Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Money and Problems

During the last few years of my working life I had more moola than I knew what to do with.  I remember feeling that I could potentially travel with just a few pounds in my pocket, my credit card, my cash card and my passport.  Between those resources there wasn’t anything I couldn’t manage. It was a great feeling.  Of course I never tried it and I’ve always been fairly chicken in my travel choices, so the challenges have  never been that great. Also, money only takes care of certain problems; but it can solve them.

This really came home to me on a short journey – a long weekend trip – that Bill, Bob and I made to do a race a few years back (OK, nearly a decade now). We took the overnight ferry from North Shields to Amsterdam, then the bus into town from the port. We walked along to the B and B where we thought we had reservations but the man opened his book and discovered he had double booked and our room was already occupied. He gave us €50 for our trouble and sent us across town on the Metro to a place run by his friend. It was a large apartment over an Indian restaurant where the other two bedrooms were available to let and they all shared a single bathroom. I wasn’t happy that we couldn’t lock our room, not that it looked very inviting to begin with. One sight of the bathroom, however, and my mind was made up. The guys were relieved when I vetoed the place; they didn’t care for it either.

So, this led to our our first experience of finding lodgings at the tourist information office. It was a busy place and we stood in the queue for seemingly ages. Bob was anxious and found another queue that we perhaps should be in so we moved over there, but it turned out that wasn’t right and we re-joined the end of the first long line. Bill and Bob were both increasingly nervous about our situation. None of us had got a good night’s sleep on the ferry, being surrounded by youths who stayed up all night partying. We still needed to get to the sports centre and register for the race, which was the next day. A good night’s sleep was going to be needed for a decent race. The guys looked at their watches and at the long queues and worried that we weren’t going to get somewhere to stay.

I was pretty calm, funny enough, as I figured Amsterdam and the surrounding area was pretty big and there was bound to be a place available somewhere, at some price. We might end up staying further out than we liked or paying more than we had planned, but I was feeling confident. I told them, “This is a problem that money can solve.”

It has been a comforting phrase to me ever since. Not that I tend to "throw money at" every problem.  This is a phrase I heard a British doctor use to criticize an American institution – “They just throw money at it”; given the source and the context, I chalked it up to envy.  In many situations a little creativity or some preventive measure can take care of matters without much cash. Heaven knows there are too many problems that money cannot touch: lost heirlooms, ruined health, infirmity of old age, bad relationships, addictions, lack of intelligence, personal unhappiness, to name a few.  So, when faced with a problem money can solve, I find it quite a relief.

We did find a place to stay, a Novotel one Metro stop from the sports hall where the race would start. It cost more and wasn’t in the interesting area of the city, but it was clean and convenient and we discovered it had a restaurant that produced extraordinary food. We took the lazy option and ate in the restaurant both nights. We spent more money than we’d planned, but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

For all that it was a nice, clean bed I still didn’t sleep well that night. Waiting in the sports hall for time to go to the start I could be found trying to catch a few winks lying on the hard wooden bleacher, a ridiculous condition to be in before a half-marathon (13.1 miles). Still, I got through the race and even managed to enjoy parts of it, though I didn’t do as good a time as I would have liked. Never mind. Being a slow runner, that’s another problem money can’t solve, eh?


Anonymous said...

Not having a room at where you made a reservation is one of the most annoying things that can happen during a trip. Another that I have experienced years ago is when the airline gives your seat away. Nowadays I always confirm everything few days before I leave. But still, things happen and I’m glad we can solve some of those problems with money.

Struggler said...

Well, I suppose money can't solve the most important things in life, like health, love, and happiness. But it can certainly make day-to-day trivia and hassles a heck of a lot easier.
I suspect if I had enough money to quit my job and hire both a personal coach and chef, my running speed might increase. Just a little. :)