Saturday, February 24, 2007

Martin Luck.

The parentals were here this past week, and my younger sister flew in for the first few days of their trip. Thinking a quick run to Vegas would be a good idea (nothing says family time quite like gambling and overpriced drinks) Vanessa and I rented a car at the airport before picking Deb and Steve up at baggage claim.

The woman at the Rental company set us up with wheels and casually slipped into conversation, "And just so you know, the car is not allowed to leave the state of California, and there is a fine if that happens..." to which Ness and I gave each other a fast glance. So she went on to mention this California clause three more times and had me initial the part of the contract that said it again while asking, "Where will you be traveling?" To which I said, "Um, Southern California." Basically taking a bat and beating Jiminy off my shoulder.

So we got Deb and Steve, repeated "Vegas Baby" a few hundred times, and drove through the night to arrive at the strip.
It wasn't the best idea we've ever had.
My father doesn't believe in easy money and prefers to stand to the side of whoever is gambling and ask them, "Do you really want to do that?" My mother has a strange fascination with slot machines but won't bet more than $2 at a time. So when that runs out--usually after 2 pushes of a button--she sits and stares at the machine. I won $350 on a $10 roulette bet and refused to gamble for the rest of the trip, and Nessa made up for all our high-roller shortcomings by losing everything she had on her. It was nice. Vegas really is evil though. It takes hope and greed and pumps them full of oxygen bringing out a sick combination in people. But it also has great food, so, it's a toss.

My dad was fed up with the whole thing. When my mom used the ATM it said there was a $4 fee and he hovered over the machine asking, "I just spent $4 on that?!" To which I explained, "Dad, relax. She's not playing the ATM."

We decided to stop gambling and went to a piano bar, which was insanely fun, but quickly ruined. My father loves to sing and dance. On the car ride down to Vegas he goes, "Turn this louder! This is my song!" "Breathe, by Anna Nalick? That's your song?" In retrospect, we shouldn't have taken him to the piano bar. He sang along so loudly that at one point my mom had her entire face covered with her hands. On the chorus of "Highway to Hell" he was at least three beats behind the crowd and shouting, "Heeeeeellllll" long after people had finished, causing most of the bar to turn in our direction. The height of our collective embarrassment was reached during Bryan Adam's "Summer of '69".
You don't know social awkwardness until your father is sitting in a large group of people shouting 69.

When I went to use my credit card that night it was declined. Hmm, weird. I pride myself on good credit so I called to see what the problem was. After talking to a woman on the phone she explained that there had been a mysterious $1600 charge to my card and that they had frozen the account to investigate. I grew nervous replaying the initial marks I had made on the rental contract agreeing to a fine if we left CA.
Bank Lady: Well, this charge is for an airline service. Have you flown anywhere or purchased a ticket to fly?
Me: Well, I rented a car at the airport, could that be it?
Bank Lady: Well, this is saying airline, but it's possible. I need to put you on hold.
Me: (Heart sinking) Oh. OK.

While on hold with her I explained to my parents the entire situation. That my card number had been stolen and someone bought a plane ticket with it...OR...the 3-day car rental was going to cost $1600.

Bank Lady: OK, Ms. Martin, it appears you've been a victim of identity theft so we're going to cancel this account blah blah.

When I got off the phone with her, there was a collective sigh of relief.  It's OK!! It's just identity theft!!!!

When we returned the car there was no additional charge. It was the biggest win of the trip.

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