Alex and I found a bank before we found a hotel, swiped our cards to enter, and then started trying to plead with the ATM machines to accept our cards. Sure, our cards are supposed to work in China, but some days the ATMs decide that we shouldn't feel at ease so much and gives all kinds of error messages. Out of the four machines, one was out of service, one would tell me my card wasn't authorized for transactions, and one didn't have the option to withdraw. Alex was working the fourth machine, which gave the impression that it would give him money, but the seconds would tick by, no money would come out, and when the internal timer reached 100 it would give him an error message and return his card.
Alex tried two or three times, and then started reading our guidebook while he waited for his withdrawal to fail. What he didn't realize was that the machine had a "safety" feature where, if you didn't take your card within fifteen seconds, the machine would suck it back in so no one else would taken. Alex finishes reading his sentence and reaches for the card right as the machine pulled it back. "Sorry," it said. "You took too long to get your card." His bank card had just been eaten by the ATM.
We were in China, in a different province than usual, planning on leaving the next day, late at night. Moreover, it was a Friday night, so the bank probably wouldn't open until Monday. He started calling all the Chinese people he could think of who would still be awake and could speak English so we could figure out what to do.
I joked about just sleeping on the floor of the bank, but then a bum forced his way inside the sliding glass doors and did just that. After that I didn't suggest sleeping in the bank.
It looked like Alex had three options: a) report the card as "lost or stolen"--that takes six to eight weeks to get a new card even in the States; b) stay until Monday--that would mean paying for a new flight and missing his teaching engagement which he had on Sunday; c) hoping that someone in Guiyang could get his card on Monday and mail it to him--that might not be allowed for security reasons.
Things were looking pretty bleak, and we still didn't have any money. We considered whether we had enough cash to afford staying in a hotel. Since we couldn't get his card, we figured nobody else would be able to steal it, so we would leave and he would come back in the morning.
We started walking and eventually found an ATM that accepted my card, so our money problem had gone away. Alex was still sans-ATM card and we hadn't found somewhere to sleep yet. It was about 1 in the morning.