karma chameleon

My anxiety is really superstitious. If I don’t complete the rituals involved in dozens of insignificant acts, the world will end and it will all be my fault. I don’t have time for that kind of existential crisis, so I cross my fingers and throw salt over my shoulder and never give my bad thoughts voice or they’ll come true and that would really suck. No ladders or broken mirrors or umbrellas opened indoors. Can’t hang a new calendar early, or even change the page – mostly because that would be really confusing, but also bad things will happen apparently so I just avoid it altogether. No need to invite the bad times, right? And there’s lots of wood around to knock on, so we should be okay.

My superstitions go hand in hand with the idea of karma. It’s generally pretty easy to avoid being a bad person, but somewhere in the back of my mind I worry that the point system is real and any time I’ve accidentally littered I get negative points and that’s why I don’t know math. It’s stressful and it makes me have internal debates about doing things that are beyond inconsequential, but WHAT IF. I swear I’m not indecisive, I’m just weighing the contents of my soul so if you could just give me a minute here, everything will be fine.

All of this is to say that I have an ethical problem of my own making, and I’m not sure what to do about it: Is it “bad” if I take an opportunity I did not earn?

Before I explain fully, here are some pertinent facts:

  • This is not a tangible object
  • If I don’t follow through, it ceases to exist
  • No one will miss out on anything if I take it OR if I don’t
  • No one will lose any money if I take it OR if I don’t
  • The odds of getting “caught” are almost non-existent
  • Taking the opportunity (or not taking it) will affect zero people other than myself

.. but I didn’t earn the opportunity, nor did I pay for it. It’s not mine, but it could be if I took it. So, do I take it?

I was supposed to go to Prague in April of 2020. That didn’t happen for obvious reasons, and I was given a flight credit from the airline. To use the credit, I have to book a flight before the end of this month for travel before the end of July 2022. If I don’t use the credit, it simply disappears. I can’t transfer it to anyone, or use it for anyone other than myself.

No brainer, right? Use the credit, book a flight, maybe go somewhere next year.

This is me, and nothing is ever that simple. The problem? I received a refund for that flight.

.. twice.

Prior to my flight, all airlines and agencies were telling customers to “go through your bank” to deal with pandemic-cancelled trips in the hopes your credit card company could come through for you. It took several hours on hold with a bunch of different companies, but eventually my bank did reverse the charge for the flight. The money came with a warning: the airline is given an opportunity to fight the charge reversal, and if that happens, the bank would claw that money back until a resolution is worked out. I left the money where it was, but no one ever came for it and whatever statute of limitations the bank put on that refund has long since passed.

I didn’t know that would happen, though, so I also submitted a claim against my travel insurance. I didn’t think anything would happen there, because in the ten years since I became an International Kimli of Mystery, not once has travel insurance ever worked out in my favour. Not even for our Super Typhoon’d trip to Japan that we didn’t take in 2019, for loophole reasons. I guess “global pandemic” isn’t something the insurance companies wanted to deal with, so they processed my claim and cut me a cheque.

Because of my aforementioned anxiety around karma, I actually tried to return the funds. I called the bank multiple times, but could never get through to anyone to explain the situation and eventually I stopped trying. I think I reasoned with myself that by waiting on hold for longer than I waited to get the charge reversal the first time around, I had done my due diligence in trying to do the “right” thing. I forgot about the duelling refunds after that, because I had so much going on in my life at the time. So busy. Jam-packed life of action.

Time rolled onwards, and it’s now the summer of 2021. Ed and I have both received all vaccines, and things are starting to look positive for the first time in almost two years. I logged into my favourite booking site to do some wishful thinking when I saw a button that said “Check your credits”. I did, and wtf: I have a credit with an airline. For a flight I’ve already been refunded for, twice.

Now what?

I could book a flight, of course, but would it be “wrong” of me to do so? And if so, by who’s standards? If I had to choose an entity that would suffer from my deceit, I suppose it would be the airline – but at the end of the day, do I really care about an airline’s bottom line? No. Fuck ’em. If they didn’t screw me, they’d screw someone else.

So that’s what I’m wrestling with. What would you do if you were me? As I see it, my options are basically:

  1. Try to book a flight. What’s the worst that could happen? By next summer, the Kappa Beta Phi variant will limit our freedom anyway, so I’ll probably just end up with another credit and have the same non-problem.
  2. Ignore the credit. I’ve already been given my just desserts, and I had seconds. Taking more would just be greedy.

Each of the refunds I’ve been given for the cancelled Prague trip come from different corporations – the bank, the travel insurance company, and now the airline. No one is going to hold a meeting with the other companies to find out if anyone has been double or triple-dipping during the pandemic confusion, so if I DO try to use the credit – strictly for science, obviously – no one loses out, the airline would just re-sell the seat. If I don’t take it, the only person who loses out is me. I really do hate losing out, but .. karma.

What’s stronger: my need to see this through just to see if I can, or my anxiety?

something about this feels suspect

3 thoughts on “karma chameleon

  1. Here’s my take.

    I wouldn’t be concerned about the duplicated reimbursement from the airline and insurance company, but when it’s within the same company you can be assured some pedantic accountant will figure this out. They may reach out to you or may not, but some mid-grade clerk who’s thigh deep in mortgage and car payments will get their butt chewed out.

    Who needs that crap on their karmic balance sheet?

  2. Pingback: Comeuppance | rfljenksy – Practicing Simplicity

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