honest and that we’ll pay, but really, if we didn’t stop by for a week, maybe more, he wouldn’t be at all concerned. Additionally, we trust this mechanic implicitly, so we weren’t worried that our bill would be inflated.

But still we’re Americans, used to paying promptly, so as Art was on his way back from Marsciano yesterday evening he stopped in to pay. The mechanic brought out two bushings to show Art, and explained that he’d had to replace them in addition to replacing the belts. I didn’t see the bushings, and probably wouldn’t know a worn bushing from a brand new bushing, but anyway, that was the story. And so Art said something jokingly about having a huge bill, but when the mechanic didn't laugh and agreed, Art stopped laughing real fast. The bill for all the work, belts, bushings and labor came to €260. For those of you who can’t keep up with the exchange rate (or who have given up in despair!), that’s over $400! And of course it’s €260 that we need to get out of the bank using our ATM card. See how all these disasters are related?

Now I don’t know whether this next disaster is disaster number four, or if we should count all the ATM related stuff as one, the car as two, and this as number three. Or maybe we should call this a near disaster. Anyway, here’s that story……our friend who works for an airline had offered to get us buddy passes for out trip back to the states. She’d bought the tickets for us last week and emailed us all the pertinent info. Then yesterday we had a frantic email from her. She recently fell during a flight and is off on medical leave. She’d just received notification that because she’s off on leave, no one can use her buddy passes and that our tickets were invalid! Of course she was almost as upset as we were!

With just ten days to go before our departure, can you imagine how panicked I was?!? I didn’t even want to think about what it was going to cost to buy tickets at the last minute, but before I could even get that far our friend told us that a friend of hers would let us use her buddy passes for our trip! What a nice thing for this person to do! And so that potential disaster was diverted. I’m sure they’ll be another one waiting to take it’s place, there always is. You know I’m one of those ‘glass half empty’ people, so for me, the good times are usually just the pause in between the bad times, the time I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I honestly DO try to enjoy the good times, but still, I’m always well aware that some disaster is just around the corner, just waiting to happen. For me it's enough when the good news is that the bad news is over!

Oh my god, I almost forgot about what happened on Monday! When I went to the garage to get something out of the freezer I discovered that the plug had somehow been knocked loose, and that the freezer was now defrosted! Again, one of those good news, bad news situations. I'd planned to defrost the freezer after we returned from the states, so there wasn't much in it. Everything was still cold, and luckily I didn't lose anything, but of course I panicked first! Art helped me to clean out the freezer, and I was able to cram most of the stuff into the freezer on top the the fridge until the one in the garage was cold again. Is there a small black could hovering overhead???


So here's what's hapened since I wrote this post two days ago, and what I've learned: The most important thing to happen is that we emailed our credit union in the states and had them wire money into our Italian bank account. I emailed them yesterday afternoon and the money was here this morning! Yes, I know what you're thinking, it's an electronic transfer, what's so unusual about that? But what you have to remember is: THIS IS ITALY! Normally wire transfers can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to actually show up in your account. Perhaps the lines of communication have improved. So....all is good as far as our money situation goes...well, at least our mortgage is taken care of!

As for what I've learned.....I've learned that all my craziness and panic and emails and express mail trying to get the debit cards over here before we left for the states was just that: crazy panic! I should never have attempted that, even though we did have a friend who was coming, and even though the situation with American Airlines could never have been anticipated. I should simply have called our credit union and wired the DONE!! But of course running around like a chicken with my head chopped off is totally normal for me, and yes, I've learned my lesson for this time, but just you wait, I'm sure there'll be another crisis soon, and I'll be just as wild and crazy once again.

Now if I would just get that email confirming our flight reservations I might actually be able to wait! I still have to pack!!


At 4/09/2008 08:27:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so very Italian to think that, no matter how wonderful life is going, disaster is just around the corner. Having a cheerful positive attitude is often very suspect.
I wrote a little while back about my frequent courier service use. My experience is, using overnight service, it always, truly always, gets there 2nd day from US to Italia. Cost is usually $50 to $100 depending on weight. For you it should be minimal but it does work. You just have to do the cost/benefit analysis.

At 4/09/2008 07:17:00 PM , Blogger tanny said...

Oh Barb, that a shame-I wanted to thank you for all your help on planning out trip, we will be in Rome on May the 7

At 4/09/2008 07:20:00 PM , Blogger tanny said...

Oh Barb, your so right sometimes when it rain's it pours, I wish you a safe and fun trip to and from the states, on another note thanks for all you help in getting my trip up and running, we will arive in Rome on the 7 of May, Glenda

At 4/10/2008 07:50:00 AM , Anonymous Judith in Umbria said...

Barb, in terms of depositing money to cover bills while you are gone and to pay the mortgage, write a US check and deposit it. If you work out a deal with your IT bank it doesn't even have to be expensive. Just once you could have them make the payment instead of using cash.

In truth, the only people who don't have these experiences are those who do nothing and live ives that would drive us nuts.


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