Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Hope I Wasn't This Clueless at That Age

Lots of people forget their passwords and can't log into our computers. Usually, we just reset the password for them and send them on their merry Interweb way. Works most of the time. Sometimes, people come back up to the desk after a reset. We go back to their computer with them and often find that it's a matter of them typing things into the wrong boxes on the screen. Pretty straightforward, boring, workaday stuff. Today, though, a teen boy went above and beyond. He told me that he'd forgotten his password. I reset it and he walked off. He came back about 45 seconds later because he'd forgotten what he'd told me to reset it to between the time he told me what he wanted for his new password and the time he got to the computer. It annoyed me, but I reset it again. He asked me to write it down for him. I handed him one of our cheapo golf pencils and a piece of scratch paper and encouraged him to do the writing, thinking that it might reinforce the memory.

He seemed a little put out, but did it and sauntered off to the computer room. He came back a moment later, annoyed.

"It doesn't work," I was informed. I probably should have gone down to his computer and typed the damn thing in for him to make sure there wasn't a bigger problem, like maybe the entire InterWeb was broken or maybe he couldn't operate a ten key, but I didn't. I am, as I have mentioned many times, quite old and crotchety. I was annoyed by what looked like abject cluelessness, and, the more I looked at him, the more my annoyance turned into contempt. It was clear he had spent a great deal of time in front of a mirror that day (he'd gelled the shit out of his hair and was nauseatingly redolent of Axe or some other malodorous boyfume). He wore shiny, tight, skinny, red pants and a mass-produced t-shirt that was supposed to look all thrift store ironic (dude, I totally believe you found that North Carolina bait shop t-shirt at the Goodwill--total thrift score, bro). To top off his up-to-the-minute ensemble, he wore a yellow, puffy, ill-considered vest with a skull motif on it. I couldn't see his shoes, but I bet they were from Ed Harvy. Who could blame me for not wanting to lift a finger on his behalf?

So I handed him a guest pass. Guest passes are supposed to be for people from outside the area who don't qualify for one of our cards. We're supposed to encourage/request/beg people to get cards, but lazy deskslaves hand out guest passes like Halloween candy. They have the word USERNAME on them, followed by the word GUEST. Below that, they have the word PASSWORD followed by six random characters.

"What do I do?" he asked, taking the slip of paper.

Knowing who I was dealing with, I said, very slowly, "Well, on the screen, where it says 'Username," type 'Guest.'"

At this point, I tapped the word "Guest" with my red pen. "And where is says 'Password,' you type these six characters." As I said "these six characters," I circled the six characters with the red pen.

He took the pass. He looked at it. He stood there for a longish moment. He looked at me. Fleetingly, I had a small but sincere hope that my simple instructions had somehow sunk in. That they had, against expectation and logic, taken root in the rocky soil of his mind. That maybe I had connected with him in some way and that this would be the beginning of something greater. That, thus armed with the guest pass, he would stride forward into a brighter future of learning and accomplishment. That someday, far in the future, he would look back on that moment as a turning point in his life. That he would tell his his grandchildren of the time that he was handed a small, simple slip of paper by a scowling geezer and that it lead to all the greatness that he had achieved. Or that at least he'd get away from the desk before I passed out from his cloying scent.

But instead, he looked at me funny. "Wait," he said, "Can you write that down?"

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