I have just submitted my online application to receive a paper application to get a provisional license which I need in order to take the theory test which will allow me to start driving so that I can eventually perhaps take the driving test. These are, of course, not currently being offered due to lockdown, but it seemed prudent to get started now.
There are, naturally, fees at every stage. There'd have to be! How else are they going to support all these necessary layers of their carefully-crafted system?
I am developing a Pavlovian twinge in my gut every time I need to interact even obliquely with British bureaucracy. There are no clever interfaces. No QR codes. No, I suspect, online databases. Of anything. Every interaction becomes A Thing.
Every. Single. One.
I got alarmed when, after paying, I got a screen saying they needed more information from me and will be in touch by mail in about a week (and then another screen saying that, actually, all mail transactions are DDTC, Delayed Due To Covid, that glorious shrug-off-accountability phrase that is the silver lining to British Bureaucracy of this terrible pandemic and would probably need to be invented if it did not already exist). Googling around, it seems they will likely ask me to mail my original and extremely hard-won residency card to some address in Swansea, because god forbid they should share files with the Home Office or accept a scan of the document or have a local branch office I can take it for inspection. I figured I'd save time, and have already entered "follow up with the Department of Vehicle Licensing for the return of my precious residency card" into my dayplanner for three consecutive months (starting six weeks from now, because, y'know. DDTC).
British towns and cities are maddeningly higgledy-piggledy/fascinating (depending on my mood and how urgently I need to find the address I'm looking for) for quite understandable reasons: the modern city is a palimpsest built atop a physical geographic history the scope of which barely makes sense in the US mindset. But it's almost as if the British psyche has internalized this model as a prescriptive template.
Take the driving license (say, for example). I'm sure it's been done via post for as long as it hasn't been sensible to do by parchment and village banns. The internet comes along, and, rather than re-making their system, they graft a layer onto it: input all your information online, so we can mail you an application and ask for it all again! (With, I'm anticipating with certainty, a demand for a utility bill as Proof of Residence.) Look! We're so modern!
People who talk about "disruptive technologies" or "moving fast and breaking things" are annoying twats. No two ways about that. But, dear lord, if anything was ever going to cultivate my sympathies for this kind of thinking, it's 11 months spent living in the UK.