Your money is safe
Sometimes we curse the highstreet banks, and perhaps it's not unreasonable to do so when one considers that our nation is still under austerity measures some eight years after the cataclysmic events that their irresponsibility triggered. Even as I start to write what I hope will be a relatively positive post, I am fighting the urge to get sidetracked on such pet peeves as Fat Cats, LIBOR-rigging and mis-selling. So, here we go...
Yesterday, thankfully after the commission run was completed, we found ourselves locked out of our Internet Banking facility. Nobody quite understands how it happened, but happen it did. The bank operative announced, icily, the end of sports, until ValidPath's Principal returned from the wilds of London. That's me, by the way.
So, today was The Day. The day that I assumed semi-divine powers, in order to resolve whatever needed resolving in order to get the Internet Banking switched on again. Now, I'm going to be 56 next week. I am no longer young, naieve and idealistic. I have learned, like most irritable middle-aged men of my age, how difficult these things can be. My expectation that this was not going to be a walk in the park was, I thought at the time, a perfectly realistic one.
I had no idea.
The bank operative I spoke to was pleasant, even helpful. It did sound as if she, genuinely, was doing all she could to resolve matters and unblock the pipe through which money gets pumped. We went through the normal round of security questions. OK, a bit tedious, and rather protracted, but nothing insurmountable there. Next, she started to ask for some special codes which - unaccountably - I had to hand. I passed the test, or so I thought, and briefly felt a bit smug. Perhaps this wasn't going to be so difficult after all. But no, this was merely the hors d'oeuvres.
Suddenly, out of the blue, came a whole slew of personal choice questions. What was my first car? Well, I'd never been asked that one before - gamely, I spelt it out, but the answer was incorrect (I can actually remember it, by the way). What was the name of my pet gerbil? What is my favourite homeopathic treatment? Would I be interested in underwriting third world debt? All the questions were a complete mystery - so we were no further forwards. In an effort to break the impasse, I suggested that I visit the local bank branch (across the road), present myself for interrogation, and provide any kinds of evidences and IDs that they might require. Suddenly, we were cooking with gas. Phew.
The visit to the bank was not entirely straightforward. A few years back HSBC decided, in its infinite wisdom, that banks should actually more closely resemble night-clubs. Or, as I used to call them before I began coasting down the hill towards oblivion, discos. There's what looks suspiciously like a dance-floor. The lights are turned down, but there are spotlamps under which female staff-members lurk invitingly. There's loud music playing with a pounding beat. All we need is dry ice, a light-show and glitter ball, and the illusion would be complete. Customers saunter uneasily around the periphery of the dance-floor, as if fearful that I might slide across the parquet and invite them to boogie with me. As if that was ever going to happen.
Once I got my appointment with a very efficient lady, I thought we would be home and dry in no time, but it actually took her longer to get through to her own team than it did me. I am slightly ashamed that I derived some perverse pleasure from the amount of time she had to sit listening to that truly gruesome canned muzak that sounds like someone torturing small furry animals at the bottom of a well. Instead of 'topping and tailing' the security process, we embarked upon the whole painful rigmarole all over again. It was like a speed-dating evening in a cloning laboratory. And it involved some completely unnecessary humour about my photo on the driving licence, but I laughed for all I was worth like a good'un.
The end result is that the pipe is now unblocked. The exercise took all morning, but I have a strange sense of satisfaction as a result. And do you know what? I am very, very encouraged that the bank takes the security of our money so seriously. Hopefully, we won't be making that mistake again...whatever it was.