Identity crisis by Trevor Plumbly

Don’t ask me, I only work here!

Despite sight loss, I can still get all manner of stuff: audio books, podcasts, international news and as I’m writing this, the machine is spelling out the text for me. But when it comes to talking to somebody, especially corporate employees, I have problems; they’re pleasant enough, but they’ve got a sort of spray painted unworldliness about them that I find difficult. After having a credit card ‘compromised’, we rang the 24 hour number, the cards were duly cancelled and the replacements arrived in record time. Buoyed by the efficiency, we toddled off to our local bank to activate my new card and that’s when the fun started. I don’t want to bang the good old days drum, but time was when bank visits had a bit of discretion attached to them. That of course was before internet banking and their discovery that by closing a few branches and introducing remote customer service, they could cut staff numbers and add a fair bit to the bottom line.

Name, rank and number

I haven’t visited a bank for some time, but it struck me that the new version of client access offers as much privacy and comfort as a supermarket check-out. Once we reached our goal (a human being), I discovered that they’ve added partial identity theft to support the depersonalisation process. ‘Trevor Plumbly’ had been placed in some sort of electronic storage unit and could only emerge with the help of a coded number.

I’ve always understood that that sort of ID was reserved for soldiers and prison residents; being neither, I was a bit miffed, but it seemed that if I wanted to deal with my own money without hassle I’d better learn to rattle it off like a raw recruit. Maybe its me, but have you noticed that heaps of people seem far happier communicating with keyboards and screens than the folk they share the planet with? Our teller’s greeting was cheery enough, but once we got past the preliminaries, I noticed her gaze kept drifting towards her computer screen as if to reassure it she hadn’t left the room.

Think of a number

After accepting that financial freedom depended on adopting the digits on a permanent basis, I discovered that more hurdles awaited: ‘we’ (me and the number) needed to be ‘entered’ into the system. Quite wrongly I had assumed that the banking system was a bit like the Mafia and once you were ‘in’ you were ‘in’, but it seemed that, once compromised, I needed repackaging and this perked the teller up no end. Fingers flying, she ripped through her routine without glancing up from the screen. It all went well till she asked for photo ID; obviously I don’t carry a drivers licence, so I offered my mobility card which does show a small photo, which she rejected on the grounds that it wasn’t an official document. Yes! I did have a passport, but it’s British, 20 years out of date and buried somewhere ‘safe’ along with the other ‘don’t throw that away stuff’.

As good as a play

Farce always needs complications and we had a few of them. She, and the machine, needed the proof that I was ‘me’; the ID would act like a contraceptive against cyber frolicking. For my part I felt I had the high ground: I was there, so despite the lack of photographic evidence, I was definitely ‘me’, and, even if assigned the essential digits, I was unlikely to scam myself. It may well have been the logic of that, the tapping of the white cane or or a scan through the training manual for ‘how to handle a ‘blindy’, but a few minutes later I was lifted from the netherworld of compromise and left with another bunch of numbers I was cautioned not to write down or share. The victory, if it was one, was short lived: I don’t have a photographic memory and I feel stressed at the possibility of someone asking for any of the numbers I’m supposed to rattle off to convince them I’m me. Worst still, people I’ve dealt with for years are emailing saying ‘we can’t process your order because your card could not be accessed’; obviously they want the new number, but can they be trusted and who knows who else is tuning in?

Debits from heaven

Everyone goes on about how bad stress is; I reckon internet banking causes half the problems by encouraging you to spend money you haven’t got, then torture you when things get complicated. There was something personal about cash: you didn’t need a ‘Client Support Person’ or internet identity; if it was in your wallet you could spend it, if it wasn’t, you couldn’t, simple as that.

Compromised didn’t enter into it: its a bloody awful word anyway beloved by the gutter press to let the world know that certain people are having it off with people they shouldn’t, but even that sounds more fun than copping it from a credit card system.

2 Comments on “Identity crisis by Trevor Plumbly

  1. Not to add to your trauma but have you noted how alarmingly close the word ‘compromised’ is to ‘kompromat’, Russian for blackmail?

    • A typical legal response to a cry from the heart. Any connection between good English and the Russian language cannot be tolerated. It’s balderdash! Aside from a few authors, vodka and the odd ballet dancer, they’ve provided us little in the way of enlightenment.

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