Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Being Grateful During Cruddy Circumstances

My little family just got back from a really fun trip to the San Francisco/Oakland area. My husband had a video production job there for one day and we decided we'd just add an extra plane ticket and have a last hurrah before our toddler turns two and doesn't fly for free any more, because at that point we figure we'll probably never fly again.

On the last day of our trip, we loaded up our rental car with all of our stuff because we were going to do a little more sightseeing and then we were going to go down to San Jose to stay with my friend for the night so that we didn't have to wake up at 2 am to make our 6:00 flight (plus we had borrowed some bedding from friends that we didn't want to return at 2 am, because that seems like a bad way to thank someone for lending you their stuff). We found a great parking spot just behind Ghirardelli Square and had a really fun four hours, then we trudged back to the car happy and exhausted, sure our toddler was about to fall asleep in the car while we drove around a bit more before we headed out.

Only when we got there, there was something funny about the back window of our rental van. At first we thought it was a shadow from some trees - then we realized that the window was broken.

We rushed to look in, because the van was FULL of stuff, including quite a bit of equipment my husband brought with him for his job - a backpack full of soundboards and cameras and video equipment, plus a laptop bag with two laptops in it.

The backpack was gone.

My husband went down the street to the hotel on the corner to ask them what the number was for the police, and the security guards told us that our car was actually parked right under a security camera - and that there were similar break-ins on this street all the time. A homeless guy would walk up to a car, wave at the security camera, break the window and walk off with people's stuff, and no one would do anything.

Since we were in a rental, we had to make a police report even though we were sure they wouldn't do anything. The concierge at the hotel called them and told us that it would be two hours before anyone could get there. We realized at this point that we hadn't paid for the insurance for the rental, and the very limited insurance we carry for our clunker car wasn't going to help either, so we would also get to pay for the window.

There we sat with our exhausted grumpy toddler, stewing about our stupidity and bad luck, feeling robbed of stuff and our vacation. After 2.5 hours we called the police again to check on things, and they had no record of the previous call, but also they said we could make that report over the phone. So . . . great. We made a report, put our little girl in her pajamas and drove off to my friend's house to put her to bed (plus my husband had to go to the rental car place to fill out a report about the window issue, since they wouldn't be available when we went back at 4:30 the next morning).

So to sum up, the last day of our vacation went like this:

  • We got robbed, and the thief made off with about $2000 worth of equipment (most of which he probably won't get anything out of because he won't know what it's worth). 
  • We didn't get the rental car insurance, so we would be paying for the window he broke out of our own pockets.
  • We had to sit in the car for three hours with a tired toddler waiting for police who were never coming, thanks to faulty information from the dispatcher.
  • We didn't get to do any of the other fun things we wanted to do in our last few hours of vacation. 
However, my husband is incessantly positive once he gets over his initial frustration, and some of it has rubbed off on me. As we were sitting there in the car--and in the days following-- we've realized a few other things. 
  • Right next to the backpack was a laptop bag containing two MacBook Pros and a piece of equipment that for no reason I understand is worth $1400 (a piece that had been in the backpack on our way down, I might add). If the thief would have picked that bag, the loss to us and the company would have been more like $8000 - plus the laptops had the job my husband had just done but hadn't delivered yet on them. It could have been a lot worse. 
  • We weren't anywhere nearby when we got robbed. We were never in danger, we just came back to a broken window.
  • The window was the only damage to the car - probably the least expensive fix for us.
  • We're in a place now where this kind of loss doesn't equal total devastation to our bank account. It's certainly not ideal and we don't have a lot of extra money to throw around, but after a year of hard work and insane budgeting and some good luck, we have an actual emergency fund. 
  • We found out a couple of days later that our Visa card (which we used for the car rental) actually has insurance for collision and theft for car rentals, a thing I would never have thought to check but which my brother did, so we shouldn't have to pay for the window after all. 
  • We had friends who put us up for the night after it all happened and who were offering support throughout the experience. It was so nice to come back to a home with friendly faces and offered leftovers instead of to a hotel, and it was nice that we had options for rides if things had worked out differently with the rental car. 
It would be easy to look back on this trip with frustration and anger and let those last few hours of our last day ruin the whole thing. But the truth is, we had a lot to be grateful for once we started looking for it, a fact that I think is almost always true, no matter the circumstances. So instead of remembering this vacation angrily for years to come, I'll remember it like this: 

And this: 

And this:

How has gratitude helped you feel better about a bad situation?

No comments: