Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The debate in the British Parliament on whether to introduce a national identity card, appears to be going nowhere. In a land where you leave home without a driving license or any other form of ID in your pocket, a national identity card goes against the grain. If a cop stops you for drunk driving or disorderly conduct, he’s likely to open the conversation with one of the following:

“Sir, I must ask you to accompany me to the station. Are you coming quietly?”
“Sir/Madam, can I have your name and address?”

Enough people have given phony names and addresses that the government has decided to try the national ID card.

In other ways, we’re definitely not in Kansas any more. When I went to the bank to open a checking account, the bank lady looked me up and down, then asked whether I could provide her my salary – and proof of it too. Really! I told her to look up my bank balance and convince herself that I wasn’t a deadbeat, but that didn’t wash. I can think of only one occasion in the US (buying a house) where I’ve told anyone my salary. Soon I realized that cheques have gone the way of the dinosaur anyway. People pay for groceries, gas and whatever with debit cards tied to a PIN. To pay utility bills, they use direct debit. You provide the utility company with your bank code and account number – and – yes, they lift the money from your account. Dazed by the prospect, I asked the cashier at the bank if this was considered safe. What about identity theft? “Oh it’s quite safe. Everyone does it,” she said, with a quick look at me to ascertain what planet I was from.

It dawned on me that the British government was somewhat intrusive when I filled out the application for Amber’s visa. After answering when and where we were married, I saw the following questions: Where did you and your spouse first meet? How many times did you date? How many times do you see her? When did you last see her? Are you committed to a permanent relationship? What is your sleeping arrangement?

I wouldn’t expect ACLU to be excited about closed circuit cameras on the streets, or speed cameras on highways, that mail the vehicle’s owner a nice surprise. BTW, you can dispose of the ticket if you name your kid as the actual driver of the car. Or you take the bullet for him/her. On the other hand, the cops behave with decorum. Signs on the highway warn you of speed cameras and that the cops are hiding in the bushes half a mile ahead. In this country only the true dumb asses get caught.

Visiting the doctor is also different. Amber and I drove to register at the clinic (known here as a surgery) in Kingswells, because that surgery serves the area where we live. We don’t know what doctors operate there, but I assumed that they passed the relevant college courses and wouldn’t operate on my brain without a little experience under the belt. We fill out a simple form with name, address and favorite medications. No space for insurance, job or financial status. If you’re a resident, you’re covered. Not that I’m crazy about doctors or nurses, but if either of us get a nagging pain in the chest, we only have to worry about the pain, not financial ruin.

Then there’s the British open door policy on immigration. Here in Aberdeen, half the maids at the hotel are Polish. The past two years Poles and Eastern Europeans have been coming to Britain in droves, like 200,000 a year. They take jobs as bus drivers, farm hands, and hotel helpers. The sort of jobs that the locals don’t particularly want. Poland’s economy is in the toilet, hence the exodus. Sound familiar? Is does, except for one factor. The immigrants are legal, they have the right to work here and they pay their taxes. They also tend to blend in with the locals and aren’t obvious until they speak. Some will eventually return, but most may not.

After all, this is the land of opportunity.

haha, don't go sending me your speading tickets, Daddy. Speaking of British Govmt intrusiveness, have you heard about the ridiculous debate about 'hoodies?!?'
I meant speeding tickets, not speading. i'm not stupid, just can't type.
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