Grandpa Webb's blog

Friday, 14 June 2013

In the age of the internet, keep a pen handy

I have a bus pass. I use it mostly in London, where it enables me to travel in comfort and for nothing (thank you very much) from Euston station to various parts of the city.

If you’re not in a hurry (if you are, pay up and get the Tube), the top deck of a bus is a fine place to see what’s going on outside, and sometimes to watch the bus stop where you should have got off, slowly disappear from view.Grandpa Webb

The time has come to renew our bus passes. Last time grandma and I filled out a couple of forms, but we can now do this online ‘from the comfort of your home,’ says our county council website.

When it’s freezing cold, as it is today, or pouring with rain, I try to do indoor jobs, so I switch on the computer.

I find the Elderly and disabled bus pass renewals page. 'All you need is a digital passport-sized photo to attach electronically and your existing bus pass number', it says.

I can do the existing bus pass number. Here it is, on my existing bus pass.

If you are planning to take your own passport picture, there’s another link on the website that tells you what you need to know.

Among other things the image must be:

• head and shoulders only Passport photo dimensions
• 45mm high, 35mm wide
• taken against a plain white or cream background
• of one person, unsmiling
• looking straight at the camera,
• without a hat and,
• if you’re wearing glasses, there mustn’t be any reflection from the lenses.

Phew! Following the instructions I take a digital picture of grandma, who mercifully doesn’t wear glasses, and she takes mine, and we load them on to the computer.

On the bus pass renewals site I enter our details and bus pass numbers. A red notice pops up. It says: 'Please check Bus Pass number, Surname and Date of Birth are valid and entered correctly.'

After three failed attempts I give up and telephone the Concessionary Travel Team at Hertfordshire County Council.

“Name?” says the man on the phone. “Date of Birth? Postcode? First line of your address?  Ah, no, your bus pass number hasn’t been entered on our System, so it won’t be recognised. You’ll have to make a paper application. You can get the forms from your local library or council offices. Although your bus pass expires on 31 March it will remain valid until 31 April.”Bus

In the face of this generosity it seems churlish to point out there are only 30 days in April. Or to ask what happened to the promise of being able to do this from the comfort of your own home.

Never mind, it’s free, so stop moaning. I pick up two forms from the local council offices, and after a few misfires with the printer I get a couple of images that I can trim to legal passport size and stick on the forms, and then nip up to the shops and put them in the postbox.

It seems that the internet is not a lot of use if you’re not on the System. I’m hanging on to my ballpoint pen for the time being…  

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