"I suggest you talk to your diversity department before you say something you may later regret."
I was standing in my bank on a hot August lunchtime, a young couple with a very cute but very bored little girl seated in the waiting area to my right and a couple of bank employees in front of me. The obviously rather inexperienced woman on desk duty and a young man with spiky hair and an earpiece, dressed in a shiny suit.
I'd gone in to process my name change. On paper an easy process, British law being what it is and names having no legal status here. Just tell them what your new name is and that's it!
Of course, it's not that easy. Aparatchiks like paper, so I'd come armed with my stat dec. "No problem", said inexperienced woman, "I'll get right to it". On to the second screen in the bank name-change system: "Have you got any ID?" I proffered my employer's photo ID with my bloke picture, like a Gold Card in this town. She had the decency to look embarrassed. "I mean, have you got any ID with your new name?"
I pointed out that since I had just changed my name I was hardly likely to have any such ID, and suggested she look again at the very obvious likeness on the photo ID I'd just shown her. She looked confused, and scuttled off.
The cute little girl had started playing a game, improbably with a five pound note from her mother's handbag. How the other half live, I thought.
Inexperienced woman reappeared, with spiky haired man in tow. He peered suspiciously at my stat dec. "Have you changed your name by deed poll?" he asked. I pointed at the stat dec and as politely as I could informed him that a stat dec is functionally equivalent to a deed poll. He looked perplexed and started to say that a deed poll was necessary. At this point I sensed this needed a little focus, and made the suggestion at the start of this piece. At which point I was told to wait while they returned to their lair with an admonition from me that they couldn't take the original stat dec as it had cost me a fiver, a copy would have to do.
Ten minutes later, inexperienced woman returned. We filled in a form, and I'll have to go back next week to order my cheque book and card. The Action Bank, cajoled into action.
I don't expect a small branch of a big bank to know everything about gender changes. They probably see us pretty rarely after all. But I did get the sense that they started from a position of "You can't do this!" when they should have been thinking "How can we do this?".
In a couple of weeks, new regulations will make changing your bank in the UK as easy as changing your cellphone provider or your washing powder brand. Depending on how this lot perform over the next week, I may just take up that offer.