Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Emigrant's Dilemma, Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans

So if I were doing a blog post today, it was supposed to have been out of Aix-en-Provence, a place I've wanted to visit for a while, and a stopover between Berlin and Fes, Morocco, where I was supposed to have been attending the Festival of World Sacred Music.


This weekend, a thought struck me: I'm owed €1200 by a magazine. I work for them regularly, they always pay quickly, and there was no reason to believe this money wouldn't be along shortly. It wasn't there Friday, it wasn't there Saturday. This raised the tension a bit, since I had to pay rent and bills before I left. There'd be a nice chunk of change left over, which would pay for hotels in France, daily expenses in Morocco, and whatnot, and there'd be plenty still in my pocket when the train from Marseille dropped me at Montpellier St. Roch station at noon on June 16.

The money wasn't there on Monday. It wasn't there on Tuesday.

Just because you know things have to get even more tense before they can deflate, Wednesday dawned with my waiting for a Federal Express guy to pick up the recordings I'd made for Fresh Air on Tuesday over at ARD. Since I wanted to get an early start on the day, when I'd filled out the pickup form on line, I'd put 10:30 as the earliest time for pickup and noon as the latest. After that I'd be free to hit the bank and, assuming the money was there, do my pre-trip shopping (surge protector, etc.), pack, and so on.

At noon the phone rang. It was FedEx. They were at my old house and couldn't find me. Well, of course not! I told the guy where I was and he told me that this wasn't his problem, that one of his colleagues would have to pick it up and I should go back to the website and fill out a whole other pickup form. So I did. And put a new permanent address for me there, as well. I specified that they should pick it up immediately, or as late as 3. Not a lot of time, and I couldn't leave the house to check the bank, but I'd survive.

At 3:45 the guy finally showed. I handed him the package and followed him out the door to head to the bank as fast as I could go.

The money wasn't there.

So I trudged back home, cancelled my plane ticket to Marseille (€250, no refund), both hotel reservations for before and after the Moroccan trip, and threw away my Marseille-Montpellier train ticket (€17). I also wrote the publicist who'd set things up, and to put it mildly, she was not pleased. I was informed, rather icily, that I would never be approved for this jaunt again, because of the last-minute cancellation. I tended to look at it as trying until the last minute to make it, but okay.

There's an up side to this, of course. Nobody has agreed to take this apartment after I leave, so I have more time to show it. I can concentrate on the still-unknown moving cost and maybe make a commitment to a mover. (I just got off the phone with a guy who'd given the place a cursory look the other day, clearly not interested, and who called me back with a quote of €3800. Somehow I think I can do better than that...) And my risk of gastrointestinal disaster has just dipped significantly.

Now, when the money comes, I'll just head to Kopfbahnhof, that nest of crazed rail-nerds, and buy a Berlin-Montpellier ticket.

And meanwhile, I scan the rental ads online and realize that there are quite a few places that look just right. Now to snag one.


gary etie said...


There are definitely times where knowing when not to do something, or cooling it, until things are copasetic, is the better route. I don't know about you, but Austin has certainly tested, and proved, that adage over the years.


Anonymous said...

I've suffered the same kind of banking humiliations from publishers that typically pay quickly that you describe, Ed. It always seems that only when I really need the money is the check late -- some kind of twisted fate for finances, I guess. There's always a legit excuse (the editor says something like "I was out of town and couldn't turn in your invoice until this week"), but why is it that payments to freelancers are never considered by editors and publishers to be paychecks? More than once I've told an editor who was late with a payment, "If your paycheck was even a day late you'd scream," but they never seem to consider that we use our freelance payments for the same things -- rent, food, bills -- they use paychecks for.

In any event, you've got my sympathy.