Thursday, November 27, 2008


Got a bit of catching up to do as I've been busy. But I'll start with what happened yesterday.

It started simply enough. I went off yesterday morning to drive down to Carcassonne to pick up my brother & sister-in-law from the airport. Its a 2 hour drive, but they can fly into Carcassonne very cheaply on Ryanair. So there I was trundling down the Autoroute trying to understand some kind of intellectual debate on the 'Culture" station & only half succeeding. (Very intellectual that station with high flauting French & tenses I hardly know exist). All was well.

Then I arrived at the payage entering Toulouse. I always go through the lane where you pay with your French debit card; its quicker than going through one of the cash lanes & I don't use the Autoroute enough to justify one of the autopay systems. I'm constantly amazed that the French banking system can handle these tiny transactions; the toll is like $3.00, but it does and doesn't cost me anything. Anyway, this time the machine didn't like my card. I tried again, still didn't like it. A message came up saying "Your card is unreadable, try again of use a different card" So I blew on the card, rubbed to on my sleeve and tried again. It worked this time so off I went not thinking much about it.

I drove around Toulouse and picked up a new ticket as I left. Had a nice unevertful drive down the Autoroute to the CArcassonne exit. I was right on time to hit the airport just as the flight arrived. Put my card into the reader & it didn't work, tried again, still no luck, tried the blowing & wiping trice, that didn't help either. Tried more times, nope. The same 'illisable' message kept coming up. In desperation I pushed the red help button. (By now a couple of cars were behind me so I couldn't even back out. Needless to say they were getting impatient. I put my emergency blinkers on to indicate trouble.) The red button phone was answered. I told him the the mechine wouldn't read my card. I thought that somebody would come to help out, but no such luck. I started trying all the cards in my wallet. USA cash card. Nope! British cash card. No such luck! I even tried my carte Vital (French helth card) No Joy!
Finally I remembered my American Master card that I rarely use. Success!!! It worked!! I was through.

Got to the airport in time & picked up my relatives & headed home. Called Linda to say they had been on time & that we were on our way. She asked me to stop & pick up a couple of things from the store. OK. No problems at the payage with my mastercard. By now I've had a chance to look at my French debit card & to see that there's a large scratch on the magnetic stripe; no doubt this is why it won't read.

By the time we got to Montauban I was very low on gas. This was expected as I'd planned to stop for gas on the way home. Problem is that I like to buy my gas at the big Hyper markets since they're at least 10 cents a liter cheaper than anywhere else. BUT, they only take cash &, you guessed it, debit cards. Not to worry, we'll stop at the big Leclerc, do our bit of shopping and get cash from the machine there. I did have a 20 Euro note & some change; enough for the bit of shopping, but not enough for much gas.

As we drove into the Leclerc parking lot the range indicator on my car was reading 7 miles left. We're just about running on fumes, but we're OK. We go into the store and head straight for the cash machine. There it is - spead out all over the floor with a technician working on its innards. We'll get no cash here for a while. I think about for a bit & remember that there's a branch of my bank about a mile down the road. So we do our shopping & head there. Luckily I spot a cash machine that's even closer. It likes my American cash card & condesends to give me real cash money. Back to Leclerc & their cheap gas (1.05 Euro per liter. Only about $4.50 a gallon. & you think you're badly off. )

Fill the car & head home. No more drama's occur thank goodness.

My first action upon arriving home was to call my French bank and ask them to send me a new card. Think I'll deal in cash a bit more from now on. This cashless society works great -- most of the time!

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