Homeless and Penniless in Kuai

Embry and I are in Hawaii, on the small and lush island of Kuai where on Saturday I will officiate the wedding of my cousin, Jackson, and his fiancé, Tori, who grew up here. Four days ago all my credit cards and bank accounts were shut down. I spent the better part of the last three days trying to straighten things out before I became “homeless and penniless.” Here is the story:

To break up the long trip out here—over a dozen hours on two flights covering six time zones—we spent two days in the Bay Area where we visited Embry’s friend and namesake, her three year old child and family, then three days in Honolulu where we visited another  dear friend from our college and graduate school days. No problems with using an ATM or paying with a credit card. Then in Honolulu when I tried to pay for dinner with my PNC Visa, it was rejected. The second effort, using a PNC debit card, was also rejected, but my Bank of America debit card was accepted. Two hours later I got an email from Bank of America stating my B of A account also was shut down. I did not have any other access to credit and no cash left in my pocket.

Now to be honest, this was not a real  problem because Embry’s cards were all working. But still. And picture the implications for someone who was traveling alone.

Before the ordeal  more or less  ended late yesterday, I had tried and failed six times to  get the matter fixed. Half of the agents announced that the accounts were now working, which unfortunately turned out to be wrong. The other half gave up since without a working password they could not access the account. I was at the point of tearing out what little hair I have left on my head, when it occurred to me that a different approach was needed. Here is the conversation when I  explained the situation for the seventh time:

Me: You have got to help me. I do not have a valid debit or credit card. I am on the remote island of Kuai. I have no cash. Plus  I am homeless and penniless.

PNC (female voice): All you have to do is go to PNC.com and change your user name and password.

Me: I have tried and failed six times. It always rejects my password.

PNC: No, it doesn’t. You must be doing it wrong.

Me:  You try it.

PNC: Tell me your password.

 (It was pretty long.  Since I was hacked a couple of weeks ago, I was determined to come up with a password no one could guess. It was RXMcAG476CB35%SW3131%*$– not the real one of course, but close.)

PNC: It does not work. I am afraid that without a valid password, the only way that your account can be unfrozen is to go to a local PNC  branch.

Me: The closest PNC branch is over 2,000 miles away.

PNC: There is nothing that can be done. You must go in person to a branch and show proper identification.

Me: But you do not understand. I am in Kuai. I have no cash and none of my cards work. I am not able to stay in a hotel. I am not able to call an Uber or taxi. I am not able to eat. I am starving. I am elderly–Joe Biden’s age.  (Admittedly mostly lies, but I was desperate.) Please help me!

PNC: Certainly, there must be a homeless shelter somewhere on the island.

Me: But how do I get home, how do I eat? How do I even get to the homeless shelter with no money?

PNC: Provide a legitimate password.

Me: I am taking all my money out of PNC and moving it to Bank of America.

PNC: Not without a valid password, you aren’t.

The PNC rep then hung up.

You might conclude that this was not one of my better days. But after regaining my self-control, I decided to call yet again, starting with the homeless and penniless sob story and when my password was rejected demanding to speak to her supervisor, then another and then another supervisor until I finally reached the President of PNC Bank. Ok, maybe he was not the president of the bank, but he seemed to  know what he was doing, was able to access my account and unfreeze the debit card. The Visa remains locked. In all I think it took about eight hours on the phone with about a dozen reps. Most were polite and cordial, but only one was (partially)  able to solve the problem. And, oh yes, I now have a new password, which is only eight characters long.

Question of the day: what if I had been traveling alone? What if I did not have the persistence and faith that I ultimately would prevail? What if? What if? And will they ever get the Visa to work?

Stay tuned….





6 thoughts on “Homeless and Penniless in Kuai

  1. Here’s the funny part:
    Did the lady really say:PNC: “Certainly, there must be a homeless shelter somewhere on the island.”
    Did you ever check this out? And thank God for our wives to bail us out.

  2. Well, as it happens, I’m watching Frank Capra’s classic “It Happened One Night” which starts out with Claudette Colbert losing all her money far from home. No such thing as credit cards or Internet then. She and Clark Gable embarked on a colorful (albeit in B&W) series of adventures. Maybe you will too.

  3. In defense of PNC, what happened to you is the same script of a well known scam. If you had contacted me by email asking for enough money to tide you over, I would have deleted the email unanswered, at least until I talked to you in person, or by phone.
    Wasn’t there a Peanuts character that lived perpetually beneath a storm cloud?


    1. I confess that I am an Idiot. I am at the moment without any credit cards or access to my bank accounts. If I am not able to respond to your emails or calls come looking for me in the homeless shelter in Portland ME where we are now visiting Jessica’s family for our grandson’s high school graduation tomorrow.

  4. Uncle Joe, this was indeed a pickle! Yikes! Thank heavens Mimy was with you and you have a great sense of humor!

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