Friday, October 17, 2003

So there I was in the car showroom, struggling to act like the responsible 41 year old that I am. I was there to pick up and pay for our new (new 2nd hand, not new - new, you understand) car (yes another Fiat Seicento, which won't surprise anyone that knows us) when the dreadful moment arrived, the salesmen passed the phone over to me saying the bank just want to verify that you are the owner of the debit card. Fine, I think I know my mothers maiden name, I know my full name and at a push I could probably guess my date of birth, What can go wrong?

The first question throws me completely, "Other than utility companies can I tell them any other direct debits that we have on this account." Instantly I freeze, then suddenly inspiration comes and I mention a charity direct debit which we have, I radiate a warm glow of satisfaction. The follow up question comes and it's the banker "What is your mother's maiden name?" Bingo! I pass the phone back to the salesman with confidence, only to hear him say "Oh no, that's a shame" not really the response I was hoping for. The sales chap hangs up and tells me that my bank have rejected the transaction and that I need to call them.

So I'm covered in confusion, and convinced that not only will I not be able to take the car home, but worse still I'm going to be arrested for credit card fraud and whisked away to Staple Hill police station for the night. So I do the only thing that could save the situation, I call Orynthia! Whereupon I realise that the direct debit information I gave, actually comes from the other bank account which we have, hence the rejection!

A few minutes later, Orynthia calls back to say that she has spoken to the bank, they are not able to do anything without the trader being on the call, so Orynthia gives me all the information she can think of regarding the account and the (ever so patient) trader calls his people again. Eventually the moment of truth arrives and the phone is passed over to me. This time the first question is the "mothers maiden name…" one, I answer and then I get asked the direct debit question again, having been primed I can now answer this one. Then disaster, they ask me how long I have had the account?

I'm sure that once you get past 30 everything that has happened previously, appears to have taken place in the last 3 or 4 years (if you can remember it all!). Question - When did you first see Nick Cave. Me - oh about 4 years ago, actual answer 1985! When did you go to Milan - oh about 3-4 years ago, actual answer 1992. See what I mean. So this sort of question just throws me completely, and I tell the guy on the other end of the phone that I have no idea. He won't take that as answer so, we get into a conversation where he is trying to get me to guess at a date. The best I can come up with is that I know that I did not have the account before we were married, so it's some time since February 1987. "So", the guy say's "we can say that you’ve had the account for 15-20 years?" No, I reply, it's 17 years at the most but it might only be 4 or 5 years. We go on like this for a while and eventually, I think that the chap starts to pity the poor senile person that he is talking to and just seems to give up trying to get a definitive response out of me. He asks me to hand the phone back to the trader and after a nervous minute or two he gives me the thumbs up, and the deal is done.

I drove off into the early evening sunshine, with a relieved smile on my face.


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