The Dreaded Phone Booth


Monday was one of those days that all travelers come to dread. It started off fine – just the usual, everyday chores.

When you’re a traveler these chores revolve around hand-washing laundry, buying food, planning the day’s activities, and trying to find a Wifi signal. Then out of the blue, you open the email from your credit card company saying, “We’ve frozen your account due to possible suspicious fraudulent activity.” Oh great.

Whenever we take an international trip, we notify our credit card companies of all the countries we’re planning to visit. That way, when a charge comes through from, say Italy, they won’t be surprised. Usually this works, but when it doesn’t, oh boy!

We fired off an email explaining that the charge was ours – we were trying to buy our airline tickets to Greece. They fired back, “You must call us to resolve this issue.” Oh, man!

We don’t travel with a cell phone because we’ve been changing countries so frequently that keeping up with all the SIM cards would be a full-time job … and really expensive. So that means we have to find the “dreaded phone booth”. Oh nooooo! Trying to find a phone booth is a miserable quest. Just think, when was the last time you saw or used a phone booth. Then there’s the time difference. We’re 6-8 hours ahead of the U.S.; consequently, trying to call within “business hours” is a moving target.


So we set off walking in search of the elusive pay phone. Well, I should say, dodging and weaving, because trying to walk on Roman sidewalks is like a never-ending game of hopscotch, requiring serious concentration and careful foot placement to avoid stepping in . . . well, you get the picture. (And I won’t even touch on the perils of trying to roll a backpack.) So we trudge through the sidewalk minefield, scanning ahead for a phone booth. Finally we spot one! Yay! James reaches inside. “Rats! There’s no receiver.” Back to trudging. Eight more blocks ahead we spy another one … and it has a receiver. Yesss!

Roman phone booths were not designed for someone as tall as James. It’s kind of like stuffing a wookie into a VW Beetle! He goes through this awkward ballet of ducking in and out as he attempts to place the call. First call: won’t go through. Second call: won’t go through … Fifteenth call: you guessed the answer.


We returned to the apartment, thoroughly defeated. Once again we sent an email explaining that their phone number does not work. Their reply: “You must call us to resolve this issue.” Arrrgh!

As of this writing (and 37 attempted calls) we still haven’t resolved the problem. A pox on you, Capital One.

…And such is the life of a traveler. Some days you’re the windshield; some days you’re the bug.


5 thoughts on “The Dreaded Phone Booth

  1. Terri and James — I so know what you are talking about here! We alerted Capital One we’d be in Australia for one year, but we had trouble making a few purchases despite the fact we let them know. However, while we were in Oz and someone random was buying domestic airline tickets in the US on our credit card — no red flags. And it was a HUGE hassle calling and trying to get the whole fraud thing taken care of while we were overseas!

    • Steph, after hearing your Cap1 tale, I guess I should feel better about our screw up. At least we didn’t have fraudulent charges like you. However, there were times I just wanted to bash my head against the phone booth. After our first RTW, we realized that we needed to carry 2 credit cards, and 2 ATM cards, all issued on separate banks and separate accounts. We have a primary and backup. It’s a pain to keep track of, but when moving from country to country, you just never know how things will work. For example, in Italy, for some unknown reason, the Italian rail electronic ticket kiosks would not accept our primary credit card, but was just fine with the backup. We’ve also discovered this with ATMs as well. Wait … as I’m writing this, I realize this is a “traveloops” Woo hoo! ~James

    • And the next line is, “Sometimes you’re the Louisville slugger baby.
      Sometimes you’re the ball.” It’s from “The Bug,” a song written by Mark Knopfler and originally performed by Dire Straits. The visual image always stuck with me! 🙂 ~Terri

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