So far we’ve had it pretty easy. Entering the country was a piece of cake. Buying a car? No problem (those came after). But now we’ve come upon our most formidable foe to date: opening a bank account. Carrying our two missives from Bord Gais and the Electrical Supply Board, along with our passports, we strode confidently into our local branch of AIB.
“We would like to open a joint current account, please,” I said.
“Certainly, may I see your passports and proof of address.”
We presented them to the customer care specialist.
“I’m sorry, these aren’t utility bills.”
“But they’re from the utility companies. This one even has a reference number,” I said, pointing to the number.
“We need an actual bill.”
“But we have to have a bank account to activate our utility contracts, otherwise we have to pay a deposit.”
She said nothing, but her expression said “Not my problem.”
“We have a tenancy agreement,” I said hopefully, pulling it from a folder.
“I’m sorry, we can’t accept that.”
Sharon noticed a sign on the wall that said in the absence of a utility bill other arrangements could be made. “What about these other arrangements?”
“Here is what we require,” the lady said, handing Sharon a slip of paper. It was no help. We had none of the required documents. Nothing could save us now.
“We will also accept a PPS letter,” the lady offered.
“So, you won’t accept our tenancy agreement as proof of address, but you’ll accept a letter from the Welfare Department with our PPS numbers, for which we used our tenancy agreement as proof of address?”
I was speechless. Her unwavering confidence was unassailable. Shaken but undeterred we left the bank in search of PPS letters. The local welfare office was close by. A sign in the lobby said to go to Claims for new PPS numbers. Great. A sign in Claims said they were no longer accepting applications for new PPS numbers and to go to the office on Pearse St. in city centre. Huh? As of November of last year. Oh. Reminds me of the time we were in a Dairy Queen in Austin and listened to the drive-thru clerk tell every customer they were out of beef after each person ordered. Is it so hard to say “Welcome to Dairy Queen. I’m sorry, we’re out of beef. Can I take your order?”
The lady in the welfare office on Pearse St. was very helpful and we were out of there in about ten minutes. We’ll have our PPS numbers in less than ten working days. That’s great, but doesn’t help us get a bank account now. I was about to call a utility company and ask for something that looked more like a bill when I remembered reading that sometimes banks will accept a television license receipt as proof of address. Everyone in Ireland with a television has to pay the government €158 a year for the privilege. This is how the state television channels are funded. The funny thing is that you have to show no proof of address at all when you pay your television tax, and they will dutifully write down whatever you say is your address. I called AIB to ask if the television license would suffice as proof. It would. Éirinn go Brách!