A taxi man explained why Peter Casey would be a great president
Conor Pope: The perils of having to renew your passport and driving licences all at once
“For the majority, this guy seemed to speak a common person’s language,” says Independent Cllr Shaun Cunniffe of Peter Casey. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Things started expiring on me last week and as each one died I wondered if the gods were subtly telling me my time was up too. Within a week my credit card, passport, press card, driving licences (yes that’s plural) and car insurance disc all went from being essential documents to worthless pieces of paper and plastic.
The easiest act of renewal was my credit card. I didn’t even know its end was nigh until my bank wrote me the nicest letter they’d sent since the crash made them tighter than Rod Stewart’s trousers. The letter included a fresh card they hope I’ll use to swell their profits.
Nor did I know the time was up for my press card until a woman emailed me out of the blue asking me for a picture of myself. I normally baulk at sending such things to strangers – without at least the promise of a suitcase full of blood diamonds or an audience with a sub-Saharan dictator’s widow – but I threw caution to the wind and was rewarded 48 hours later with a shiny new ID card to replace a slightly less shiny old one.
The machine kept changing the C in my name to a D. ‘Donor Pope. Can Donor Pope come to desk five?’ boomed a voice over the PA
Getting a new passport was largely effortless save for the involvement of a grumpy colleague who took a photograph of my scowling face using my phone. Truth be told, he took 27 photographs but I was unhappy with my scowl in the first 26. Using the swanky Passport Office website, I uploaded the pic and submitted my application and fee and had my passport in under a week.
The driving licences broke me. First I tried to apply online but the computer said “no”, not without a Public Services Card. So, to stop myself schlepping out to Santry where licence applications are processed, I signed up for the card. Then I applied online again. But again the computer said “no”, so I had to schlep out to Santry anyway. And because my licences have expired I couldn’t drive and had to take a cab driven by a man who explained in great detail – and more than once – why Peter Casey would make a great president.
I stared sadly out the window. In the application office I punched my name into a machine to get the number that would tell me how long I’d have to wait. Or I tried to. The machine refused to give me a number under my actual name and kept changing the “C” to “D”.
“Donor Pope. Can Donor Pope come to desk five?” boomed a voice over the PA.
Now I passed my driving test many years ago, but it was when I had a car with an automatic transmission, so I did it in that to the barely concealed contempt of the examiner. “We don’t see many people doing the automatic test,” he said. “The odd granny. And you, really.”
In recent years the Popemobile has become manual so I got a different licence making me, I suspect, one of only a handful of people with both a pink one for automatic cars and a green one for everything else.
Renewing the full licence for Donor Pope was easy, but then I hit a roadblock. I couldn’t renew my training wheels licence without booking a driving test. The lovely woman processing my application suggested I apply for that online on my phone and come straight back to her with the reference number so she could process my learner’s permit.
In search of a postbox, I stood outside The Irish Times and looked to my phone for help. “Siri find me a postbox,” I said. It had no idea what I was saying
It was a brilliant plan. But the computer said “no” again. I rang the test people to find out why and they explained that my two licences had confused the computer so my online application had been denied and I would have to make a manual application – fittingly, I suppose – for my manual test.
I was told to pay by postal order, so off I went to a post office to get one. I tried to pay with my new credit card but the computer said “no”. Again.
“We don’t accept credit cards,” the woman behind the counter said.
I asked why and she shrugged. “I dunno, I guess we haven’t updated the systems.”
The stress of securing my postal order meant I forgot to buy stamps. I blagged two from a colleague and licked them – the stamps, not my colleague – and went in search of a postbox. I stood outside The Irish Times and did what I often do and looked to my phone for help. “Siri find me a postbox,” I said. It had no idea what I was saying.
So, like an English tourist trying to communicate with a Spanish shopkeeper, I started shouting slowly but clearly at it. “Siiiiiirrrriiiii. Fiiiinnnnnd meeeeee a possssttbooooxxxxxxxx,” I said.
It – stupidly – directed me to a Parcel Motel in Newlands Cross. And I – stupidly – wandered the city’s streets aimlessly. Eventually I found my way to the GPO. And posted my letter. Now I just have to do the bloody test.