Poet on a Hill

Monday, 21 September 2009


Online Madness

I get a form from the DVLA telling me that my driving licence is due for renewal. It gives me the option of filling in the form or applying online.

The form itself is a piece of cake – 4 or 5 boxes to tick, that’s all. But it assures me that online is even quicker and easier. So guess what? Yeah. That’s right. I fall for it. Suckered again.

Off upstairs; switch on the computer; wait for it to sort itself out; into Internet Explorer and punch in the web address. Up comes the webpage, which assures me that this is all for the best.

But it’s already taken longer than filling in the form.

Anyway, I start the action. Fill in page one, which has easily as many questions as the form has; including my driving licence number – which is already printed on the form. Click NEXT and get page 2; which asks as many questions again, including details about my passport. But then it assures me that it will do an automatic check by computer to verify my identity with passport control. Good – if that makes them feel better.

OK; fine; click NEXT again. Now it wants my date of birth and my mother’s maiden name – as well as my address which is where they sent the form and where I have lived for the last countless years (and which, naturally, is the address where they contacted me 3 years ago!).

Now I must invent a password which, of course, I will be expected to remember. But which I will forget because I already have several passwords on account of different sites demanding different combinations, but this site won’t accept any of them. So I invent a password which I make a note of. But I will lose the note anyway.

Now it wants my place of birth … which is covered by my passport clearance. So where are we going? My mother’s dead. And my place of birth hasn’t changed since the last time, and probably never will – unless I become a born again Christian. So what’s this all about? But, hey, they haven’t finished with me yet. Now they want me to invent an easily remembered number so I pump in my date of birth which is the only number that will ever stick in my mind. But the thick sods say it’s no good. Of course it’s good. So I give them another number … which they accept and I forget. Click NEXT!

Now they want the 12 digit number printed on the back of my licence. They’ve already got my licence number because I’ve keyed it in. But now they must have the number off the back. So I type it in and check it; then click NEXT. But they reject it. So I type it in and check it; then click NEXT. But they reject it. So I type it in and check it; then click NEXT. Bang!

They stop me in my tracks. They say the number’s wrong so they don’t know who I am. I’m unidentifiable.

‘But,’ I shout, ‘you’ve checked my passport!’

They don’t respond; even when I punch hell out of the keyboard.

‘But,’ I scream, ‘I’ve given you my licence number! And address! And mother’s maiden name! And place of birth! And I invented a new password … which I forget! And a memorable number … which I forget! And the number you have just rejected is the number you invented and stuck on the back of my licence for just such an occasion as this! But now you reject it! And you reject me! And you tell me I don’t exist …!

Bastards! Bastards! Bastards…!’

So I go downstairs and fill in the form with four flicks of the pen. And now I stride to the post box in the morning sun and fresh air and think … ‘this is the way life was before they invented the computer. But now it’s gone. Gone forever.’


I Need a Break …

I’m in self flagellation mode today. So I head for the computer to book coach tickets online. Being of a naïve nature I go to the official website of National Express. In the appropriate box I click on the window entitled Departure Place and type in Cardiff. A menu immediately appears and asks if I want Cardiff West? Cardiff Gate? Cardiff University? Or Cardiff something else.

I don’t want any of them. Two are on the motorway and two are inaccessible. So I type in Cardiff Bus Station. The website responds. Departure Point Not Known. We are talking about the national coach company here and it’s never heard of Cardiff Bus Station.

Their main Welsh office happens to be in Cardiff Bus Station right opposite the bay from which the coaches leave. So I try again and again and again. But it doesn’t recognise Cardiff or Cardiff Bus Station or Cardiff Central or any other bloody Cardiff except the inaccessible points that it keeps on its menu.

So I head for the telephone and phone the National Express booking line. Now I’m through to a computer that wants to know what I want and why I am calling National Express. Why does it think I’m calling – to buy a bloody suit or something? But the computer rambles on, do I want this option or that option or any one of ten options.

When I finally get it to understand that I just want to book a ticket and get on a coach it tells me that ‘there will be a surcharge of £2 for booking by telephone and it would be cheaper and simpler to book online.’

‘Uuugh … You fu …’

Now a clerk appears on the line. ‘Where are you departing from?’ he wants to know.

‘Cardiff,’ I tell him.

‘So that will be Cardiff Bus Station …’

‘Uuugh … You fu …’

Charlie Gregory