Of Banks and Unicorns

The 21st century is well under way by now. While a box on wheels hurtles us along the landscape at previously unthinkable speeds, we can use a tiny little magic trinket to communicate with someone on the other side of the world while we watch a moving picture film on the same trinket. This frequently baffles me. I think it’s fair to say that most people in the “western world” today have a pretty easy-going yet co-dependent relationship with the internet and the devices we use to connect to it. With the help of the “Information Super-Highway” (titter), we play, work, masturbate and organise our lives.

Internet banking has been around for ages, and all banks have had a long time to get it right. So how come one of the biggest banks in the UK, Royal Bank Of Scotland, still hasn’t figured this out?! To answer that, I need only to think about their main office in Edinburgh. Its building is old and massive, with huge pillars outside and high ceilings on the inside. The moment you step in, some poor guy is stood there ushering victims to the people who are supposed to help you. It all feels like it’s built to impress upon their patrons the fact that they are richer, bigger and more powerful than us and that IF they help us, it is not because they particularly want to, it is because they take pity on us mere mortals who wander in from the streets. RBS and banks like it are almost fetishistic in their dom-sub relationships with customers. It’s an institution festooned in old class systems and power dynamics. old is the operative word here. If you bring in petty coin that you’ve been putting in your rainy day fund, they count it by hand. If you want a paper bank statement with your name on it (Another stupid, old way of doing things that they cling on to in the UK because people are too paranoid and set in their ways to have sensible methods of identification) they tell you it will take at least ten days. Oh, of course, you can order one online, but they don’t tell you this, and it’s not something you can easily find in their online systems. For reasons we are still not entirely clear on, we were never allowed to have debit cards with RBS. It has something to do with nationality, no doubt.

So when I got the job at Butlins, we decided to switch banks. After some research (Well, after Marit had done some research) we decided to go for the diametrically opposite of RBS: A purely online bank. We went with First Direct.

The transition process was… Less than smooth. Mostly due to RBS’s incredibly annoying service and a speed of execution that was so slow as to seem as if it was in complete quantum lock, it took over two months to go from sending our application to First Direct to an actual account number. Granted, some of it was bad communication from FD, but I’m happy to direct my anger at RBS instead.

Aaaaanyway! The whole point of this massive wall of text was actually not to tell you about the bank we were with and the bank we left it for. It was to tell you about the conversations I had with the customer service people at First Direct yesterday and today as we were going through the final stages of setting the account up.

Yesterday, I spoke to a man who seemed very happy to speak to someone who was portraying the villain in Lazytown. His surprise at my main role seemed genuinely enthusiastic, and that makes me happy. He also made my wife happy, by referring to our joint account as being shared by “yourself and Doctor Hartveit”. We both relish any opportunity to be viewed outside traditional marriage roles. For example, at our wedding ceremony, the lady wedding us said “You may now kiss each other” at our request.

Then today, I spoke with a lovely young (by the sound of her voice) lady who took my security details. When spelling out important words, she would use the phonetic alphabet. You know, Alpha Bravo Charlie etc. Like most people I don’t know it by heart, so I asked if she was required to learn it for work. “Yes” she said. I thought this was quite cool, but what she followed up with was even better: “Before I did, I would always have to make it up. Like B for Banana and stuff. Sometimes I fall back into it, though. I’ll always say Unicorn for U, for example.”

I don’t know about you (if anyone could actually be bothered reading all the way down here), but I thought this was a brilliant idea. Imagine an alternative phonetic alphabet with mythical beasts and other wonderful things! Aragorn, Basilisk, Cerberus, Dinosaur… The list goes on!

Over and out!

PS: Did you actually read the whole thing?! I am impressed with your tenacity and stamina, and I need to keep you around, because you’re probably the only person likely to read any book I might publish.