Some of you might remember the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, in which Patrick McGoohan, having retired from being the secret agent Danger Man, woke up as a prisoner in lala land (Wales actually) where he was known only as Number 6.
The series was written at a time when a lot of people were taking a lot of illegal substances and the show perhaps made sense to them, but little to anyone else. It had a cult following and is probably still showing somewhere on Sky. The rebellious McGoohan had one memorable line, this being something akin to “I am not a number, I am a free man”.
Please note, this does not apply to Sweden!
In Sweden, the Personal Number is King, Queen, Jack and all the rest of the deck – without a Personal Number you cannot, at least officially:
open a bank account;
collect a parcel addressed to you from the post office;
get married, divorced, give birth, die – (I’m making some of this up but you get the point)
apply for a supermarket loyalty card (really, this is true)
register, tax & insure a car
This last one is really quite important as a car is a necessity of life, given the enormous distances you have to travel to do anything that you are permitted to do without a personal number.
I visited a charming village recently, full of courteous, smiling and helpful people. The nearest shop was 30km away. This was not “the nearest shopping centre”, just one single shop selling basic provisions, meaning a 60 km round-trip if you’d run out of food.
True, it was 60 km through glorious scenery and very little traffic but still, you really appreciate having a car.
So, let’s get a personal number!
The process is glacially slow, mainly due to the weather. Sweden isn’t known for having long, hot, summers so everyone (including all the civil servants) take the bulk of their annual leave in July/August with the result that offices are understaffed and you wait, and wait, and wait, to get official matters sorted ….. those left manning the civil service in the summer are courteous, smiling and helpful too, so it is impossible to be annoyed. You just wait ….
To try and speed up the process of registering my car it was suggested that I apply for a temporary registration. For which you need a personal number ….. but – if another government department asks the department that issues this elusive number then you can get a Temporary Personal Number! - which helps you get a Temporary Registration for your car! … is any of this making sense to you, or is it just saying that the system is not quite working as it should?
Still, Sweden is a very pleasant place to wait (and wait …).