OK…these are the twilight years, bathed in sunlight, time to relax, see friends, play golf, learn a language etc etc…but before I can start this halcyon phase, I just have to do the tax, let’s see….
I just need to retrieve last year’s online tax account. Oh goody! It’s been made really easy for us now. All we have to do is log on to myGov. How lovely…my very own Gov, and all they need is my email. No probs. What’s that? Rejected? Oh well, there must be some mistake. I’ll try again. Nope. And I can’t do it again, because three strikes and you’re banned from ever darkening these doors again.
All right, I’ll get myself a brand new email. Still calm and confident…this won’t take long. I go to Yahoo, only to be inundated with suggestions about how my life will be immeasurably enhanced by getting this app, and signing on to that site, not to mention being gifted with a new bright purple advert every time I log on. I negotiate my way between the pop-ups and the drop downs, until I find something that stays on screen long enough to set up my new email. Then, I offer what I consider perfectly nice usernames. Babaam! Reject, reject, reject. I’m trying hard not to take it personally, until finally I find one that works. Phew! Now where was I? Oh yes, my password. DON’T use birthdays DON’T use the same ones as you’ve used before, DON’T do anything that might alert an evil cyber person who will come in and rob you blind. In other words, DON’T use anything familiar. OK done that. What was it again? Oops, I can’t remember, and my three tries are used up. Deep breathing…find a paper bag. OK do it all again. I now have three email addresses, that’s three opportunities to be offered penis enlargement, but at least this time I WROTE IT ALL DOWN.
Actually, I do write things down, much to the amusement of our kids who find it quaint and cumbersome until they put their phones through the wash/drop them down the toilet and/or leave them on top of the car.
And I used to feel very smug when they’d call me in a panic for someone’s address/email/ phone number and I’d bring out my faithful little blue book. But such hubris was never going to go unpunished, neither was my cunning plan of keeping the book in my bag, so it was always available to me. Guess what? That made it equally available to the fellow that broke in and stole it.
And with it, everyone I know: their addresses and phone numbers, emails and birthdays, the names of their kids and grandkids. OK that was retrievable. But not so the pages of hieroglyphics in the back, on which were encrypted the necessary information for every single transaction I might ever wish to make.
Thank you, Mr tea-leaf for running off with my entire life. I think of you every time I want to book a train/plane/theatre ticket/car/trip to the psychiatrist, order a book or a crate of gin, verify a payment, check that it really did cost that heinous amount, access a bank account to find the money, pay to keep the lights on or to stay insured, watch the super fund being less than super, or have a bet on the favourite in the last race, download anything on to the Mac or log in to any government agency, and generally be a functioning citizen of the modern age. Just about every other day I have to re-establish my identity, and thanks to our security phobic world I now suffer from the medical condition known as Multiple Username Disorder (MUD for short). No known cure, just more hieroglyphics.
OK I digress…probably a mistake, when I have only just started to get acquainted with myGov, and still have to wrestle with tax-speak. If anyone can explain in words of one syllable what non-concessional super contributions are, or allocated surplus contribution amount, please do. Actually, they explain that one. It’s an amount that is allocated from a regulated super fund surplus, by a trustee, to meet an employer’s liability to make contributions. Now, I can read…in fact it was usually a prerequisite for being hired as an English teacher, but Beowulf in the original has nothing on that for impenetrability. And it doesn’t even tell a story! No plot, no characters, just circular gobbledygook that makes me feel stupid. So I give in, and open the yellow pages and look up tax accountants. (I know, I know, no one’s in the yellow pages any more, in fact yellow is an appropriate colour for pages that are aged and faded into disuse – I know how they feel.)
So I leave it for now because I have to go to Centrelink to re-instate my Seniors Card. This is serious sh#t…not just cheap movies or $1 off a choc top. Oh no, this brings doctors, scans, X-rays and drugs into affordable territory. But before I can attend to my crumbly bones or gnarly hands, I need the card. The Centrelink office is a place to make you feel lucky…luckier than the slender barefoot fellow who has had more addresses than hot dinners, or the harassed mum who has to keep asking the gal what to do next on the computer, or the elderly lady with the papery Queensland skin frowning perplexedly at the bank of brochures to which she’s been directed.
They are really helpful in there, but even they cannot surmount the bureaucracy that says you can’t apply for the card here IN PERSON. No, you have to go home and ring up, and let’s hope you’ve spotted on the website the magic words charges apply! (And remember, your call is very important to us, so we’ve placed you in a queue). All they can give you at the office is a special code so that when you ring up, they are authorised to ring you back when your spot in the queue comes up. Then, they will send you a form (five working days), then you have to send it back (five working days) and they will process it and send it to you (ten working days). More deep breathing, this time into a plastic bag…put me out of my misery.
Actually my misery isn’t really the point. I have a landline and good internet, and I don’t have to be out looking for work so I can wait for the phone call. Imagine if I was very young/ very old/ out of cash/ not online/unable to sustain a smart phone/left school without a decent education/ mentally or physically unwell/ supporting a family etc etc. Those Centrelink people do their best, but the world belongs to the electronically connected, and if life has set you adrift with no visible means of support, woe will indeed betide you, and bonus! You may even cop the blame for your own difficulties. But it could be worse. Thanks to the courage and vision of the extraordinary Gough Whitlam, who was both mourned and celebrated this week, we have support for single mothers and their kids and a health care safety net – an achievement that President Obama has tried to emulate, with deep unpopularity as his reward. Maybe when he turns 98, someone will acknowledge the decency of what he tried to do.
Meanwhile, my computer is telling me I have blocked plug-ins, and until I unblock them I won’t be able to look at any more videos of kittens doing cute things.* I just need to download Flash Player…no worries. What’s that they need? My password? Umm…
*No kittens were harmed in the posting of this blog.