About 2 weeks ago, just before I left for Amsterdam (still need to blog about that, forgive me), I got an email from a woman who saw my Craigslist ad in search of housing. K is an American filmmaker who lives in New York and keeps and apartment here in Rome. She emailed me and said her place would be available from mid-Nov to late-Dec and from the pictures and description it looked great. Unfortunately it was also out of my price range and I told her so—she said she would email me in a few days and if no one else was interested in the apt I could have it for my price (I gave her a figure at the upper end of my budget). A couple of days later I got the “OK” from K and we scheduled a time for me to view the place. She was in Germany but her French boyfriend B could show me the apt the day after I got back from Amsterdam. I went to see it on Thursday evening and it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s a cozy 2-bedroom apt in a lovely old building near Forum Romano, beautiful indoor courtyard, amazing views of the ruins and a big slice of Rome, all white furniture, working fireplace, new electronics—it looked like a hotel. And the best part is that it would be all mine. I quickly agreed to take the apt and scheduled to come by at 8:45am the next morning to hand over the money and get the keys from B.
That night I was literally on cloud nine. I could finally leave the hellhole of an apt I was staying in and really enjoy my last few weeks in Rome (more on that later). I stopped by the ATM but it wouldn’t allow me to withdraw the full amount so I decided to do half that day and get the other half the next morning. But the machine spit my card back out, giving me the message “Invalid Card”. I didn’t think too much of it, just went home and called my bank. They said they would increase my credit limit so I could withdraw the full amount and my card would be functional again within the hour.
At this time L (the girlfriend of the guy I’m renting my room from) comes by to pick up the money for that month's rent. She didn’t get my text so I had to explain to her that something came up and I would be moving out in the morning. After a little protesting she left but 30 mins later I get an angry call from T (the guy who’s room I’m renting) from Ghana. He was going on and on about how I have to give him the money for the month anyway since I gave him no advance notice that I was leaving. I was going to tell him exactly where he could shove his stinkin’ apartment but once again my mom had (wisely) told me to be polite and calm and just say I was sorry for leaving suddenly but something came up. We ended the call with my telling him I would do my best to try to find someone to take over my room and we would discuss details later.
2 hours have now gone by so I went back to the ATM. Again, “Invalid Card”. I tried several times then decided to walk down the street to another ATM. Still no go. By this time its midnight and I’m starting to freak out. I tried to call the bank again but there was a long wait for a live person so I said to myself, 'Ok I will go to bed and wake up at 6am to try again'. Then I'll have 2 hours to straighten this out with the bank if my card still doesn’t work.
Meanwhile I did feel really bad about skipping out on T. He’s a really nice guy, its not his fault that his roommate is sh*t and he lives in a crappy neighborhood. So I prayed on the situation—I asked God if I had done the right thing and to show me some sign if I had made a mistake. The next morning I go to the ATM to try again: “Invalid Card”. I’m on the phone with the bank for the next 2 hours—alternately running to the ATM and back to my apt to frantically call and tell them its still not working. On their end they said there was nothing preventing my card from working—no block, no hold, my available daily limit had in fact been increased. And the weird thing is they didn’t even see any activity showing that I was attempting to make a withdrawal.
By this time its 8am and I have to head over to the Forum apt to meet B. I tried 3 more ATMs along the way, each one said “Your card is not valid for international transactions”. I was nearly in tears. When I arrived B was in a big hurry—he had to leave at 9am to catch his flight. He looked at me and said, “Where are your bags?” and that’s when I told him what happened. I told him I had my checkbook for my American bank account and I could write him a check for the amount in US dollars but other than that, my hands were tied. He told me that since it wasn’t his apt he’s not sure what K would want him to do. Understood. He said she was flying back to NYC from Germany that day but I could try to reach her. He would leave the keys with the grocer downstairs and maybe in the next day or two it would all be sorted out and I could move in then.
I called K and couldn’t get through to her. So I sent her an email asking her to let me know what we could do ASAP. Meanwhile, L had been calling me nonstop all morning, 15 times in a row! I ignored it. She was in the neighborhood and wanted to come pick up the keys from me. By noon I still hadn’t heard from K and the idea of being homeless on the streets of Rome just didn’t sit well with me. Plus I couldn’t dodge L’s calls and texts any longer so I took a deep breath, called her and gave an Oscar-worthy speech: I told her that I had slept on it and realized that I made a mistake in not giving them adequate notice that I was leaving. That they were really nice people and I didn’t want to leave them in the lurch so I would do the noble thing and pay for one more month. I wasn’t sure if I wouldn’t be able to stay for the entire month but I would let them know if I had to leave before Dec 15th. In any case, this would work out nicely for them as they would not have to scramble to find a replacement. It would put both our minds at ease. (Thank God I my mom made me be nice about it in the beginning or they could have thrown me out on my ear!)
And with that, the Forum apartment was gone. I was irrevocably tied to the SanLo apt until Dec 15th.
By 2pm K finally sent me an email saying she was at the airport but I could send her the money via Western Union and when it posted (next Wed) I could go pick up the keys and move in. Of course, Western Union costs 50 Euros and since I was already exceeding my budget for this apt, I just couldn’t afford the extra expense. Plus by that time it was too late. And there’s no way I could have stayed in the SanLo apt for another week while I waited for the money to clear. So I would have had to move into a hotel and that’s just way too much drama and expense. I tearfully wrote her back saying that I wouldn't be able to take the apt after all.
And wouldn’t you know it, by 4pm that very afternoon my ATM card suddenly decided to work. Now ain’t that a bit*h...
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Yesterday was a strange series of events that made it IMPOSSIBLE for me to get that apt:
1. My card stopped working the day I needed to withdraw money; in the 2 years that I’ve been in Europe (and the 3 years I’ve been with this bank) that has never happened.
2. B had to leave Rome at 9am, if his flight were in the evening instead, my card would have been working again and I could have given him the money.
3. K is traveling and doesn’t have access to phone or internet so I can’t contact her to find out how she would like to handle things. Maybe that US check would have been ok.
4. My cousin arrived from NYC with enough cash to lend me for the rent. But her train got into Rome at 10am, just one hour after B left.
5. By 4pm my card is working again, 7 hours too late.
I don’t believe in a vindictive God so I know it wasn’t that He was punishing me for handling things badly with T and my sudden move-out. God makes no mistakes so I know there must be a reason why I was meant to stay here in SanLo (to work on my patience perhaps?) or why I shouldn’t have been at that Forum apt. I have no idea what it is. And even knowing that everything worked out exactly as it should it doesn’t stop it from hurting (it was soo painfully close!). I just have to swallow the feelings of disappointment and keep it moving… I will stay positive and continue to enjoy my time in Rome regardless. As a wise man once said, “You can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it.”