Losing your electronic ID
You may recall that in an earlier post I lamented my lost University card. I had then got back from picking up my Classical Association Prize and the bubble was appropriately burst by discovering that my Uni card was not in the place it belonged. I was still then hoping it would re-appear.
The point about this little piece of plastic is that it gives you access to almost everything you need in the Univerisity: I need it to get into my Faculty Library after normal working hours, to get through the archway that leads to my college room after 8.00pm; it gives me access to my college SCR, and to the Faculty coffee room, xerox machine, post etc after closing time; it lets me unto the University Library and allows me to borrow books; it is even what I need to get Emergency Out of Hours treatment by the University Dentist.
In fact the reason I lost the damn thing was that I was working in the Faculty Building after hours and needed it every time I went out of the Library to the loo or to my office and needed to get back in again . So I had it convenient (and conveniently losable) in my pocket, instead of in my bag.
Anyway it didnt turn up over the weekend, and then started the marathon of getting it replaced and so back into my life. Let me underline that absolutely everyone involved in this process bent over backwards to be helpful, and not a single person even hinted what they must quite reasonably have felt: namely that I was a silly old thing who had got herself into this mess by losing the card in the first place. I couldn't fault them (and Thank You). But all the same what a palaver to get your identity back.
It went something like this.
On Sunday night I went online to find out what to do in these circumstances. It was very clear that you had to go through your Faculty Card Representative, and not approach the Card Office yourself. So I sent an email to my Card Rep -- and received a Vacation Message saying that she was on a week's leave. Fair enough, but what was I to do now?
So I sent a "Please Help" message to both our Faculty administrators: from one I got another vacation message, but the other was in town... and got back to me on Monday morning, and as luck would have she had been a Card Rep in a previous Faculty, so knew the ropes.
By Tuesday morning she had heard back from the Card Office who said they could process the application and reissue a card instantly. That was good news, until a couple of hours later they discovered that the photo they had of me was more than 10 years old, so they had to have a new one. I could go down to the Card Office and get a photo taken, and then pick up the card. Trouble was I was just swamped with work and panicked at the thought that I might find myself at the back of a slow moving queue (and, more to the point, at the thought that in those circumstances I might behave worse than I would hope to). So the husband comes to the rescue and we send off a digital passport image that he had "on file". Meanwhile the Faculty had given me a temporary replacement card so that I could get into the Library after 5 o'clock.
The card arrives at the Faculty on Wednesday at midday, and I thought all was now over -- until I discovered that it wouldnt actually work until it had been "activated" at each of my relevant institutions. And that, for a start, needed the Computer Officer in Faculty, who was on a job elsewhere.
So I went home slightly despondent and sent him a begging email. The good news was that he could activate it remotely, and by Wednesday late afternoon I had a card that worked for my Faculty Building -- and that only left the College bit, and the UL to do.
OK this isn't exactly a tragic story: 5 days without a Uni card isn't one of life's greatest hardships (though, in mitigation, I plead that I had a shopping list of work from hell last week, and even an hour kept out of the library risked making the whole bloody house of cards fall down).
But it did make me think about this whole computerization of benefits onto a single system. I had problems with losing my computerised ID in a relatively small institution, where I have some clout, and where everyone was keen to help. Just imagine how that would be in some vast mega-system, when you're only a very little cog in the wheel. And anyway your problems might not be self-inflicted (like my card loss), but they might just come from some glitch in those electronic synapses.
Then you'll not kept away from your books -- you'll be literally without your money-to-live-on. I dont think I'd fancy relying on wholly computerised universal credit.