It was a potentially life-threatening moment. I was 3,000 miles away from home with no money or ID. The temperature was about 90 degrees and I had been riding my motorcycle for hours. Exhausted, I pulled into a gas station to fill my tank. I looked down at where I keep my handbag and my heartbeat started racing. It was gone!!
About 100 miles back, near the Kentucky border, it had started raining hard. I pulled over underneath an overpass to put on the rain gear that my friend had let me borrow from her just for the trip. I ride with my bag slung over me, so I won’t lose it. I had to take it off and set it down to put on the rain gear. You can guess what happened next. A momentary distraction cost me dearly. I rode away and left it there under the overpass!
So, there I was at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with no money to fill my tank, no ID, and no credit cards. I felt weak. I was sweating profusely and trembling. I sat down and tears filled my eyes. What was I going to do? I pulled out my cell phone. I could barely see the screen without my glasses and they were in my purse! The battery was down to 20% and my charger was also in my handbag! I was disgusted at myself for making such a stupid mistake!
Two guys came over and asked me if I was okay. It must have been obvious that I was not. “You okay madam?” They had heavy eastern accents. I wondered if they were from India. “Where did you get that knife?” The taller one was pointing at the knife that hung from the side of my chaps. I had bought it in Nepal on my travels. The sheath is ornately covered with semi-precious gems, like turquoise and lapis, or at least it was. Throughout my long trip stones had been falling off and the beautiful design was down to just a few lone remaining stones. Still, it is very distinctive kukri knife, specific to that region of the world.
“I bought it in Katmandu,” I replied. I unbuckled it from my chaps and handed it to him. “I’ll sell it to you for twenty dollars.” It would be a sad loss, but I was desperate.
“We are from Nepal!” What part did you go?” he asked, struggling to find the right words in English. I really wasn’t in the mood for small talk. I needed to get enough gas to get back to that overpass, assuming I could even figure out which one it was, and look for my handbag. “I have many knives like this,” he said, handing it back to me. “Why you sell it?”
I told them what I had done and my situation. They generously offered to fill my tanks and charge my phone. I sat back down and drank a glass of water from the bathroom tap while waiting for my phone to charge. Meanwhile, I tried to come up with a plan, but I was so shaken and tired it was hard to think clearly. I called my sister-in-law that lived in Knoxville, about two hours away. I knew she could give me some advice. She offered to wire me money through Money-Gram at Walmart. Suddenly I had a plan of action. It was getting late and I had to get moving. As I bid farewell and said thank you to the two guys from Nepal, the shorter one handed me a twenty-dollar bill. I hugged him while I fought back tears of gratitude. I gave them my contact information and asked them to contact me so I could pay them back. I shifted into first gear, waved goodbye, and headed back towards the mysterious underpass.
I spent the next two hours backtracking and looking underneath every overpass on the northbound side of the highway for 80 miles. It was hopeless. I had to face it. It was gone. I texted my sister-in-law to tell her to go ahead and wire the money and then headed for Walmart. My phone was back down to 20% battery life. I knew I would need it charged but I couldn’t really make any calls without reading glasses, so I spent the only $20 I had on cheap reading glasses and a charging cable. I tried not to stare at the other people in Walmart, but I have to tell you that Walmart in Kentucky, well, it’s redneck central! In normal circumstances, it would have been comical, but these were not normal circumstances. So, I headed for the customer service counter to get my money.
That is when I was told, quite curtly, that without ID they couldn’t give me the money. Fortunately, I have pictures of both my driver’s licenses and passport on my phone. I showed the lady the pictures but she just shook her head and said they had to have the physical ID. I was screwed! I sat down by an outlet next to the service desk and charged my phone and started to cry. I felt so vulnerable and desperate. Realizing that someone out there probably had found my handbag on the roadside, I started looking up numbers and making calls to my banks to put a stop on all my cards. I sat there, hungry, thirsty, and feeling destitute for over an hour. I had no idea where I would sleep, or even how I would fill my tank. I was stranded.
I briefly went back outside and pulled my trail mix from my saddle bags. It would have to be dinner. That was when I met a nice couple parked next to me on their Harley Davidson. Dave and Sue were from Michigan and were taking a break to smoke a cigarette. They were very sympathetic to my situation and insisted they give me $20 to get some dinner and fill may tank. Again, the generosity of mankind filled me with gratitude. I headed back inside Walmart to get out of the heat and sat down in the same spot to make more phone calls. Thank god my phone wasn’t in my purse! My sister-in-law called and asked me if I had gotten the money. Frustrated and heartbroken, I told her the situation with my ID. That is when the manager came over, interrupted my call and said she would make an exception and give me the money anyway with only an electronic copy of my ID. I was so relieved!! Finally, she handed me $100! I suddenly felt wealthy!
Money at last!
I spent that money on filling my tank and getting a room for the night. I really wanted a campground, because I didn’t know when I would have money again, but there wasn’t a campground anywhere close by. Plus, I needed Wifi because I had a homework assignment due the next morning. I checked into a Super 8 and wearily handed them $71. It was a hard to watch her put that money away under the counter. I finally fell asleep around 11:00, completely exhausted, both emotionally and physically.
Since then I have gone rounds with my banks. Capital One agreed to FedEx overnight to me a new credit card. The rest refuse to send a card to an address that isn’t on file. I have thousands of dollars in the bank, but can’t access a penny of it. OnPoint Credit Union pissed me off so bad that after being on the phone with them for over two hours, I angrily told the lady that I would just have to give blow-jobs to truckers until I had enough money to get home! I think I had better make some time to do yoga, meditate, and give thanks for having food, shelter, and friends and family to help me. Millions of people in the world don’t even have that.