Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Identity crisis

Okay, I'm mad, and it's only a little bit my fault.

I can't prove who I am. Since the infamous events of 9/11 in the USA, I have been unable to send a package overseas through Australia Post. I always have to wait inside the foyer area of licensed clubs, hoping someone will be allowed to "sign me in" to attend teacher-librarian committee meetings or Teachers Federation strike meetings. I must take bills in my name (or, once, my expired passport) to travel interstate by e-ticket.

And I cannot buy an iPhone from the Apple Retail Store in the CBD, where they already had me booked in a week ago for an appointment to do a "personal shop" tomorrow.


Because I don't have valid photo ID.

I was told last week, when making the booking, that I should bring 100 points worth of ID (birth certificate, credit cards, bills with my home address on them - after a mild panic on finding the birth certificate, which I hadn't seen buying my first mobile phone two years ago, I easily had 100 points worth, but... because I do not drive a car, I can never prove who I am.

One day, I must to get my new passport. I didn't think, when it expired in about 2002, that I'd need a passport again until I was ready to travel overseas again. But... in this day and age, a grown adult who is not a licenced driver, a university student, or sight impaired, can't easily prove who they are. (Hey, don't laugh, I know someone who travelled to New Zealand once with a picture of himself, in a Klingon uniform and goatee, on his international driver's licence! Mmmmm, now there's an idea...)

Klingon captain
Have blaster, will travel?

A few years ago, I caused much hilarity when I had to take my passport to Brisbane so I could identify myself at the then-standby counter at the airport. A passport to travel across an Australian border?

A few years later, I tried to buy my first e-ticket to Perth online, but my first choice, Qantas, insisted I needed photo ID to actually have my ticket processed at the check-in. I quickly switched to Virgin's site instead, and its fine print simply said "valid ID"... so I proceeded with the purchase.

Imagine my horror when the invoice printed out and mentioned "photo identification". With only two weeks until I was to travel, I raced off to the post office. Someone had reassured me they did a "proof of ID" card. I joined a long queue, and made my inquiry. No, they laughed and sent me to the DMR (Department of Main Roads).

But I didn't want a driver's license, nor even a learner's permit. The woman at the post office assured me I simply needed a "proof of age" card, such as used by young people in their early 20s who might pass as underage drinkers in a pub. Mmmmm. Well, at age 45 or so, it had been a long time since I could have been accused of underage drinking.

At the DMR, I filled out my form and waited forever on another long queue. Then they laughed hysterically. A proof of age card could only be made for people between the ages of 18 and 26. I had to take my birth certificate into the city, instead, to the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and get a birth card.

This was getting ridiculous. I went in on the train the next day, filled out my forms, joined another long queue, and waited for someone to take my photograph. I could even see the camera set up. This was going to be easy, especially when I noticed a sign saying that, for an extra small fee, my finished card could be mailed within 72 hours. Which was good, because I now had less than two weeks till I had to travel and prove ID with a photo, and there was definitely no time left to go the original passport option.

Ah, you knew there was another road block coming, didn't you?

This birth card, unlike all the other services offered by the Births, Deaths and Marriages office, had to be sent the slow way: to the address marked on my other examples of ID, and would take ten working days. Since this card was also going to cost almost as much as a passport, I wondered aloud why people even bothered with a "birth card". It was for people who had to prove ID but had no intention of ever travelling overseas, the woman explained. What was the point, even? If I couldn't get the card before I travelled, why buy one of these cards if I still needed a passport next time I wanted to travel outside Australia?

Eventually, I rang Virgin and explained my plight. I did have Department of Education and Training professional journals with my captioned photographs and editorials in them? There! A new use for Scan! (No, Scan was not "valid photo ID" either, I was told.) virgin explained they'd happily accept two credit cards with my signature on them. Ha! (And the joke ended up being on them; I'd accidentally cut up my new card the night before, and thus picked up my e-ticket boarding pass to Perth on an expired credit card.)

Of course, since that comedy of endless errors, the DMR has changed their rules, and I now can go and apply for a new proof of ID card, which would have a photo on it. (I'm sure I'd need photo ID to apply for one, so I didn't bother.) And then, this morning, I learned I could not buy my iPhone from Apple after all - because I again couldn't prove who I was. 100 points might be 100 points, but one of the items from the prescribed list still has to have a photo on it.

Did I have a shooter's licence?, the woman asked over the phone. For a second there, I thought she was inferring that I'd gotten too frustrated with her, and was planning some kind of ultimate retribution. No, she just meant that shooters' licences had photos on them. Or, for just $23, I could "drop in" to my local DMR and get a learner's permit. Easy!

Here we go again. You know what's really frustrating? The Penrith DMR is so out of the way, you need a car to get there!

You know what else is frustrating? You now have to sit a computer test about road rules to even get a driving permit with a photo on it! Like I'm going to do a crash course in the rules of the road just to get an iPhone tomorrow?

Anyway, to make a long story as long as it ended up being, my existing phone service provider let me have an iPhone today using only my birth certificate. Thus, all the homework I'd done studying various plans, carriers, best deals, etc, was misguided because I still can't really prove who I am. I should have, instead, spent the time applying for a passport. Several months ago. (I won't mention the length of the queue today in Telstra's phone shop. The only reason I was served as early as I was: three people in front of me stormed off in frustration.)

I hadn't bothered doing anything with the passport application yet because my plans to travel to Las Vegas, to see the "Star Trek Experience", ended when they closed that attraction at the end of August. How was I to know that my mobile phone contract would run out at the same time as I was ready to upgrade the iMac into a MacBook Pro?

I'm really going to have to track down that old, expired passport and get the new application form sent off. Dammit. Then I need to use the passport to do some travelling, and give me my money's worth. (What's the name of this blog again?)

Ah sweet irony.

I can see the excuses now: I'd have the money to travel if I didn't have this iPhone bill to pay.


Thomas Suters said...

This Westpac 100 point system is the official list. Note how it mentions that provided the passport had not been cancelled, it is still valid for 2 years after expiry. With the luck you are having with this I'd dread to think your passport expired two years and 1 month ago.

BTW: Shouldn't teachers have a photo ID by now. If they don't, they SHOULD?

Therin of Andor said...

I know about the Westpac list, but that doesn't stop other entities creating their own. A birth certificate is 70 points at a bank, but only 40 at Telstra. Luckily for me, being an existing Telstra customer gives me 70 points, so I was fine.

Apple Retail Store says that all the carriers represented upstairs insist on the photo, even Telstra. Exept if I went to my own Telstra store.

I wanted to buy my Apple iPhone at a store with the word "Apple" in it. When I called in yesterday, there was a little group of excited Apple iPhone buyers being taken through their paces before they even left the store. As friendly as the Telstra salesperson was, she wasn't an Apple person.

I'm booked in now to start going to the Apple Retail Store's free courses on a whole range of tech.

Anonymous said...

The ID thing is pathetic Ian, I'm sorry that you had to go through all that.

Anony Moose

Beckie said...

Yes, the new phone ID laws suck!! We had to do a test at work to make sure we knew the correct procedures about the new ID laws for selling Mobile Phones. When I questioned why the new laws where in place, the simple answer was 'terrorism'.

x x x