…if people could just do their damn jobs.
Sorry, everyone, I’ve got my grumpy hat on today. Feel free to wander away elsewhere if you don’t feel like overhearing my Mutley-esque mutterings.
Today I got two letters in the post. Neither was from the DWP, which means I’ve now been waiting for over two months to find out whether or not I’m going to be sent for a medical, or if my claim is being allowed to continue without it. Two months is a long time to spend on tenterhooks, panicking and feeling your stomach fall through the floor every time something’s pushed through the letterbox (and of course it’s almost always a flyer for the local evangelical church, or a fucking Betaware catalogue…). I really wish they’d pull their collective finger out and just decide one way or the other. It is what they’re being paid to do, after all.
The first letter was from BT. They’ve noticed that I don’t seem to use my phone much anymore. They stopped just short of saying ‘Ha! Look at you, you lonely, friendless bastard’, but only just. (Actually, to be fair, they probably just assume I’ve started using skype or something similar instead.) Anyway, their response to this state of affairs is that they’re going to refund the credit balance on my account, and cut my monthly payments. All very lovely of them – who wouldn’t be pleased to know they’re suddenly going to get an unexpected lump of cash in their bank account? – except for the fact that my new monthly payment is going to be £3.50.
So, they’re refunding my credit, which means my account balance with BT will be £0.00. With payments of £3.50 per month, by the end of the next quarter I will have an account balance of £10.50. At this point they are going to deduct my next dose of line rental, which will be – wait for it – £30. In other words, I’m going to be in debt by £19.50, assuming I don’t make any calls at all.
Anyone with a couple of spare brain cells to rub together could presumably see that this is a problem, and that there are two better solutions. One would be to leave my credit balance where it is, as at least it would be a while before the shortfall between the payments and the outgoings would catch up with me. The best solution would be to set my new monthly payments at £10 per month, plus maybe a couple of quid extra for any calls I might make if I got a sudden attack of sociability. That way the arrangement could continue in force pretty much interminably, as opposed to BT’s solution which guarantees that the amount is going to have to be adjusted again, and, what’s more, in only three months time.
I don’t know if this decision has been directly taken by an actual, real life idiot, or if it was taken by a computer that had been set up by an idiot. My guess would be that it was the latter. I also don’t know if it’s straightforward idiocy, of if it’s an underhand marketing technique – i.e., I’m supposed to think to myself ‘Oooh, money back just in time for the Christmas shopping! And really low monthly payments going forward, too. Gosh, BT really are astonishingly good value, aren’t they? I certainly won’t sign up with that rival company.’ Either way, they aren’t doing their job properly – setting my monthly direct debit to a level that will cover my regular outgoings.
The second letter was from an art therapist at the local loony bin mental hospital. When my 1-2-1 psychoanalytical sessions with Yvonne came to an end a month or so ago, we ‘agreed’ that ordinary group therapy wouldn’t be useful for me, or, at least, not at present. (What she effectively said was that I would need to be established on meds before she would be comfortable that I wasn’t likely to be a ‘destabilising influence’. I think this was code for going totally bat-shit crazy in the middle of a session.) She suggested an art-therapy group instead, as a way of ensuring some regular contact between me and the rest of the human race, but also as a way for me, hopefully, to learn how to be comfortable in a group of people in a way that is a lot less stressful than an analytical group.
I was always relatively sceptical about the idea. I’m worried that I’ll find myself sitting in a room trying not to guffaw wildly as some poor person explains that they’ve drawn a picture of an onion, because they’ve just realised that, like an onion, we all have lots of layers… I’m also worried because I have all the natural artistic ability of a small whelk. I’m a very verbally- rather than visually-oriented person, as you can probably tell from the screeds of turgid prose I’ve excreted all over this blog. (And yes, that sentence was deliberately wordy – it was a kind of joke, although, obviously, if it had been an actual joke, I wouldn’t be having to explain it in a set of brackets…)
Anyway, I agreed to at least meet with one of the two ‘facilitators’ for the group, and see whether they and I agreed that I was a good candidate for joining a group the next time a space became available. I understand that places are fairly heavily limited in the outpatient group, and that new members are only allowed to join (and existing members leave) at pre-arranged dates in order to make things as stable as possible for those who take part. It was the letter inviting me to this initial consultation that also arrived this morning.
The letter itself was fine, although I was a little dismayed to realise that I would be meeting with the male facilitator and not the female one. I always tend to be more uncomfortable in the presence of male ‘professionals’, partly because all this wishy-washy talk-about-how-I’m-feeling crap feels so decidedly un-blokeish (yes, even poofs like to feel like blokes sometimes), and is therefore easier to do with women. I know this is silly – the kind of men who go into jobs working with people like me are pretty unlikely to be the kind of men who think that emotions are something you only feel during a penalty shoot-out. If I’m honest, I’m also always worried that any male I meet might end up being cute, and that would be an added distraction – I mean, I’d probably spend the whole meeting giggling girlishly and trying to suck my gut in…
What really irritated me was that the letter said that I should use the enclosed map and directions to find out where to go, and that I should also try to read the enclosed leaflet in order that I would have some idea of what was involved before the meeting began. All well and good, apart from the fact that the envelope contained a single sheet of paper – the letter – and nothing else. I’m not too worried about the map and directions – I know the hospital reasonably well (it’s the same place as I meet with General Psychiatrist), and I’ll just turn up early enough to ask at reception. Not getting a chance to look at the leaflet is more irritating, but I daresay it wouldn’t have contained anything that won’t be covered in the appointment anyway. But I’m still annoyed that whoever it was who was supposed to put the extra pieces of paper in the envelope didn’t bother to do their job properly.
Of course, I’m also annoyed because all three of these situations – chasing up the DWP, dealing with my direct debit, asking for the leaflet and directions to be sent to me – could be fairly easily sorted out with a phone call. Except I won’t be sorting them out that way, because I can’t. Even the idea of digging my phone out of the cupboard I hid it in a while ago and plugging it into the wall is enough to send me into a panic attack. There is no way – literally no way – I could sort out even one of these things. Not even the BT direct debit which, if they haven’t changed the system, I could change using their automated system without once having to speak a word.
I find this state of affairs incredibly frustrating, and, if I’m honest, this is where a lot of my irritation is coming from. So really I shouldn’t be complaining about other people not doing their jobs properly, and, as with everything else, I should be focussing on the changes I need to make to fix the things that are really bothering me. It’s just that focussing on my own failings day after day after day gets really tiring. Sometimes it’s a relief to blame someone else for a change.