Frantic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’ve heard that bad luck comes in threes.  I don’t know that’s true but it does seem to come in series. I started the week by missing my international flight to Bali. I couldn’t board the plane because my passport was 2,000 miles away living it up in our former rental. Once out of Australia and safely in Bali I promptly lost my ATM card. Then leaving Indonesia we found out Val’s ATM card was broken. This left us at the Kuala Lumpur airport with no money and none on the way.

Mercifully we still had 8 hours before our flight to the Philippines, the last place we want to sort out a crisis or try living on the street. We went into hyper-drive exploring all options. Our ATM cards from Australia did work, but we had no money in them. Val got a hold of a friend who promised to loan us some cash and deposit it into her account.  The fees would be aggregious, like all things Australian, but it would hold us over. 2 hours before our flight our friend called us back “they don’t allow deposits in your account.” This seemed utterly ridiculous but after banging our heads into the starbucks coffee table a couple times we came to terms with it. Days later we would find out that Val, under duress, had given him the wrong account number. It was time for plan D.

“Hi Scotty. How are you?”

“I’ve been better mom, but mostly fine. The time has finally come.”

“The time for what?” my mother asked, slightly confused by the somber tone, but probably still thinking we were either finally coming home or had gotten engaged.

“We need you to send us some money with Western Union.”

We’d seen the poor dejected souls before, stomachs rumbling as they pass a crumpled piece of paper through the bullet proof glass of money changers window with a little Western Union logo in the corner. Within seconds they would transform into a wild gyrating ball of excitement as if they’d just won the lottery. Western Union had always been an option. It’s probably the most efficient money transfer system in the world, and certainly the fastest. This service doesn’t come cheap however and it’s best used as a last resort. We were now officially last resort people.

Mothers are a wonderful thing, and mine promptly drove to the nearest Western Union and forked over a wad of cash (THANKS MOM!). Our money crisis was averted, if only temporarily. It was now time for our flight. Surely we’d be rewarded with a new adventure right? Wrong.

We went to check-in and handed over our passports. “Outgoing ticket sir?“ The attendant casually asks.

I’m stunned but I play it cool, “Oh I’ve been trying to pull it up but our e-mail isn’t working.”

“That’s okay what’s the booking number?”

I’m pretty sure I can cleverly side step that, “It’s not with Air Asia actually.”

“Well sir without an onward ticket I’m afraid I can’t let you board the plane.” No I’m trumped. I can tell by the look in this 90 pound Malaysian woman’s face she has absolutely no interest in giving us any slack.

I’ve used my graphic design savvy to fake us tickets many times before,  but never this quickly. We race to the nearest place to sit down and my fingers begin flying. It took a long time to get our money situation handled and check-in will end soon. Within minutes I mock up a ticket and we run back towards the counter erratically waiving Val’s iPad through the air.

“I’m sorry sir we’ve already begun boarding and I can’t let you through. Would you like to purchase a ticket for tomorrow?” I’d like to find the nearest grenade and test out my throwing arm, but again I try to keep cool.”

“Surely we can try to make it?”

“Oh no I’m sorry sir it’s our policy.” The plane leaves. We are not on board.

Back into crisis mode we went, trying to find a semi-reasonable ticket leaving as soon as possible. We found one and settled in for a romantic evening on the concrete floor of airport. At about 2:00am I awoke to the man next to me coughing loudly. As I gathered my senses I realized that it wasn’t just him there were a few hundred people coughing and gasping. Imagining Dustin Hoffman and the movie Outbreak I shook Val, “we have to go right now.” We found a new place in a forlorn outbuilding next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and prayed that this would be a mild strain of Ebola.

The next day we boarded our flight without a hitch. In Manila we waited as the immigration official stamped our passports. He was taking a while so we asked “would you like to see our outgoing ticket?” He looked up confused. “Our ticket out of the Philippines, do you want to see it?” we repeated.

“Oh I wasn’t sure what you meant,” he said laughing, “Why would I want to see that?” he handed us our passports and waived us on.

So does bad luck come in threes? No, but user-error might. After three years of travel maybe we got a bit lax, but the Philippines is a new adventure and after this debacle we are definitely paying attention.

7-day summary:

-1 lost passport (recovered

-1 lost phone (recovered)

-1 lost ATM card (gone forever)

-2 missed international flights (possibly crashed into the Pacific)

-1 retardation diagnosis (pending)

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography from Seattle, Washingon. He has spent over five years on the road traveling to over 60 countries. When Scott is not writing you can find him trekking, climbing, and scuba diving in far flung corners of the world.