...nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
- Benjamin Franklin
But here's the difference between the two. Even Death doesn't make you sit through automated telephone messages.
I've been sent a little warning note I still haven't done my tax self assessment so, like a dutiful citizen I set up to do my annual reminder of how I'm broke and my life is a meaningless trudge of using up the Earth's natural resources until I become one.
Only here's the thing, I have approximately 2.4 billion passwords and logins, at a conservative estimate...
Could I remember which one was for this? Could I, my arse.
First off it was my user ID, a random series of numbers with no bearing on anything else in my life, 12 digits as random as 12 rolled dice and just as memorable.
But, BUT! I have been intelligent and organised, for once. When I got this account they sent me a card with the number on, laminated and everything. So, being clever I put it somewhere safe.
No, wait, sorry, typo there. Being stupid, very VERY stupid I put it somewhere safe.
Because here's the thing about the apocryphal "safe place". It's safe only in the way it will never be found again, basically anything put in "a safe place" is technically lost the moment you put it there, but... and this helps our brains, it's lost in a very ORGANISED way...
So, I search, a lot. Nothing. I finally decide to check online and see what I could get a hold of, which brings me into a truly governmental Catch-22.
I needed my user ID and my password. To get my ID I needed my password. To get a new password I needed, you guessed it, my User ID!
Finally, light dawned! I discovered my USER ID! put it in, put in all my details to get a new password... "your details have not been recognised".
So, with fear in my heart and phone in my hand I entered myself into the vagaries of the Tax Helpline...
That then left me spending 5 minutes listening to all the things I didn't want to do that I could do online in a speech just slightly shorter than Far From The Madding Crowd... until finally I got through to a real person.
The admittedly lovely lady takes all my details, and finally discovers I was using the wrong email because I'm an idiot.
OK, lovely, wonderful.
So now, filled with joy at having the right details I thanked the lady profusely and hung up, before sitting at my PC with enthusiasm and joie de vive ready to sort my taxes!
"Your details have not been recognised."
Nobody has felt this much blackness going to a phone... but then I see an actual Online Help number! A number for online help, found online, it must be better!
This time was a totally different system with a much DIFFERENT automated message, one that definitely beat FFTMC and in fact rivalled Les Miserables in it's length, mundanity and general soporific effects.
It gave me reams of information about what I could do online, if only I could get online, which I can't which is why I'm phoning THE ONLINE HELPDESK. It was extremely helpful to hear the web address I had just COME FROM 14 times in full.
I did FINALLY reach a real life person again, although I truly wondered if, during my time in the automated system the world had simply come to a gentle end without me noticing and the automated robot lady was now ruling the planet.
"If you are crumbling into radioactive dust you may be eligible for a tax break, just log on to..."
Now this lovely lady was extremely helpful in telling me what I had wrong, which was absolutely nothing.
The problem was the Tax website and the fact the warning messages on the system don't differentiate between;
"Your details have not been recognised" and
"You've been locked out because you were a forgetful fucker and tried too many wrong passwords"
So I STILL haven't sorted my taxes, but I do have a wholly insecure and potentially dangerous piece of paper next to my computer with my Tax Service log in on... because frankly, what's the worst that can happen? A burglar will break in and do my tax return for me?
If one does, not only is he welcome to them but I'll let him use my phone to ring the Tax Helpline and have a robotic lady tell him all about the tax breaks available for people keeping household items and money in circulation...