The bright red bar sent a sudden wave of stress, anxiety, fear, and embarrassment coursing through my body—paralyzing any movement and freezing any rational thought.

“Let me run it one more time,” I told the cashier.

“Sorry, sir, it didn’t go through that time, either,” she said.

“OK, wait…wait, let me try my credit card,” I said.

The red bar with white letters flashed on her screen again: Transaction denied.


And again.

And again.


My groceries were already piled in my cart. Checking out was a formality, I thought—until it wasn’t. The line of waiting customers grew from one to six.

In an instant I’d gone from planning a surprise for my wife’s birthday to living one of my worst nightmares.

A look of frustration emerged from the cashier’s once smiling face.

I glanced at her computer once more and stared at the cruel red banner. Finally I came to and pushed my cart to an empty register nearby, frustrated in my own right. It was 11:30 a.m. and I had less than two hours until work—less than 120 minutes to decorate the house and cook Elissa dinner and dessert.

I tried to login to my bank account on my phone, but just like at the register, I was denied. I recently switched over to Elissa’s bank after the wedding and have yet to figure out its complicated online process. After enough failed login attempts, I locked both Elissa and I out of our accounts.

Earlier that morning I played dumb like I forgot her birthday as she said goodbye on her way to work in hopes of adding to the surprise. She must have been peeved, because she didn’t respond to any of my texts until she sent a scathing text about her locked account.

I didn’t have any more luck with my credit card. I tracked down an old email for my stating the bank had deactivated my current card for a replacement card.


I only grabbed the two cards and my driver’s license when I left the house, assuming I’d only use one and have the other for backup—never giving any thought that neither would work.

I ran to an ATM in the store and to a nearby Bank of America in the shopping center, neither of which could access my account. I had two choices: Make a break with the basket or burn 20 minutes to drive home and get cash.

It was such a relief to walk back to the cashier knowing my red nemesis couldn’t hold me back again.

Four hours later, Elissa walked in to a birthday surprise.

Mission accomplished.

Wedding Ring

My first book‘Till Death, takes a raw, emotional, uncut look into what it takes to maintain a successful marriage, through the good times and bad and all times in between, as told by married couples.

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