I don’t love public transportation. This is not some elitist bent of mine; I just think it’s more straightforward to drive somewhere. However, occasionally even I agree that a train zipping you around a crowded city is preferable to parallel parking and one-way streets inevitably shut down by construction.
On Caroline’s 11th birthday, the kids and I planned a day with friends that included multiple stops all over the city. My husband insisted that the metro was the most logical way to get around, and I agreed. Until he said,
“But then you need smart cards because there’s a surcharge for paper tickets. So here are two, but one is bent. So exchange the bent one and ask them to transfer the balance, then go to the yellow kiosk and find the balance on the second one, then look at the chart and calculate the total amount of money you need given each leg of the trip and whether it’s peak or non-peak pricing, then go to the blue kiosk and add however much you need to each of these so you have enough. Then go to the regular kiosk and buy two more with the right amount of money but just don’t forget to wave the cards in front of the sensors or none of the money will load. Got it?”
Whit gets the metro system. I do not. But I was not going to let him think he, the southern transplant, had a superior understanding of the city in which I had been born and raised. So, as he looked at me expectantly, I just said, “Got it” and walked out the door.
I didn’t have it. Not even a little.
So there I was, stuck in the windy train station, staring at a bent card and a card of unknown value, trying desperately to remember everything he said. I asked my friend and I asked the kids and I asked the homeless man camped out in the tunnel and finally I asked a metro employee and I pushed a lot of buttons on various machines and we got around the city just fine.
My husband was very impressed that he hadn’t gotten a frustrated and confused call from me. I flipped my hair and said, “Well, it’s not like I’m stupid.”
Fast forward a few days, when I’m looking at all the receipts I had stuffed into my wallet that day.
“Um, we have a problem.”
Whit raised his eyebrow.
Me: So apparently I bought many, many $15 one-day passes when I was getting all those cards. Can you please call and get them refunded?
Whit: You. Did. What?
Me, defensive: Apparently I made a mistake. Can you please get them refunded?
Whit, taking a deep breath: No, I cannot get them refunded. Those passes expire the day you buy them. You can’t prove you didn’t use them. How much money did you spend?
Me: A lot.
Whit (not yelling but not happy): What were you thinking? I made it all perfectly clear. I walked you through every step!
Me: You walked me through it in a “I’m a man and I’m smarter than you” way and it was offensive.
Whit, kind of yelling: Well, couldn’t you have told me it was offensive before you screwed it up??
Me, yelling right back: I did not screw it up, I made a mistake! I’ll fix it! Give me the cards! Because at least I’ll try to fix it, unlike you...you're willing to throw hundreds of dollars away without even making a phone call!
Whit: Hundreds of dollars? WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO???
He threw the cards down and stormed off. Fighting furious yet girly tears, I got online and looked up all the customer service numbers I could find. I spent about 30 minutes being transferred around, and finally spoke to someone who could help me. I had her on speaker phone in the kitchen as I laid out all the receipts, squinted at the serial numbers on the cards, typed away on a calculator and figured out how many cards I had, how much money I had spent on them and how they matched the receipts.
Finally, the lady said, “Well, Mrs. Kennon, you’re in luck. The four cards you have were purchased with exactly the right amount of money on them. It looks like all those other receipts were from a school group that used the machines before you. None of those charges were yours; you just grabbed the receipts they left behind.”
I thanked her.
I put my head down on the table.
I felt completely vindicated.
I thought my husband would feel like a jerk.
From behind me, I heard the incredulous question: “You don’t look at your receipts when you get them??”
Mars and Venus, baby. Mars and Venus.