Michelle’s Review: This is a very relatable read, evoking a familiar tech-related anxiety.
I have just changed my email password for the 18th time in the past few weeks. I’m not certain what trigger/criteria sets off the Change Your Password message. I do know that I can’t log in because my email service has blocked my entry. I am tempted to explain to my email service the only one they are keeping out of my emails is me. I know if I am working and going back and forth between emails and something I’m writing, I get a nasty notice stating I did not log out of the service. This is only one trigger which sparks the locking up of my personal business. I am unable to keep the email service open as I work on other projects, readying them for emailing. Instead, once again, I have to change the password.
After the third time of being blocked in a week, in great frustration, I started making up nasty passwords. Youfuckingbastards3 happens to be one of my favorites. It gave me great satisfaction even though I knew that no human being was ever going to set eyes on it. Seven passwords later, Thisisbullshit9 had zero impact on either the frequency of blocking messages or the tension in my body. Iwillkillyou10timesover got high marks for security status, but apparently computer programs aren’t made to feel uneasy by the death threats of a 60-something-year-old woman with no access to her emails. By this point, I was no longer feeling smug or the least bit self-righteous.
Unable to gain the technical or psychological effects I desired, I decided to change tactics. The power of positivity brings us good things. At the very least, it should keep me from foaming at the mouth and smashing my fist down on the keyboard. Upwardbound9 was followed five minutes later by Nextonesawinner5. Two days later my sighing deepened into blubbering resignation with Goodthingshappen2.
Prior to this tension-building calamity, I had used the same password for ten years. It was simple and easy to remember as it was my dog’s name. Then one day, the email service blocked me from signing on. I dutifully changed the password but forgot to write it down. All email services give you a way to recover your password or change it based on sending you a text or email, with a code for access, to whatever means of communication was registered at the time you signed up for the service. The recovery email address was one my husband used for his work…ten years prior. He was my reliable tech person then and he set up my account using the only other email address we had at that time. He no longer worked for that company and did not have access to that email address.
I possess little talent in the realm of technology, but I can write. I accessed the Get Help prompt in the password recovery message and literally begged them to look at how long I had been using their service and the recovery email was no longer accessible. To my complete surprise, they contacted me at the phone number I gave them, stating they had other identifying information and the What is your mother’s maiden name? question came up. This caused a lot of hand-wringing on my part because I didn’t know if my husband had given my mother’s name or his mother’s name.
If I gave the wrong answer, would they suspect me of hacking? If questioned, it would take less than two minutes for them to get the picture. I can’t even reliably set up a sign-on for my own computer without having to call my son for an explanation of the virtues of having a pin number versus a password. I don’t think I could convince anyone I am even unwittingly working for Russian-backed criminals looking for lucrative information on somebody named Ethel. I am not totally without skills. The skills I possess are minimally adequate for supporting the critical needs of writing emails and posting a blog. Until something goes wrong.
When I graduated from college in 2009 (yes, 2009), I had acquired some useful information on operating a personal computer. I had used computers for years in my accounting and physical therapy professions. Those systems had only one function apiece and I was trained in their specific use. My ineptitude for general computering was obvious during my internship at The Center for Aids. In the guise of researching the program for their clients, the CFA staff sent me to a class specifically designed for individuals looking to upgrade their marketable computer skills. Taking this course gave quite a boost to my understanding of the larger computing picture even though it was a basic course in operating a personal computer. I’m still learning and none of my files are called New Blank Document or Doc1 anymore.
You may be asking yourself why, with my enhanced computing skills, I didn’t just get another email service. I already had Gmail, but I hated it and used it only when I needed it, but really, never. It had been acquired so that I could access some other Google service. I did not want to lose my current service because I had many emails stored in nice neat folders under topics such as YOGA, where I stashed my yoga business communications; and Ethel, which housed all of my blog-related emails.
So, with the threat of losing all my stored emails, I reluctantly admitted to myself that my sweet, helpful husband would have given the maiden name of his own dear mother in order to setup my email account. Bingo. I was back in business with a nice new password, dutifully written down with the other 273 passwords in my secret password journal. In punishment, via the We have detected unusual activity notice, the service widened the criteria for denying me access to all my communications …on a superfluous and annoying timetable. Other than forgetting to sign out at the end of my email reading session, there does not seem to be any discernible reason for the constant request for updating my password. My emails are extremely safe and any state secrets are formidably guarded against attack.
So now, 18 email passwords later, I have created a special piece of paper, neatly folded in my pencil case, for recording the many passwords I have angrily, optimistically and surrenderingly created for the purpose of appeasing Youfuckingbastards3 in some remote location where I can’t reach them with threats to tell their mothers how badly they are behaving. At this moment letter writing would be more satisfying (if not as quick) as a means of communication with friends and family. It would considerably reduce all the cursing and crying. I would have to convince everyone else that the post office is more reliable than my email service and worth every cent. Truthfully, it’s a toss-up.
I am composing a blistering communication to send to my email service, filled with vacant threats of abandoning their services and adopting a more primitive means of communication. But first I need to find my paper with the last hastily scribbled password. Wish me luck. Call or text. Email status in flux.
From my happy space,
Cheryl (and the baby alpaca)
Guest Editor Michelle is a member of the Asheville Women Writers Cooperative. She has recently moved but still hasn’t brought her dog to visit me. I appreciate her taking the time to read over my little tangle of angst.