Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Different Kind Of Access Problem

Time to break that rule about not writing about work again. Of course we will avoid the specifics. Under absolutely no circumstances will I reveal the name of my employer, which is a shame because it single-handedly cured Ebola just the other day.

But this is not about that. This is about what MOAFH specialises in. My foolishness and subsequent humiliation. A bit of background for you. My employer is very security conscious, as it needs to be. They wouldn’t want the wrong sort of people getting into the building, let alone areas of said building where the wrong sort of people could wreak various kinds of havoc. I am not sure what type of people they have in mind. Perhaps the locals, which gives rise to all sorts of brilliant gags about what you call a scouser in an institute of higher education (careful……). But I’m not doing any of those gags about scousers. Some of my best friends are scousers. Salt of the earth, God-fearing insurance fraudsters that they are….. I, on the other hand, do not fear God as we know because I am a Godless atheist. So anyway on account of the security consciousness of my employer we have staff only access to many areas of the building including the office in which I conduct most of what passes for my daily business. I know, I was as surprised as you to learn that I’m not actually a proper writer. And that a disabled person has a job. Back to the plot. Access works like this. You have a staff card and you swipe said staff card along a reader outside the office door. The reader clicks and you are granted access. I have been gaining access to this place of business in this precise way for six years.

Six years.

Two days ago my six-year-old battered, tatty old card gave up. As an amusing aside the photograph on my staff ID card was taken with something odd in the background hanging above my head and because my head is shaved it looks like I have a Mohican circa David Beckham 2001. Without the good looks, clearly. The card had been very erratic in recent months, only allowing me access when it was of a mind to do so. All of which was much to the chagrin of my long suffering colleagues, particularly those who sit nearest to the office door and to whom it therefore most commonly falls upon to get up from their seat and press the button inside the office which unlocks the door. By now the card had decided that it didn’t care what mood it was in, I was not getting into that office unaided and so I went downstairs to the security desk to get an upgrade. I came back to the office and swiped in. Nothing. Nada. Computer says no. I went to the printing room down the corridor and swiped the reader outside that door. A beep later access was granted. Something was beginning to whiff a little. How could it be that I could use the card to get into the print room (and as I subsequently discovered through the barriers just inside the main entrance, the barrier to the disabled car park and the main door at the rear of the building) but not to get into the office? There are those who would point out how typical and predictable this is. Of course I would be able to get everywhere else but into the room that I move in and out of most often. The Law Of Sod was written with people like me in mind.

I went back down to the security desk twice to obtain new cards, believing that on each occasion they had just issued me with duds. I spoke on the phone to the security manager who assured me that everything was fine with the technology and that he also was baffled by the whole affair. Today he visited me at the office and we went out to the reader so that I could demonstrate the problem. You’re ahead of me, aren’t you? Well not quite perhaps. I swiped it twice more, in the way I had been doing for six years. Nothing. He took the card from me and swiped it twice more in the way I had just demonstrated. Nothing. At this point I should point out that the reader has a little screen at the top where it says something like ‘please swipe card’. Below this screen is a keypad. For six years I have been swiping the card across the screen and gaining access. Never have I swiped it across the keypad. Presumably for shits and giggles he thought he would give the latter a try. He swiped the card against the keypad, just below the top row of numbers.

There was a click and the screen lit up. The door was open.

I have been back out there several times since and even now if I swipe my card anywhere above the top row of numbers nothing happens. An inch or so below and I’m in. Upon our discovery the security manager gave me a look which I cannot reasonably describe without having the company arrest me and lop off my head. Suffice to say he was suitably and understandably unimpressed at having been dragged probably half way across the city from a different site to explain to the disabled person that he has been swiping his card incorrectly for the last six years. Actually, I’m not sure that he believed that I have been swiping it that way for six years but I can assure him and all of you that I have. Nevertheless I have at best assured my place in one of his ‘people at work are stupid’ anecdotes when he is out with his family and friends over the Christmas period. At worst I have earned a place in a rather darker ‘disabled people are stupid’ lament.

Maybe it’s me with the attitude problem but this always seems worse because of the prickly problem that is disability. When you have what might otherwise be referred to as a blonde or senior moment it’s magnified enormously by a wheelchair. You can multiply what you think you would feel in that situation by about 10,000. As a disabled person in that predicament you can’t shake the feeling that everyone thinks that in the first place you are thick, and in the second place you are thick because you have a wheelchair and it is all you can do to avoid slavering in the corner while rocking back and forth and shouting ‘sausages!’. My path will likely never cross that of the security manager again so what kind of first and last impression is that to leave him with?

But that’s me isn’t it? Always doing my bit to promote disability and obliterate tired old stereotpyes…..

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