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6:20pm on Wednesday, 27th July, 2005:

Hi,I'm Julie


I'm going for an interview at the BBC tomorrow, to be shown as part of their Click Online programme.

Normally when I go anywhere for this kind of thing, I buy a train ticket and claim back the cost on expenses. The BBC is not, however, normal. No, their preference is to order the ticket from their own offices, to keep control of costs. Then they post them special delivery.

Leaving aside the fact that doing it this way costs £1.20 more for the train fares plus gawd knows what for the postage, it's not a perfect system. Here's what happened to me today...

OK, so the postman comes and goes, and there's no sign of the tickets. Well, maybe they'll arrive tomorrow. But no! The BBC person says they should arrive today, they were sent yesterday with next-day delivery. The BBC will get back to me.

Sure enough, the BBC did get back to me. After two hours on the phone talking to the trackback branch of the post office, they had finally learned that the tickets were sent to the wrong address, with the wrong name on the envelope. However, the address wasn't so wrong that it went to a different post code district, and the fact the name was wrong was lucky because it meant the people at the address it was sent to turned it down. The name on the envelope was that of Julie, the BBC person who had ordered the tickets; somehow, the train company had decided to ignore my name and use hers instead.

So I went to the post office to pick up the tickets, armed only with a trackback number and an order number for the tickets. There was the envelope, with the right number on it. I knew it was for me, the staff knew it was for me, but head office had been told it hadn't been delivered. They'd need to be told it was now about to be delivered, because that's how the wheels of the post office work.

Now you have to hand it to the post office, they're consistent. The tortuous bureaucracy that insists minions clear every meaningful decision with them also ensures that its phone lines are permanently engaged. After 20 minutes of trying, the counter staff finally decided that they'd had enough, and used their own discretion. They opened the envelopes, checked that the order number on the tickets matched the one I'd been given, then handed over the tickets.

Yay! I'm going to London tomorrow!

Except, these are no ordinary train tickets. These are personal train tickets, with my name on them. Only, it's not my name, it's the same as it is on the envelope. I'm going to have to hope that the ticket inspectors are so unobservant that they won't ask me how come I'm called Julie.

I'm sure there's a humorous cross-gender story in this somewhere...

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).