Part 10: The Great ATM Debacle

As the day continued, the rain came down harder.  To those of you in Nashville, it was comparable (if not worse) than the rains that brought on the Nashville flood.  We started hearing stories of mudslides in neighboring towns.  Panabaj, the town where the old Hospitalito Atitlan existed, was evacuated due to the beginnings of mudslides down their old paths. Power went on and off.  Judy, our wonderful friend and hotel manager, told us that if we lost power, it could easily be out for several days.  We began preparing for the worst.

{Our hotel in Antigua, before the big rain}

Quickly, we sent emails to our parents that pretty much just said, “Storming bad and we might lose power for days.  If you don’t hear from me, don’t worry,” as if they weren’t already worried.

One disadvantage to “living” in Antigua was that our nourishment was dependent on the local restaurants.  We didn’t have a kitchen or anyway to prepare our own meals.  So the idea that the power would be out for days meant no food, no communication, no cash…nothing.

A few of us decided to run the two blocks, through the rain, to the nearest grocery store to stock up on the essentials: bread, peanut butter, and …wine (essential for group morale, obviously).  While there, I said to David several times, “I’d like to get some cash out, but with the power going on and off, I’m a little nervous to use the ATM.”  Standing in line, our check out machine stopped working.  David assured me he had bad luck, and indeed, the moment he walked away, the machine was up and running.  I successfully checked out.

Then, I decided to go for it.  After all, other people were successfully withdrawing cash.  Why shouldn’t I?

No sooner than I put my card in the machine, the unthinkable happened.  Imagine yourself in the ultimate drama…Jurassic Park comes to mind for some reason.  The tension has built, the suspense is ready to break, and in one instant you hear, see, and feel the most epic power shut down you can imagine.  It was slow motion.  And then, for about 5 seconds, the power was out.  Quickly, generator lights came on.  I made eye contact with David, who was still checking out.  The look on my face…probably something like this, but with a little more shock and horror:

In this moment several things happened:

  1. My heart stopped.
  2. The guy checking David out ran away with his credit card (like, to the customer service counter, but still).
  3. A really frightening and mean security guard began shutting the huge doors to the store, to prevent looting.
  4. David yelled at Whitney and John to go over to me (I think he knew I was panicking…see above photo).

We stood for several minutes deciding what to do.  That ATM was most definitely no longer functioning.  John and Whit went back to inform the group of the situation.  David and I reasoned: If the power came back on, the machine would likely spit the card out, right?  What if we left, and it came back on, and some crazy Guatemalans went bananas with my card in the store? I’m screwed, that’s what.

Solution: David would wait patiently as I ran back to the hotel.  That way, if the power came on, he could retrieve my card and/or I could get online and cancel my card.  No base left uncovered.

I walked into the lobby full of my friends, out of the pouring rain.  “Did you get your card out?” someone asked.  “No…”

Cue: Waterworks.

I lost it.  I mean, the stress of the storm and the delay and my card just suddenly overwhelmed me.  I am awesome and strong that way.

Long story short(ish): Sobbing, I called my dad and stepmom, who signed in and canceled my card for me (for the record, I knew they would freak out slightly less than my mom upon receiving a crying phone call from their daughter who happened to be stranded in a foreign country).

The card was gone.  Holly and Claire, who went to keep David company, met a great travel agent who said the ATM would in fact remain shut down (apparently, it’s a safety mechanism) until the bank came to fix it.

The power came back on, the rain continued, and I had no way to get cash the rest of the trip.  We called the airport, only to find out the airport would not, in fact, be opening on Monday.  Now, it would be open Wednesday.  Flights were changed.  Wet, cold, and defeated, we headed to dinner.

And that is The Great ATM Debacle.

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