Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I checked on how my bank card was doing after I left the internet cafe yesterday. Remember? It didn't work in the morning and Worst Direct advised me to try another ATM because, they thought, the machine I'd used couldn't read the chip in my card. As it turned out, the two ATMs I tried in the afternoon couldn't read them either.
Starting to worry a bit, I went home, dug out all my security details, and phoned Worst Direct again. After being put on hold and transferred twice (at least it wasn't three times like in the morning), I spoke to a guy who said he would replace my card, on the presumption, now, that there was something wrong with the card and not all the ATMs in Northamptonshire (seemed a sensible assumption), but that in the meantime he would put an override into the system so that the machines could read my existing card, until the new one arrived, and I wouldn't be left without money for the 5 to 7 days it might take for the replacement to arrive. "Do call again if you have any more problems," he said. There was an air of confidence about this signing-off statement that made me feel, naively, I wouldn't have to call again. I'd had the luck, at last, to speak to someone who knew what he was doing.
Hmm. After talking to him I went across the street to the only ATM in my village and tried the card. Guess what? It didn't work. The call centre guy's magical override had failed.
I was getting f***ing cross now, I don't mind telling you. So I went home and called again. This time after telling my story for the third time today and then being put on hold for nearly three minutes, I was transferred to somebody who told me there was no such thing as an override that could be placed on cards to make them work in ATMs when they were faulty. Why the previous person I'd spoken to had said there was she couldn't explain. I would just have to wait the 5 to 7 days it would take for my new card to arrive.
"I can't go for a whole week with no money," I told her. I could hear in my voice the cranky indignation you hear on those TV documentaries about beleaguered call centre staff dealing with idiots from the general public."Well, the only other option for you is to go into your nearest HSBC branch with your cheque book and passport or driver's licence and withdraw money over the counter," she said, after reminding me that none of this was her fault. "I don't have a cheque book, I don't drive and I don't have a passport!" I said. It sounded like I was just looking for objections now, but all were true. I haven't used a chequebook since 2006; I can't remember whether they withdrew it or I stopped it, but I don't have one. And my passport is still sitting at the Passport Office in Durham (where I tried and failed to romance a beauty called Athena many years ago: another one of my follies). I've been meaning to send them some documentation to prove I am who I am so they will send me the passport.
At this I could imagine the woman at the call centre looking at the clock over her head and wondering if it was home time yet. This man's from the Neolithic! she was probably thinking. Or writing same on a yellow post-it note to the person sitting next to her. (It's true. The 21st Century has completely passed me by. I move through my life like a slow cloud on a windless day. Or a dumb cow ambling along not realising the next turn takes it to the slaughterer's van.)
I have one other option to get a little money before my card arrives (and given what the purblind tosspots who manage it have done to the Royal Mail who knows how long that will take?) The only way to get money--out of my own account, remember--it's mine--is to call Worst Direct, give them the address of the HSBC branch I'll be visiting, and give them two hours notice to make the arduous arrangements required to make whatever sum I require available to me. She didn't say what sort of identification I'd require for that, but I must be able to identify myself somehow. Arthur Rimbaud might have been somebody else, but I am me, right? Funny to think I might have no way of proving it, other than by dragging a respectable citizen in off the street to verify the fact for me.
Now, who the hell do I know who's respectable? Nobody comes to mind immediately...
I will call them and arrange to take some out. This isn't turning out to be much of a holiday somehow, with no money and the constant deluge outside. But I can't call them today. No way. It took enough of my day and my carefully-engendered peace of mind away from me yesterday. Today I'll work with what I've got; and I was being a little bit disingenuous and martyr-like when I spoke to them yesterday, because I do have a couple of hundred in a safe deposit box in an unnamed location in Earls Barton guarded by ninja assassins.
I'm supposed to be beyond materialism anyway. Friend of bird and beast, rootless Zen hero sleeping where he falls etc etc. Maybe the difficulties with Worst Direct yesterday are telling me I should stop trying to compete with my work colleagues, who are all going on nice foreign holidays, and get serious on the Buddhist study at last. After all, how long do I want to leave it before I look at the man in the shaving mirror (though I don't shave) and see the person I imagine when I close my eyes?

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