Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Kiel, Travel + Life Abroad

No Room for New Numbers


Is my PIN in there?

The other day I went to the ATM to withdraw money and entered the wrong PIN. Then I did it again. And again. And lo and behold, my card was cancelled. The bank lady was very understanding and kindly suggested that when my new card arrives, I choose a ‘wunsch PIN’. She hastily added, ‘not your birthday, of course, but something you can remember.’ (Like 1111, for example.)

This isn’t the first time I have – seemingly willfully, certain the ATM is lying – thrice-entered the wrong PIN and been left, stranded with a useless card and not a dime to my name. I did it in Greece once, after quad-biking up to the nearest functioning ATM (there are like, 2, in the village I was living in) and found myself without any access to my German bank account for the nearly three months I was away. There was no way I was ever going to be able to address the wheelbarrow of paperwork required to get my card working again, from my location in the middle of the Aegean, so I tucked my little red card out of sight and figured out a Plan B.

I have also, on multiple occasions, forgotten/not known a PIN for a SIM card, or indeed an actual phone (and I always manage to discover this while in the air or on a long distance train, rendering my communication device useless when I need it the most). Speaking of phones, I don’t know my own mobile number off by heart because it’s the 4th one I have had in two and a half years. I likely never will know it off my heart. I have my Australian family tree memorised and a couple of my besties’ numbers they’ve had since we were 16. But that’s the best I can do. Postcodes can be, depending on my mental acuity at the time, subject to wild improvisation, except for my current one which is pleasingly close to my birthday.

Every few days, I turn to SG and bark, ‘001 – police, 002 – ambulance and fire department’ and he says, ‘110 – police, 112 – ambulance and fire department.’ Then I run a series of scenarios through my head that each involve me screaming at myself as I dial, ‘000, no, 001, 911? NO 110!’ as SG lies injured at my feet, unable to enunciate the correct number. Or my phone’s battery dies as I, felled by a rogue accident, punch in the wrong emergency number and I am left, immobile, unable to muster up assistance.

You see, one symptom of the past three years has been a marked increase in the amount of personal numbers I possess/require for smooth daily living. Most of the time I can keep my bank PIN straight – unless it’s a Friday morning and my brain momentarily breaks – and my phone reminds me of my number. And I can, of course, recite to you my first and now defunct (damn you Albanian thieves) mobile number, the postcode I grew up in and my first and enduring bank account PIN. And 000. Always 000 (unless I am fresh from a Law & Order: SVU marathon, then it’s 911 for a few hours). Only one of those, unfortunately, is currently relevant. For the relevant numbers, it seems, there is simply no room left in my head in which they can lock themselves. They seem to float, freely, apt to be momentarily replaced or misplaced. Which isn’t, as evidenced, entirely a good thing. Particularly when I need money or SG is lying injured at my feet (touch wood, touch wood, touch wood).

Image credit


  1. Martina Möller

    26 May, 2013 at 11:32 am

    OK…here is help: I’d suggest to use the old-fashioned and practical method of remembering numbers with the help of year-numbers and (personal) memories….for ex. 9012 => (19)90 germany won the world soccer cup and (19)12 the Titannic sank…would be for me in short Weltmeister and Untergang 😉

    Beside that and even if it’s still OUR english week I send you a link to a german website 😉 …cause it might be THE SOLUTION for you 🙂 I’m curious let me know…

    Enjoy your sunday!!!

    1. Liv

      27 May, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      This looks amazing … but … how do I remember my secret codes???

  2. Adventures (@in_expatland)

    27 May, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Oh I’m with you on this. The more I try to cram in – especially when there is so much going on in daily life – the less I can remember. I’d send sympathy memory your way if I thought it’d help, but I’m running low myself 🙂

    1. Liv

      27 May, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      Sometimes I astound myself by pulling out of my head, eg, the SIM card PIN to my 4th mobile number, completely unassisted. And sometimes I sit, staring at the computer screen trying to log into my online banking and having absolutely no idea what to type in.

      1. Isa

        29 May, 2013 at 11:07 am

        This is so funny. I no longer use internet banking because I have done exactly the same thing. Bubble brain (referring to myself here).

  3. Isa

    27 May, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Jeez – same happened to me stuck on a little island — the only plan B possible was to ask a nice friend to wire money over via Western Union, otherwise, I might still be stuck on that island, which might not have been that bad, after all…. But that was the least compromising of my compromising situation sceneraios so far experienced, fortunately or unfortunately.

    Love Martina Möller’s hel.p. Don’t think I can remember it, though!

    1. Liv

      27 May, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      I had the exact same thought myself when I was looking at it! What a brilliant idea … but how am I going to remember it all?

      1. Isa

        29 May, 2013 at 11:04 am

        Sceneraios? Sounds like Greek for scenarios.

        As Martina correctly points out, it’s an old-fashioned method, one which I’ve tried. This resulted in blocking my German phone after trying the pin three times. I remembered the secret date code after the phone had been blocked, of course. No more secret date codes for me!

What do you think?