Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Receiving 1,500 Yen from Someone I Barely Know

In the end all the blame on this one would be on me. I just know it. You know how people would tell you that you should always be prepared, that you should always anticipate errors and misfortunes along the way, that what happens to you is entirely your fault. Sometimes fate uses some people as instruments to victimize you, to learn a lesson, as they would love to say. At times, this lesson comes to you in cahoots with giant worldwide banking companies or their fvcking machines that you just want to axe-kick, karate chop, kidney punch (I do not care if ATMs do not have kidneys), bitch slap ad nauseam, douse in gas, and set on fire. Sorry, I got carried away. So, what really happened? I almost got stranded in Osaka, that is what happened. What is my defense then, your honor?

I do not know. You do not have to know me well enough to see me as some conceited moron with a deluded outlook in life. In my little perfect world, everything would be functioning as they should be. I could leave the house one hour before my flight because it only takes ten minutes to get to the airport, five to pay the travel tax, and be just on time for the forty five minute grace period for me to get a boarding pass from the airline counter because I could always use the express lanes meant for web check-in since I only have a backpack as hand carry luggage and they prioritize last-call passengers anyway.

In my perfect little world, you no longer have to go through the hassles of buying the currency of the country you are traveling to before boarding the plane. Why? Because you have debit cards from a supposedly international bank, which brags in their website that you could use their fvcking cards abroad, blah blah blah, and uses buzz words such as convenience to make you feel oh so privileged that you chose to open an account with them instead of any other bank.

In my perfect little world, I could relax because my flight leaves Kansai International at 8:40 in the evening, which means I could leave on a Kansai Airport Limited Express train at 6:40, reserving an hour for the train trip and the other hour for check-in and immigration purposes. Oops, I have no more yen at hand, only pesos and ringgit. No sweat! There must be an ATM nearby where you insert your international debit card, push some keys, and get your yen to buy your train ticket. No hassles.

In the real world, this is not the case.

In the real world, your taxi driver would parade you around Pasay to meet the PALEA strike head on instead of taking the Skyway for a smooth ride of less than ten minutes. In the real world, the line at the NAIA entrance would actually be longer than the line at the airline check-in counter. In the real world, the Cebu Pacific ground attendant will give you a photocopy of a departure card because they ran out of copies, and you will accept it because a Cebu Pacific ground attendant gave it to you and not some taong grasa who went inside the airport for a toilet break. In the real world, the immigration officer would give you a LOL, you mad? stare because that photocopy is not a legal document. In the real world, another Cebu Pacific attendant would be hogging all the legit departure cards at the immigration hall instead of leaving them on the counters where they should be for your convenience. In the real world, ATM machines of three to four different banks in Osaka would not dispense you any yen from your bank account containing YOUR OWN money because the card is invalid, when in fact you just used the same one yesterday to withdraw from one of the mentioned machines.

You must have exceeded the daily limit, the bank representative told me, two days after I arrived in Manila. I asked them how much the said daily limit is. 45,000 pesos, she said. I was withdrawing a thousand yen, which would convert to around 600 pesos if you bloat the exchange rate. I used the card for debit at Universal Studios two days prior to that: 6,200 yen. The day after, I withdrew 4,000 yen. Even if you add this all up and compound whatever interest or charge you might have incurred, those would not exceed 45 fvcking thousand pesos. I was waiting for her to come up with another excuse such as your account has reached zero balance but she did not fall for the trick. If she did I would have made ngudngod her face on the monitor so she could see the figures clearly.

She said that there was no history of the account being blocked. In fact, both cards were active. Ooohhh. What could have happened then? Do you have an idea how hard it is to run around Osaka with a seven-kilo backpack trying in vain to find a money changer because the ATM machines would not withdraw you any of your money and the train ticket machines would not accept any other currency other than yen and there are no money changers except in banks that have already closed an hour prior?

At that point I just did not know who to blame. Of course, I was the one to blame but when you are in a tight situation like rushing to cross the road despite the obvious flood in front of you and the next thing you know your car is floating, you would find someone else or something else to blame, like the tambays or the news reporter, for example, for the mere reason that you are pissed off. If you were pyrokinetic, the anger would have been enough of a trigger to cause a malevolent maelstrom of intense heat that would obliterate any form of life within a five hundred meter radius. You are furious because things did not go according to plan. He was interviewed on TV though, I was not. So consider this as my TV interview.

Of course there are remedies coming from the daig ng maagap ang masipag crowd. I could have withdrawn amounts in excess the day before instead of going back the next day to try to withdraw and get denied for whatever reason the universe might think of. I should be bringing extra dollars with me, so that people on the street might be willing to exchange it for their local currency instead of some random Southeast Asian currency that they barely know. The possibilities are endless but I took my chances, and this was what happened because I live in my own perfect little world, which does not go well with the real one where everyone else is.

My contacts on Facebook who used to work for the said bank were quick to react. They said that as a third world country, we have been under some tight watch from the said bank because of fraud. Always use your debit card in Pasay then suddenly withdraw some amount in Muntinlupa and they block your card the next day. In short that is how paranoid this bank is. But of course, that is for our safety as consumers, right? If that is the case, I would like an explanation as to how I was able to use the same debit cards without getting blocked SINCE JULY all around East Asia. Let us enumerate the destinations: Seoul, Yongin, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Shanghai, Ulaanbaatar, HONG KONG, Macau. And then all of a sudden, here I am in Osaka with everything going fine and on the day of my departure, on my very last day on my very last East Asian destination, my cards suddenly got blocked. What is this, an anti-Japan stance? FML.

I should have called them. Fvck that. If they have suspicions, they should have called ME, or sent me an e-mail on Yahoo, or a message on my online account on their website that I check every day. Dear customer, we have noticed consistent overseas transactions for account number XXXXXXXXXX and we would like to inform you that your account has been blocked for security reasons. Easy. But how would they do that? Call their phone hotline and you will just want to strangle yourself trying hard to find a way to talk to one of their fvcking phone operators amidst all the if you want to blah blah, press this, blah blah, press me, blah blah, for a while please hang yourself chaotic bvllshit.

So how did I get home? I went to the police. Where else should I go? There was a money changer in a hotel but they would only change your money if you check-in there. Okay, very Good Samaritan. I know you are just following orders but fvck you too. The waiter calling in customers on the street only wanted US dollars, and immediately pointed to an ATM machine when he saw my pesos. I ended up at the customer service counter of the Kintetsu, trying hard to string a Japanese sentence together to explain my dilemma. I got referred to the police station where I was assisted by the police office on the picture.

We were trying to call the Philippine Embassy but no answer, just a phone recording. All I wanted was for someone to trust me that a thousand yen is roughly equivalent to 600 pesos, which I already had on hand. I was not asking for alms. I had enough money but not in the right currency. In the end the police officer withdrew a thousand yen from his wallet and explained to me in Japanese what he was going to do. All I understood was ageru which is a Japanese verb meaning to give, or receive. I forgot. My Japanese learning experience has been halted for some quite time now. I was giving him the 600. He was refusing it. In the end, he won. He serves the Abeno district, by the way.

After buying the ticket he gave me five hundred in coins because he thought I was hungry. I told him all I wanted to do is get to the airport, in a mix of barok Japanese, English, and sign language. He gave it to me anyway and escorted me all the way to the platform. Police officer, you know what, if I join the Amazing Race I will really consider you as a partner. I had him write his name on my map but my pen was apparently a member of the destroy my day team, which resulted in a very blurry name in Kanji. Triple language barrier. I just made sure that we had a pic together, and that is all I have as a clue for the identity of this guy, this police officer who saved my day and my flight. My online stalking powers are only handy in English as of now. If anyone knows how I could figure out his identity and how to contact him, please tell me. I am so looking forward to the time when I get to repay this man who willingly gave a stranger the yen equivalent of six Matsuya Gyudon bowls which could have been his meal for two days.

Japanese Police Officer, I thank you. Really. I am truly appreciative of your help, and meeting you sort of made me regain my faith in mankind. To my bank, fvck you. I am so closing my account. Fvck you to infinity and beyond, like, so much.

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