Thursday, 13 August 2009


I really am getting bad at doing this blog. I never manage to get around to it at home (what with the TV constantly on - I'm way too much of a deer in headlights - succumbed to the attention grabbing power of endless Frasier repeats). Lately, it's 'Are You Being Served', which Robin downloaded (legally, of course). And to think that I actually used to think that all people in the UK were going to be like that, or perhaps like those in Red Dwarf, or some strange, warped combination. Oh well.

Are you free, Mr Lucas?

Anyway, this morning's big excitement was going to Citibank, in the City (a good place for it) to prove to them that I was indeed who I said I am so that they would unblock my US credit card, which I never use. It all started so innocently. I in my general silliness forgot to change my address with them. They sent me a new card, which, not surprisingly, wasn't delivered. I asked them to send me another card, which they did. The card arrives. To activate it, I must call from my home number, which is still listed as being in Wilton (because their system is too stupid to accept a foreign number). Cards here can be activated with an automated system from any phone. Anyway - being crafty, as I am, I have Mom call from Wilton. Unfortunately, she gets an actual person, instead of a computer. I had neglected to give her my password, and, oddly, my mother's maiden name is not the same as her mother's maiden name. Still though, she did an admirable job being me, and they activated the card. But wait - their anti-fraud system has detected potential fraud, so they put a stop on the card. I call the company. Mom had changed the password to something new, which she sent me in bits. Unfortunately, I was missing one of the bits, and, having a blonde moment, couldn't figure out the entire word. When I call, I give them my old password, which is wrong, and, of course, don't know the new one. I have to tell them the story about how my card was activated. Eventually I guess the new word. Eventually the woman says the only way to reactivate the card is for them to make a conference call with me and Mom ('yes, he is my son...') or for me to visit a bank to prove my identity. I choose the latter. So anyway, I show up at the bank this morning, credit card and passport in hand, and ask the nice headscarved woman if she could verify who I am.

Do you have a bank account with Citibank?
No I do not.
Then we can not access your information, and this is not a Citi card.
It is a Citi card – I get my statements from Citi and it says Citibank on the bottom of it.

(Gets manager, repeat of same conversation).

Could you phone the card company?
It won’t work.
Could you try?

She calls the number on the card and gets some annoying and excessively perky woman on the other end. Initially, they want me to call back when their fraud office is open, which I can’t do, as that would be mid-afternoon here and I would have to travel back into the City to make the call. Eventually, the woman at the bank here takes my passport and drivers license and reads out the numbers, along with some magic bank number. I speak to the woman on the phone again. After several rounds of this, she says that I have provided my ‘bank verification’ but I can’t reactivate the card until I call back and speak to the fraud office directly. WTF? I have had fraud problems with cards here with nowhere near the level of drama. There is a reason they call them Shittybank…

Anyway, Robin biked the 60 hilly miles down to Brighton with me on Sunday with a minimum of pant wetting or crying. His bike also has 700mm wheels vs my 26inch, so he turned out to be actually faster on occasions. How embarrassing! I’m going to try to break 100 miles on Saturday for the first time this summer – I’d give him a pound if he joined me on that!

Oh, speaking of silly things – the American healthcare ‘debate’… Exactly how stupid are these people??? Oh wait, don’t answer, I think I know. I mean, I can understand the drug companies, and a number of docs not wanting to change the system, as it might cut into their profit motives, but these slobbering idiots at the town hall meetings – probably many of them worried about losing their jobs (and health insurance), and the nattering old folks (on Medicare – oh wait, that’s not a government program, is it?) – I simply don’t understand these people! What could possibly be a more sensible thing to have than a system that guarantees everyone the right to healthcare? Of course it gets paid for – everything gets paid for somehow – God knows how much these silly people are paying in insurance – esp if, God help them, they actually have to use their policies! I pay 9% of my income, which, admittedly, isn’t a tiny amount, but for the 9% I can go to the doctor, go to the hospital, see a specialist, get physiotherapy, whatever, and no one ever asks me if I have insurance. I never spend a penny. Yeah, I’ve had to wait sometimes, but, if I wanted, I could get private insurance and get treatment right away – but I don’t, and I don’t need to. And most people don’t need to, because the system, while not exactly beautiful or glamorous, does the job. When I have something wrong, I go to the doctor – something I would have thought twice about in the US – esp when I was uninsured. The NHS, warts and all (and there are certainly some warts) is probably the best damn thing this silly little country has ever done. Oh, and as an aside, my fave comment so far from the whole thing is that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be alive if he had to rely on the NHS. Um, duh, what country do they think he is from? Where do they think he lives? Maybe he should get a synthesizer with a British accent.

Makes me so proud (again) to be American.

Anyway, I should probably do some work again – will try to be better about this…

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