Finding the Funny Side of Bureaucracy: How to Deal with Red Tape Without Seeing Red
The older I get, the more I am reduced to gibbering incandescence by all the red-tapery that loops round every aspect of modern day life. You too? Thought so.
Take last week, for instance. Precious Daughter, accompanied by teething baby, went into her local Halifax Bank branch to close a dormant account dating back to her single days.
Mindful of the need to show evidence of who she was, she took her passport and driving license and a letter with her address. Not good enough. To close the account, she needed to show who she was before she became who she is now. She was also required to provide an “official” letter with her address on it.
The counter assistant claimed, without even batting an eye-lid, that my daughter could have got all her details from the internet. Seriously. So, she had to trek home (you haven’t forgotten the teething baby, have you?) to find another tranche of documents and take them back in.
The whole thing was made even more ludicrous in that she was closing, not opening the account. And she only had one penny in it. Which she was originally going to let them keep. She changed her mind after the hassle and kerfuffle they’d put her through.
As she related the story to me, I was reminded of a very similar incident that happened to Other Half and me some time ago. I was trying to close two matured savings accounts that I’d opened for OH and me and transfer the monies to our joint account.
No problem with mine, but apparently, OH needed to close his in person. This was even though I’d originally opened the account without him there. In addition, I had all the paperwork.
As he was still working, this meant making an appointment on a busy Saturday to deal with it. So, picture the scene. It is Saturday. It is raining. We both have colds and are fed up. What followed was worthy of a play by Samuel Becket.
OH: You go and sit over there. I don’t need you. This won’t take long.
Me: Sure? OK.
Bright Assistant: Good morning, sir. How may I help you today?
OH: I want to close my savings account and transfer the money.
BA: Fine. No problem. Can you give me the exact name of the type of account?
OH: (calls) What’s the name of this account?
Me: You told me to wait over here.
OH: She wants to know what the account’s called. I don’t know what the stupid account’s called.
Me: I thought you said you didn’t need me.
OH: Well, it appears that I do.
Me: So you want me to come over there now?
OH: (rolling eyes) Sadly, yes.
I’ve never known us get out of a bank quite so fast. No attempt to sell us insurance, or arrange a financial makeover. No offer to upgrade our account. It was just: do the transfer, maintain fixed smile, thank you sir, good-bye.
We are thinking of hiring ourselves out to other people of our age who get equally cross with the idiocy of modern bureaucracy. Grumpy Old Luddites. I think there could be mileage in it, don’t you?
So how about you? Have you ever been stumped by some bureaucratic rule or regulations? How have you maintained a good sense of humour about silly rules? Do share your experience. Please share your story in the comments.
Carol Hedges is the successful author of fifteen novels for teenagers and adults. Her books have been shortlisted for various prizes: her YA novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal and her historical novel Diamonds & Dust was listed for the 2013 CWA Historical Dagger. She is a cancer survivor, a vintage car driver, a cat owner and a doting grandma. She is currently writing the fifth book in her Victorian Crime series. She blogs on her website and posts on Facebook and Twitter about her life, her writing and minding her small granddaughter.