Thursday, October 06, 2005

Survival Guide

A collegue of mine asked me today, "Ben, besides testicular fortitude, what does it take to survive on the gritty streets of London, especially as an American?".

This set the rusty cogs inside my head in motion; "well," I thought, "what does it take?" So, I decided to make a list. Call it a Survial Kit for Living in London, things not to be left at home.

1. Stout shoes--if anyone was paying attention to an earlier post, God knows what's on the streets and for how many centuries it's been accumulating. I'd be lost without my Docs. They're black and shiny for formal occaisions, and they're chemical proof for negotiating alleys and pub bathrooms.

2. Black Leather Jacket--I choose black because it matches my shoes, but nothing says get the fuck out of my way I'm in hurry better than a piece of dead cow on your back.

3. A book--quews are pretty boring without one

4. A pen--for the application that you have to fill out at the end of the quew.

5. A stack of passport photos--to be submitted with the application. An entire industry has sprouted because of the UK's obsession with identity cards. Seriously, there are photo-machines on every corner and in every shop, curiously, not in the pubs, but given my own pensions for self-penile photography while drunk, this actuallly sort of makes sense.

6. A good quality newspaper, I prefere the Guardian. The key here is that it has to have several sections and a lot of pages. The printed bits are handy for when you forgot your book and am in the quew or on the train. It's also useful when rolled tightely for swatting off chavs who think they're gangsa-lean. The flimsy tabloids simply don't have enough ooomph!!, but the Guardian or Financial Times when wielded properly smash a nose quiete handley

7. Pocket Change. for the odd late night bus ride home/pint/newspaper

8. An umbrella--uh it's London.

9. Sunscreen --hope springs eternal.

10. Infinite Omnipresent Patience.---see above.

I had a half way funny exprience today organising my bank account. Beyond the ninety forms of id, address verification for the last decade, application, passport sized photo, etc, not to mention adequate funds to open the account, I received a call informing me that my name was not correct. "That's funny," I said, "I'm pretty sure I know how to spell my name." Fortunatley, I was going to Egham today anyway so I stopped by my branch (in the UK as a student, you must open an account at the nearest bank to your college, regardless that my good friends at Barclays are one of the biggest banks in the world with countless branches everywhere (they even sponser a bike race in San Francisco, where they don't actually have a branch). Eitherway, all business has to be handled at 'your home branch'.

So, I arrive, spend some time in the quew and finnally talk to a personal banker. He said the problem with my application is my name. See, for those who know me well, know that I do not have a middle name. I have a middle initial, F (with not period!!). As much as I've wanted it to stand for things, it doesn't. It is simply "F" . Well, this is not acceptable to UK bankers. If I have an initial, it must stand for something. I know what you are all thinking, "make something up, Ben. It's not like you've never fraudulentlly filled out documents before..." Good point, my imaginary dialog friend, but it's MY NAME!!

I don't know what happened to me next, maybe I finnally hit my breaking point; perhaps the train ride was a little noisier than I like, or it's possible that I am finally fed up with smug, prissy Brits in marginal entry-level posistions, but I refused to budge. It might just be me, but it would seem like if one has a customer who is about to deposit 10,000 pounds into a bank, and promises to do this several times for the next few years, perhaps a little more consideration would be given (maybe even some head, but I'm getting ahead of myself).

I snapped. I am ashamed to admit it, but I lost my temper and brok into the nastiest, crudest, French cockney tirade I could summon. Phrases like "vous ete un wankersh toss pot, allez sod yer mum, ya cock!!" and the like. Finnally, I calmed down and politely said that if you would like verification on my name, please call my father. Keep in mind, my dad is an angry person when he's woken (worse than me before 10am), and he's 8hrs behind London Time, and he will reach through the phone and start cracking skulls.

A few twists and turns aside, I should receive my shiny new Barclays Visa with unfathomable line of credit on Monday.

All I had to do was ask.

post-script to this story is I may have to appear before the Egham magistrate for the use of inapropriate language in public. Don' know where they learned French...pricks.

I gotta run; Thursday's my drinken day. Stay tuned for a play by play of my adventure to SOHO tonigh, and until later, as always, thanks for reading



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