On my second trip to Japan, I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo on a non-stop flight. I hadn’t slept well the night before leaving, and I don’t sleep on planes, so when I arrived at Narita Airport, I was shredded. I was staying at a hotel in Tokyo that only accepted cash payment, so once I collected my bags, I headed for the ATM.
I put my card in, put in my PIN, and selected an amount. “Insufficient funds,” the ATM said. This happens sometimes when traveling. And I didn’t freak out. I just tried again. “Insufficient funds.”
“Perhaps it is just this bank,” I thought, and headed out to find another ATM. That one, too, said I didn’t have enough money in my bank account. Now, I knew this wasn’t true. I had checked before I left. And, in my groggy state, I started to panic. I found yet another ATM machine, but had the same result.
I started to cry. I had visions of sleeping on the bench at the airport waiting for wired money to arrive or making my way to a park to curl up under a tree when airport security kicked me out... I would soon be the new face of Japanese homelessness, a traveler alone with no money and no place to go for three whole weeks or until the airline would honor my return ticket.
Meanwhile, a queue of Japanese businessmen formed behind me as I wept over the ATM machine. Finally, one of them tapped me on the shoulder and indicated that I should move to the side. Weeping, I crawled over to a pay phone and dialed my husband.
“Sweetie, there’s something wrong with our bank account,” I sobbed. He could hardly understand me. But he got up (it was the middle of the night for him) and checked our account balance online.
“We are fine,” he said. “How much money are you trying to get?”
Now, I must interject here. At the time, the exchange rate was approximately $1 per ¥100.
“I need $300 of Yen,” I said.
“Well, that’s ¥30,000,” my husband said. “Are you sure you are using the right number of zeros?”
“¥30,000?” I said, sniffling. “¥30,000? Are you sure it isn’t 3 million Yen?”
“Well, only if you are trying to buy a car!” my poor, sainted husband gasped.
Yes, in my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged brain, I had done the math and was very, very wrong. I hung up, walked back to the ATM, and withdrew exactly the right number of Yen without incident. I found my hotel. Slept like a baby. And woke up having regained my ability to do simple mathematical arithmetic.
So, what’s your best jet lag story?