xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: November 2016

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The man who wasn't there.

A few weeks ago, I wrote how, when I was ten years old, my two older cousins produced a jar of Vanishing Cream, challenging  me to apply it to my face and make myself invisible. Well, the other day I had a slightly different experience. I felt like the man who wasn’t there. Oh, I was there alright, but the people and the organization I was dealing with just would not credit my actual presence or deal with me directly.

It all started when I received a letter from my bank informing me that after the 30th of November I would be charged $1.25 for each bank statement I received by mail. The letter further informed me that I could avoid this $1.25 charge by opting to receive further bank correspondence about my account in paperless eStatements.

I thought that this was a good idea. Not only would I save $1.25 each time a received an eStatement,  I would now be getting what the bank called “paperless bills”.  I would help reduce the number of trees being cut down for paper. Then I remembered that I would print out the eStatements on my printer because I would want to file them with all my other paid and unpaid invoices. The bank would save on paper but I would not. However, I still decided to go for paperless bills.

The bank's letter assured me that I could register online to receive my eStatements. No trouble whatsoever. All I had to do was go to the bank’s website and follow the eStatement links.
Unfortunately, that was not all I had to do at all.

I opened the bank’s website and clicked on the eStatements link. I was asked to insert my PAN. I had no idea what my PAN was. I went to the bank’s FAQ site and was told my PAN was a series of numerals on the top right hand side of my bank statement, just under my Account Number. Actually,
the bank called them numbers, which is not mathematically correct. You would think a bank would know about things like that.

I typed in my PAN and then was prompted to enter my SECURE CODE. I had no idea what my secure code was so I typed in the PIN for my account.

“SECURE CODE Invalid. Please enter a valid SECURE CODE.”

So, I typed in a few more numbers and passwords that I use for various internet activities. They all were invalid. I then received a message. “You have used all of your chances to enter a SECURE CODE. Please follow the link to change your SECURE CODE online.”

Below this information was a link to Change Secure Code Online. I clicked on it and a message said, “Please telephone this number.”

A telephone number? What happened to getting my eStatement and changing my SECURE CODE online? I telephoned the number. It was a 13 hundred number, which are the very expensive calls. The automated voice of a young lady welcomed me and gave me various banking options which I could access by pressing numbers 1 through to 5. I pressed 1. The same automated lady gave me a few more options. I pressed 1 again. A different, more authoritative voice told me that I was in the telephone queue to speak to a bank officer about eStatements. The authoritative voice then informed me that my estimated waiting time in the queue was 4 to 8 minutes. I hung up.

I went back and had another try at registering for eStatements online. At length, I still finished up  having to ring the 13 hundred telephone number. So, I did. After going through the various options again and pressing 1 again I was pleasantly surprised that the authoritative automated voice was now telling me I only had an estimated waiting time of 2 to 4 minutes.

Almost immediately I was talking with a very pleasant bank officer named John, who seemed very pleased to be talking to me. Except before we could get down to business John wanted to know my IDENTIFIER. I had no clue. I asked if it was Ryan, my mother’s maiden name? it wasn’t. It wasn’t my father’s middle name, my first pet’s name, the capital city of Florida or the make of my first motor car.

John was determined to help. He asked me my home address, my date of birth, my mobile phone number, my home phone number and if I preferred red jellybeans to black jellybeans. I made that last one up, but I am sure it would have been next on the list, except that John said could I hold the line while he made some further enquiries.

Five minutes later John came back and said that I had given sufficient information to pass the security checks. He then told me my IDENTIFIER. It was part of a pass word I used to use about six years ago. John told me that I would need to tell the teller at my bank my IDENTIFIER before they could give me my SECURE CODE.

What? The teller? At the bank?  “Hang on, John,” I said, “I thought that we could do this online. Just tell me my SECURE CODE and I will be home and hosed." To John I was non-existent. He had to deal with technology.

John explained that he would not tell me my SECURE CODE I had to get my SECURE CODE from a bank teller, after I had handed over my credit card and told them my IDENTIFIER. John said this was for reasons of security and privacy and was in my best interests. He was such a nice fellow, even if he did not recognize me as someone he could do business with on a personal level.

I drove to the local branch of my bank. Upon entering, I noticed that there were only two tellers and six people waiting. I also noticed that the two people already doing business with the two tellers had calico bags. This meant they were from local businesses and were delivering the day’s takings. This could take some time. It did.

While I was waiting, I read all the signs in the bank, including one, on the wall right above the two tellers which said “For the safety of our employees this bank does not hold large amounts of cash. If you wish to withdraw a large amount of cash please give the bank 24 hours’ notice” Yes sir, banking has certainly changed.

Eventually, I reached a teller. I explained that I needed a SECURE CODE to register for eStatements. I handed over my credit card and I told her my IDENTIFIER.

“That’s quite correct, Noel,” said Ann. She had read the name on my credit card and I had read her name tag.

Then she said, “Do you have your mobile phone with you, Noel?”

“No. Do I need it? I was just told to bring my credit card.”

She smiled and said, “We send your SECURE CODE to your mobile phone.”

“But, I am right here. Can’t you just tell me my SECURE CODE?”

Ann smiled again and said, “For purposes of security and privacy we have just sent your SECURE CODE to your mobile phone.” For the second time in an hour my two friendly bank officers had refused to divulge my SECURE CODE to me personally. Even when I was standing right there in front of Ann, the very friendly bank teller, she refused to divulge what was going to appear as a text message on my mobile phone. It was Déjà vu. I wasn’t there, again.

When I arrived home my SECURE CODE was on my mobile screen. Within two minutes I was a registered eStatements customer.

The experience of being in direct contact with people who refused to acknowledge my presence reminded me of the poem, Antogonish, by William Hughes Mearns. He wrote the poem over 100 years ago after reading about events in a haunted house in Antogonish, Nova Scotia.

Yesterday upon the stair

I met a man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

I wish, I wish he’d go away.

That Man Who Wasn’t There.

I know just how he feels, that man upon the stair who wasn’t there. But at least I know my SECURE CODE. My telephone told me!