Critical Friend

It has been a while since I went to any kind of corporate training event and I’m afraid I’d just forgotten what they are like.  I have always been a bit of a coffee snob and it’s been a long time since I have accepted a cup of coffee from anyone I thought might make me instant.  If there’s a choice of hot drink, I’ll have coffee if it’s real coffee, otherwise tea, and I’d rather have a glass of water than an instant coffee.

So it was unfortunate that I arrived half an hour early for my Induction Day (as a new member of my local hospital trust’s team of governors) and found there was a neatly-laid tray with a hot water flask and a choice of teabags and … sachets of instant coffee.  Ah well: tea it is.  Next time, I’ll remember to put a coffee bag in my handbag (you know about coffee bags, of course?  They’re like giant teabags containing coffee grounds, supplied in individual foil sachets.  Protip: be careful opening the foil sachet they come in, as it’s easy to tear the inner coffee bag if you’re over-enthusiastic!)

The induction day proper began with us having our photos taken so we could be issued with photo id badges and I’m afraid I marked myself out as Instant Awkward Squad by asking for my photo to be taken three times before I was satisfied I wasn’t going to have to wander round with my bald patch showing for the next three years.  (Bad hair days always happen at times of maximum inconvenience!)  And then we had to complete the Disclosure and Barring Service checks (you know, the thing that used to be a criminal record check).  We’d been pre-warned and I’d already queried the list of documents to be provided as it didn’t correspond with the list I found here on gov.uk – like I said, Awkward Squad!

Just take a moment, by the way, to look at that last link, and the documents the government thinks it’s appropriate to ask you to produce to prove your identity.  A passport or driving licence?  Well OK, but it’s not compulsory either to drive or to travel abroad and one can be a perfectly legitimate citizen without having either.

But look at the documents listed under “Group 2b: Financial and social history documents”: mortgage statements?  Bank and credit card statements? Utility bills?  Literally all my financial dealings like that are transacted online, and printing out a bank statement is hardly a guarantee of authenticity!  How long will it be before the system catches up with the twenty-first century and offers to verify your id by letting you log on to your internet banking in their presence and show a transaction then and there?  Or uses one of those verification methods that mobile phone companies use like “here’s 5p: log onto your bank and make an electronic payment of 5p into this account…”

That wasn’t, however, the issue on Thursday morning, unfortunately.

The person who was taking me through the checks was typing like a demon and it was all going swimmingly well… until we came to hit “send”, when there was an error message which said my postcode was entered in two different fields and did not match.  And of course sod’s law meant that the one which was still open to editing was correct, and the one which was a typo meant… yes, the poor lass had to go through and type the whole thing again!  As I said to her, not only will they have me down as a troublemaker but also as a criminal!

One final thing before I got my ID card and was officially inducted – the system also offered up an error message because my title is Ms and I had declared I’d never had another surname.  Please! I’ve been insisting on Ms since 1974!  It’s not an unprecedented title, it’s a title intended to be as uninformative as Mr, and it doesn’t designate divorce.  As the little old lady with the protest sign said, “I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit”

Government ID service, get your act together!

Hospital trust… I’m not a troublemaker, honest: just a critical friend!  (Unless I am denied access to coffee, of course…)

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