Laptop Password Trouble

I hate Mondays. Everyone does, but I have a very spacial, hate fueled relationship with that day. It is irrational to despise a day of the week – after all, it is not even a real concept. It is just an arbitrary convention we came up with. Nevertheless, I don’t enjoy it.

One Monday morning I’m rolling into work at 9am. I’m sleepy, cranky and I desperately need coffee in my system. You would feel that way too if you only got 3 hours of sleep. It’s not like I was doing anything fun the night before either. I just didn’t feel like going to sleep, because I knew it was Monday. Did you ever feel that way? Did you ever try squeeze few more hours out of your late evening because you knew you are going to work next day and you wanted to postpone it as much as you could?

It’s not even that I hate by job – I don’t. It’s just that it is a job. I hate the idea that my weekend is over, and that I wasted the whole two days of freedom sleeping, doing household chores and/or spending quality time with friends/family. I could have been so productive if I didn’t do all that other stuff! Of course if I spent my whole weekend doing projects or blogging I would be upset I didn’t get a chance to sleep or hang out with friends/family so it is a lose-lose situation for me. Sunday evenings I have that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me that my two allotted days of fun are over, and I have to wait at least 5 more days to get another two.

It was not like this when I was in college. School was fun! Sunday evening I could look forward to a full day of hanging out with other smart people with similar interests to mine, and sitting in on interesting lectures during which I would learn tons of new stuff. Most of my friends could not wait to graduate and start working and get the fuck out of MSU. I secretly wished that I could be like Van Wilder – an 8th year senior with at least 3 more years to go. Sadly, I couldn’t afford that, and it would mean that I would have to figure out how to fail or drop a class or two. It’s one of these things that I have never mastered and I always suspected it would require more effort than just ingesting the knowledge and getting an A.

So I roll in to work, and the administrative admin girl gives me a nasty passive aggressive look and tells me I need to call so and so immediately cause she broke her computer. It’s actually a lot of information to output, but somehow she manages to spit it out at me in a single burst that hits me on the head like an iron hammer. The method of delivery gives me an impression that it is not ok for me to stop by the kitchen and get that cup of coffee that I desperately need first. So I make my way towards my desk trying to figure out an alternative way to reach the kitchen without passing next to her desk. I fail, so I resign myself to field this call before coffee.

I crank open my laptop, plug in the external monitor, keyboard and mouse, and dial the number while the computer is booting up. After two rings the lady who broke her machine, and is now standing between me and my morning coffee picks up. She is audibly distressed. I put on my best happy voice and blurt out my usual greeting and inquire how is she doing. Not that I care.

I hate talking on the phone. If I’m talking to you on the phone and you are not my best friend, or a girl that I’m fond off I do not give a flying fuck how you are. I probably secretly wish you were dead so we wouldn’t have to have this conversation. But I will probably ask you how your day was or something like that, because it’s part of the protocol. It is the SYN-ACK equivalent of English language. I have learned it when I moved to US and now I just blurt it out automatically, and respond back. It is so ingrained in me by now, that I spit out the canned response even if the other person violates the protocol.

“Morning Luke!”
“Good morning! How are you?”
“Oh, I’m good. Listen, did you get that thing I sent you?”
“I’m fine, thank you…” – Oh, fuck!

Funny thing is that we actually did not have this silliness when we were growing up in Poland. There was just no reason to ask this question, because everyone knew that the other person’s day was fucking miserable. If you are asking a Pole how his day was your better brace yourself for a long litany of complaints. That’s the sort of things we do – we complain at each other. When you meet a neighbor in an elevator you usually chat about how shitty the weather is, how this elevator is a piece of crap, how the stairway smells like piss and the super is not doing his job and etc. That’s the kind of small talk we do. Then, if there is time, we escalate it to “oh, you think that’s bad – listen to the bullshit I have to get done today”. This airing of complaints is sort of therapeutic.

When I moved to US I was surprised to see that this sort of thing made Americans extremely uncomfortable. I talked it over with a few fellow immigrants and they confirmed it – Americans are hypocrites and they bottle it all up. No matter how shitty their day is, they will usually tell you they are doing magnificent, and try to sound as if they were never happier in their life. If they start complaining, that means that something really, really bad happened and you should probably leave them alone.

After living here in US for over 10 years now, I have perfected my poker face and I can usually put on a good show during the greeting protocol and sound like I’m peachy-keen even if I’m groggy, sleep deprived, cranky and annoyed. It’s sort of a reflexive thing now – every time I hear a greeting, I smile and spit out the routine response in a happy voice.

So I exchange my greeting with this lady (fortunately without major fuckups – she followed the protocol) and he opens with:

“Luke, do you remember that memo you sent out about laptop security?”

Vaguely I remember a document that I drafted a week ago. It was pretty much a list of common sense things that every computer user should know about. Stuff like password protecting your windows, locking your screen when you leave the laptop unattended at a client location, not leaving the laptop on the back seat of your car overnight and etc…

Wherever she is going with this, can’t be good… I acknowledge remembering the memo – after all I wrote it. If I couldn’t remember it, that would be a problem.

“Well, I followed the instructions you included there and I set my laptop password…”

Btw, did I mention that this lady calls the help desk every day? Literally! We usually don’t even create support tickets for her unless it’s something serious because it would pollute out system with entries such as “user couldn’t figure out how to remove bold formatting from a heading in MS Word”. She is a nice lady, but I sometimes think she would be much better off in a line of work that would not require her to use a computer… Or any electronic device for that matter.

“I even wrote it down on a piece of paper here. But it won’t accept it now, and I’m locked out of my computer”

There we go. Latest and greatest in a long chain of computer issues. I run her through the usual troubleshooting steps – caps lock, alternate spellings, etc. Nothing gives any result. I somehow start suspecting that her registry hive got corrupted. I’ve seen this issue before once – user simply could not log into windows in the morning.

Finally I make her log in using the Administrator account and change the password again. This works fine, ruling out my registry corruption theory. This lady somehow managed to set up a new password on her laptop, type it in twice into the required boxes and then write down and memorize something entirely different. Splendid.

She of course did that on Friday evening, so she was locked out of her computer for the whole weekend and she didn’t think it was a good idea to call me on my cell and let me know. I’m pretty sure I will get blamed for the fact she didn’t do any of her work over the weekend sometime down the road.

This, ladies and gentlemen is just one of the reasons why I hate Mondays. People do stupid shit on the weekend and then we need to rescue them first thing in the morning. I could have been drinking coffee and writing code during that time. But no – I had to help this lady to reset her windows password.

Sigh… I can’t wait till the weekend.

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9 Responses to Laptop Password Trouble

  1. I also try to squeeze out the last hours of my Sunday and usually end up only getting a few hours of sleep. Then I spend 5 days looking forward to next weekend when I am free again. It’s painful to imagine doing this for the next 50 years.

    I’ve never really thought about the “how are you” protocol. It is something I do myself without even thinking about it. I have been programmed to do it. Maybe it’s time to experiment breaking protocol and gauge reactions.

    Bringing it up reminds me of a scene in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Mike, the computer that spontaneously became conscious, starts saying “null words” like “please” and “thank you” after studying human behavior, which catches Manuel, the technician, by surprise. Manuel says that Mike means these words as much as humans do.

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  2. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I hate Wednesdays. That middle of week where everything is in limbo. Last weekend was too long ago to remember; the coming weekend is too far away to pine for.

    If my work week is an equation, it’ll be a cosine curve.

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  3. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Haha, I can relate to pretty much everything you wrote. Btw, kinda felt a bit like BOFH in the middle there :P

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  4. Shrinivas Kudva INDIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Wow, You really cranked out the strong language today. But it’s nice to read what u really feel. :-) I am going to graduate next month and start working. Reading your post makes me think that maybe I should get that doctorate instead… with my parents funding me, of course! hehe!
    PS- like you, even I feel that a Master’s is not just reading and getting an A! I think it really needs interest and for a confused guy like me, its not worth it right now!
    More power to you!

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  5. Victoria UKRAINE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I always hated Sunday evenings because of that ‘I have to go to work’ stuff. And I don’t hate my job. Puzzle :)

    Re: windows passwords – recently I had to call our DCO guys because I couldn’t log in and I knew my password and I even tried it in all possible combinations – it didn’t work. They had to reset it. I felt so blond :)

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  6. Sam Weston UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Well this Monday was a bank holiday for me so I didn’t have this particular issue this week. However, I absolutely know how you feel. When I was at college and getting up at 6.30am during the week, I could barely bring myself to move on Mondays. Fortunately I’m now at uni and my first lecture on Monday is at 11am :D Please don’t hate me…

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  7. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    You don’t need coffee; you need beer.

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  8. James Heaver UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I think you can start pining for the weekend on Wednesday.

    Friday doesn’t count as a real work day since, well, its Friday and it’s the weekend in a minute (at my last job we tended to have stressful Friday morning deadlines which exagerated this even more). So if Friday isn’t really a work day then that means that Thursday is the last real day of work, which you start looking forward to on Wednesday.

    If you’re looking forward to the weekend on a Wednesday then it counts as the beginning of the end of the week.

    Monday, because you’re coming back from the weekend, normally has a lazy morning. You’re not with it, you’re drinking coffee, you’re catching up on email.

    So what your work week really consists of is Monday afternoon and Tuesday. Which is only one and half days – and how bad can that be?

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Chris Wellons: Yeah, I think of these things as protocols that facilitate communication. When people say “How are you?” they don’t really want to hear about your day. It’s like a calibration procedure – SYN, ACK, SYN, ACK. Ok, let’s get down to business.

    @Mart: Really? I view Wednesdays as “Half Way There” days. So they are not as bad as Mondays.

    @freelancer: I wish I was a BOFH. I think I’m just too nice to people. :)

    @Shrinivas Kudva: Hey, go for it. I want to get my PHD at some point, but I think I need to find a job that will a) pay for it or b) pay me enough so that i can afford it first.

    @Victoria: It happens sometimes. In related story, I forgot my Voicemail password on my cell phone yesterday. It just vanished from my brain and the muscle memory was gone – I had to go through the reset procedure via the voice menu.

    This is the second time it happened to me. One day I’m typing in that pin without any issues. Next day it’s gone. I never forgot a computer related password though – probably because they are alphanumerical rather than just numbers. Numbers mysteriously vanish from my memory.

    @Ian Clifton: Yeah, I know! But they won’t put beer dispenser in the cafeteria. We only have a coffee machine. :(

    @James Heaver: Yeah, but you still have to be AT work, even if you are not working full steam. You can’t sit and watch TV, play video games all day.

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