We’re not really the adventure-travel type. That’s why, when planning our spring break trip to Puerto Vallarta, Russ and I snubbed the jungle canopy zip-line option, the deep-sea dolphin swim and even the VIP nightclub crawl (“Party like a professional!”). Instead, we went with the all-inclusive family resort with five fabulous restaurants. We’re boring that way.
But given how slowly we move these days, we weren’t altogether surprised when adventure nipped our heels in a most unexpected way … when a thief in the night stole my husband’s pants.
Let me explain. He wasn’t wearing them at the time. Instead, we were both sound asleep just a few feet away.
The day had begun with a 3 a.m. slip-and-slide to Hector Airport in snowy slush. All that stood between us and Paradise was 14 hours or so in purgatory, soaring 1,500 miles south in what could best be termed “livestock class.” Fueled by Delta’s 4-ounce plastic glass of pop and a packet containing exactly 11 smoked almonds, squeezed into accommodations that made a dental chair seem comfy, I dreamed of azure skies, a surf-kissed beach and buffets abounding in seafood and fresh fruit.
We’d won this glorious trip in Moorhead Rotary’s annual travel raffle. From the moment we stepped into the lobby of the splendid Riu Palace Pacifico, we knew it was a true prize: Stained-glass ceiling, 8-foot crystal chandelier, elegant Old World trappings, the kind of lush tropical courtyard that would make my poor Minnesota houseplants weep … and look! The buffet was dead ahead!
Soon we were strolling back to our room, sated on fresh shrimp and mango, more than ready for a good night’s sleep. I stepped out on the charming balcony for a last moonlit salute to Bahia de Banderas. Then we both sank into an exhausted coma.
Next morning, I returned to the balcony with my coffee, watching the M-shaped wings of frigatebirds float gracefully high above. With a shock, I realized that rhythmic roar wasn’t the north wind, but the pounding of the Pacific surf. It was a perfect moment.
A fellow guest startled me as he strolled along the walkway that encircled the hotel just beyond the edge of our balcony: “Hola, buenos dias.”
And no bugs! There wasn’t even a screen over the sliding door … which, come to think of it, had been slightly open when I got up ….
And then Russ awoke and said, “Where are my pants?”
“Where did you leave them?”
“Right there” — and he pointed to the chair in front of that door.
There are only so many places you can misplace a pair of pants. We searched all of them. Searched again. We even looked in the little safe inside the closet. Who’d put their pants in the safe? Not Russ for sure! We checked anyway.
Slowly, reality dawned. The trusting Minnesota genius who’d slipped outside for a bedtime glimpse of the sea hadn’t managed to properly lock the door. While we both snored, an unseen guest had tested the slider, found it unsecured and stretched inside just far enough to grab one of the only two swipe-worthy prizes within reach.
All I can say is, thank goodness he didn’t take my knitting!
But he did slip away with Russ’s nice tan slacks, belt and — worse — the wallet in its pocket.
A dilemma most dire! The worst part was reporting the theft to the hotel security chief … who asked, “Why didn’t you put them in the safe?” He listened, stony-faced, to my excuse (“that’s not where we keep them in Minnesota”), then asked for a description. A moment later, one of his minions brought out said pants, nicely folded. They’d retrieved them just after dawn while patrolling that pretty courtyard. I’ll bet they wondered what we’d been up to.
Naturally, the wallet was missing. The thief didn’t get too much — only small bills intended for tipping, a Minnesota drivers license for a 6-foot 3-inch redhead … and the same two credit cards I was carrying in my purse. I quickly learned our thief hadn’t missed a beat, testing them in the wee hours, but without success. Visa’s fraud-sniffing protocols had somehow spotted him instantly and slammed the door on both accounts …
… leaving us 1,500 miles from home with no operable plastic and only the few small bills in my own pocket.
Bank of America’s representative was highly efficient. In just a few minutes, she’d closed the account and forwarded replacement cards, which were in our mailbox back in Moorhead by the time we got home. In the meantime? Get a job, perhaps?
The second Visa card was issued by our credit union, Affinity Plus. The emergency rep was not only helpful but sympathetic. Would we like her to send emergency cards to our hotel? Yes, please! But our hopes were dashed when she called back a little later. The processing company would happily approve stop-gap assistance, she said … if I could authenticate myself by sharing our joint savings account number.
Suspiciously, I did not know it by heart.
By now, the sun had set on another day. As the moon rose over the bay, I texted our travel agent — “help!” — and resolved to place a direct call to our local Affinity folks — by now, closed for the day — the next morning.
And then the cavalry arrived. Tod Ganje and Jill Baldwin from Travel Inc. both responded before bedtime. Possibly texting in their pajamas, they debriefed us, consoled us and promised to help. Our biggest concern (since hotel, meals and travel were already covered) was how to check our suitcase for the flight home without that everpresent plastic. By the time we awoke after a sound sleep, Tod had prepaid the baggage charge and entered it on our flight documents. Perfect.
Meanwhile, as we were drinking our first cups of (delicious) coffee, Affinity’s Roz Johnson sprang into action. I asked her for that elusive savings account number; instead, she called the card processor herself. They could send the emergency cards, she and her counterpart agreed, but that wouldn’t help, since they’d never get across the border by the time we had to head home.
So our heroine came up with a better plan. Roz sent me down to the hotel’s ATM. I called her when I got there. She alerted her contact, who unfroze the purloined account just long enough for me to withdrew enough pesos to get us by. I called Roz back, and her minion once again closed it.
And all was well.
It was a wonderful trip! We can’t wait to go back. Meanwhile, let us meditate on the lessons our adventure has taught us.
First: If you travel with two credit cards, split them up. Next time, I’ll carry just one, and Russ the other. If history ever repeats itself, we’ll still possess one piece of functional plastic.
Two: Booking travel and banking online may work just fine in the best of times. But when the cards are down (so to speak), I’ll take the help of a smart, caring human professionals like Roz, Tod and Jill every single time.
And, finally … always pack a second pair of pants.