Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It’s All The Patriot Act’s Fault

Despite the irony of me writing this in my blog, I’m actually a very private person. It’s not that I keep secrets, it’s just that I prefer to keep things to myself. I think it all started back in 7th grade when I asked a friend for advice. It was about how to get a girl to like me, and he suggested I make her a mix tape. So I did, and I put a lot of thought into it. The girl was kind of eclectic and I knew she liked Jurassic Park, Elvis and Madonna. I had also once heard her say that she liked classical music. So I ended up making her a mix tape including “You Were Always On My Mind,” the theme song to Jurassic Park, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and “Material Girl.” It didn’t go over well. I gave it to her on the school bus one morning and I watched her listen to it. Every so often her face would curl up in a confused wince, presumably when a new song (like The Beach Boys, another one of her favorites) came on. We didn’t talk much that year, and last I heard she married someone much older, presumably someone with more experience making mix tapes.

Ever since then, I’ve remained an introvert. Sure, I’ll share bathroom stories on my blog for the world to read, but most of the time I’m just hiding my fear and disillusionment behind measured words and punch lines. In short: I’ll invite you into my stories about the bathroom, but I won’t invite you into the bathroom itself.

This morning, though, my privacy was attacked. I was having some trouble sending emails, and my office’s tech support got me on the phone with Verizon customer service. I was speaking with a nice woman with a friendly accent who ran me through all the usual drills to locate the problem. No luck. Finally, she asks me if it would be alright for her to “access my computer.”

I have no idea what this means. In my small mind, I assume this is some sort of terminology that is lost in translation – like she was asking to look at my account history or do a credit check or something. All I know is that I can’t send email and I have a really funny response to an email from my friend that has to get out ASAP.

She has me go to a website and type some stuff in. Then all this stuff pops up on the screen, some “agreement” that I’m supposed to read, and I just click OK. Suddenly, my cursor is moving across the screen on its own. My ethnocentrism has come around to bite me in the ass – “access my computer” means exactly that. This woman with the friendly accent is IN MY COMPUTER WHILE I AM SPEAKING TO HER. (caps + bold = holy shit.)

My initial reaction is a composed panic. On the outside I am saying, “Oh, look at that! You can move around in my computer from wherever you are!” In my head I am saying, “HOLY SHIT, YOU CAN MOVE AROUND IN MY COMPUTER FROM WHEREVER YOU ARE.” I am immediately aware of everything incriminating on my computer. Granted it is my work computer, so it’s not like my wallpaper is a Lindsey Lohan crotch shot or anything. But take a closer look around and you will find the incriminating evidence. It’s like inviting a stranger into your house – maybe you didn’t leave the sex lube out on the night stand but you definitely forgot to pick up your underwear off the bathroom floor.

The woman begins clicking around on the computer with the blasé attitude of a psychiatrist who has been there, seen that. Across the bottom of my screen I have several programs running, including a web browser opened to a webpage of Japanese bug fight videos (don’t ask). Of course, she accidentally clicks on this and bring it up on the screen. I immediately scroll over to minimize it, but she moves to do the same on her end. The curser is flying across the screen, and I am making embarrassed noises like, “Whoops, haha, just, you know, videos.” The woman finally closes the window and apologizes, saying that she is having trouble seeing my screen on her end (likely because I use a very large screen at work and the resolution is so high, meaning everything is tiny on her screen). Next, she pulls up my Outlook.

I begin to sweat. It’s like she’s a police detective who casually came over for some coffee; meanwhile I’ve got dead bodies under the floorboards. The email that happens to be up in the preview screen is from, who else, Puppy.

A while back, Brooke and I created and email address for Puppy. Mainly it was to set up a new FreshDirect account so we could use a “first time customer” coupon. But then one day I was logged on Gmail as Puppy and noticed that Brook was logged on too, so I Gchat’d her, “Woof. When are you coming home? I’m hungry.” It became a source of amusement, and from time to time we send emails from Puppy to random people. This particular email was from Puppy to our neighbor asking them if they wouldn’t mind walking him after work tonight while Brooke and I were out. It read:

Hello Tracey.

My Mommy and Daddy are alcoholics. (Sad.) All they want to do is go out after work and drink. Tonight they're at it again. Can you let me out back when you get home from work so I don't have to wait until they come home stinking of sake? If not, no worries. I was thinking of peeing on the rug. (Don't tell.)

Tell Cassidy I said woof.

xo, Pupster

So this is up on the screen and this woman with the friendly accent is trying to click on menus up top but constantly missing. Finally, she decides she needs to open a new web browser page and goes back to the Japanese bug fighting video. While this is on the screen, she moves up to the address bar and instead of typing the address in, goes to the drop down menu of recently viewed sites (because she had asked me to type in the site previous to her hijacking of my computer). But of course, she can’t see for shit so she clicks on the first link even though it’s not the one she wants. What pops up on the screen but the celebrity blog WWTDD, with this picture:


Awesome. At this point, I just throw my hands up in the air like, “Hey, want to hear about when I lost my virginity?”

Back to the email from Puppy she goes and I’m kind of just chuckling at this point. I don’t know who’s regretting their decision more right now, me for letting her access my computer or her for accessing it. And even though the pangs of discomfort were many and harsh, by the end of the phone call, as the woman with the friendly accent finished fixing my computer, I was nearly at ease with her poking around in my life. I almost wanted to show her the response I got to Puppy’s email or who won the bug fight, the Scorpion or the Rhinoceros Beetle.

As I thanked her and hung up the phone, I immediately learned the flip danger of letting people in – once they’re there, you might not want them to leave.


Anonymous Arjewtino said...

Great story, Dan. A similar thing happened to me months ago. Compared to your situation, where a stranger was looking at your secret computing, mine was tamer yet just as embarrassing.

January 9, 2008 at 4:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger fort knocks said...

That was a good one. Very funny, but also endearing because it really is (if only half-jokingly) intimate.

I hereby ordain this post your Best in a While.

January 9, 2008 at 4:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger mindy said...

Haha. I bet she was really impressed with what is obviously your strong work ethic. One that rivals mine, even.

January 9, 2008 at 4:29:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with fort knocks--this is your best post in a while. puppy's email account drew guffaws from everyone in my office because the guy i replaced was obsessed with his dog. he would have taken puppy's correspondence seriously.

January 9, 2008 at 4:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Meow said...

oh my god. you and brooke created an email address for puppy??? i almost puked, thought better of it, and started cracking up.

January 9, 2008 at 7:33:00 PM EST  
Anonymous everyone loves my accent said...

What's a friendly accent? I want one of those instead.

January 9, 2008 at 7:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger tammy said...

I get sad when my favorite commenters get busy with their own lives. I want to shriek: Didn't we have something special, Stranger? Didn't we? I'm not kidding.

January 9, 2008 at 8:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Native Minnow said...

She wrote this post, didn't she?

January 9, 2008 at 11:15:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Tyson said...

I don't think I'd mind if someone went poking around my machine. In fact, I might just enjoy it. Some sort of desktop voyeur, perhaps? Ohhh, don't double click there or I might Macromedia Flash™ you my 22" screen.

January 10, 2008 at 12:39:00 AM EST  
Blogger ~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

Now that is freaking hilarious! She must think you have no work at work. Sigh. Now she's going to go and joke about with all her other counterparts about how people in America don't really work!

January 10, 2008 at 1:01:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Dee said...

Hahahaha! That was hilarious! At work, when I'm having any trouble with the pc, I will just call up the helpdesk and get them to access my pc and do whatever they need. Like you, we need to activate the link up first before helpdesk ppl can access the pc so I will clear all my IE history, close all my chat programs, hide my media player then click ok.

January 10, 2008 at 2:28:00 AM EST  
Blogger Katie said...


It's like when I get an IM from someone and I didn't even know I was logged in and I completely balk or duck, because, WTF?@!? Can they see me? And then the person says, not sure if you knew, but it's 200o something -- I can see when you're on IM.


January 10, 2008 at 7:26:00 AM EST  
Anonymous that's what I said...

At work our IT dept. has to access our computer if there is ever an issue. I ALWAYS make sure to clear my history, delete my cookies, (whatever else)before even calling them! Its embarassing when some stranger knows what you've been doing, but it's damn near incriminating when a co-worker does.

January 10, 2008 at 11:02:00 AM EST  
Blogger Faith said...

I'm with dee and that's what i said...every time I need to call tech support for *any* kind of issue, just in case they'll need to access my computer, I clear everything, and only leave the application causing an issue open.

I can't believe that's the first time someone has accessed your computer! I lost my computer-accessing virginity back in 1998. Actually, I was part of a team that was able to do it without even warning people, which isn't the case any have to get people's permission before you can do it, even if they're in the tech dept at your company. We'd only do it to people we knew who had good senses of humor, but it was fun to fuck with their cursor or open programs in that "ghostly" manner while they were trying to work. Heh. I miss those days.

January 10, 2008 at 3:35:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She might not want to, but I want to know who won.

January 10, 2008 at 5:17:00 PM EST  
Anonymous k. said...

i'm mostly just impressed by all these people who have access to some sort of fancy IT department. all we have is a man named jim who comes to take your computer away.

also, oh boy, japanese bug fighting videos. times like these, i just love the internet.

January 10, 2008 at 6:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger ruby said...

i discovered a new laugh in my repotoire whilst reading this.

too much hilarity for me to handle, apparently.

January 10, 2008 at 10:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger ruby said...

repertoire, i mean.

January 10, 2008 at 10:58:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohhh- I worked in an office full of people who were non-geeks and I was a geek at the time and I would, every now and then, 'break' into some people's screens and mess with their cursor. What's funny is, I am so innocent and loveable no one ever suspected me! My cube shared the wall with the control room where I had access to allllll the pcs in the office. I loved seeing everyone run into my managers office wondering what was up and she would call me to have me 'fix' it with IT and I would be all, "No prob! I'll take care of it!..."

January 11, 2008 at 1:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger sid said...

Ha ha ha. My boss "stumbled" across my blog. My blog contains words such as "Lesbian spank inferno".

January 11, 2008 at 2:05:00 AM EST  
Blogger Chris said...

Oh, you just know that "friendly sounding" girl has a secret blog where she shares her version of these events.

Because that's what I would do.

January 11, 2008 at 10:17:00 AM EST  
Blogger Camels & Chocolate said...

HA, while reading this, my computer froze and I feared I was going to have to call tech. Oh, the irony.

But yes, I had a shitty Mac at my old computer at work, and I had to call IT all the time to "enter my computer remotely." You think I would learn, but no - inevitably, Gawker, IM chats, personal emails complaining about my job were always blinking.

January 11, 2008 at 1:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger FireBrand said...


January 13, 2008 at 1:48:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Caitlyn said...

I half want to make an email account for my puppy now. And a facebook page. And a page.

Puppies have needs too.

January 14, 2008 at 12:00:00 PM EST  
Anonymous rick said...

you never disappoint inspite of your "privacy" issues.
now i ask, and please don't diappoint, where did you get those bug fight videos ? (yes, i'll be checking the usual online video repositories) but you could make it easier for me.
even if you don't, i'd still read your blog.
(and btw, ur not the only 1 with privacvy issues.)

January 15, 2008 at 1:21:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hollywood Sucker said...

When I had IT rummaging through my computer once, open windows included: a picture of a kitten in a teacup and a youtube video of guys playing dodgeball with Roman Candles. Gee, cool.

Anyway, my friend introduced me to your blog recently and I just wanted to say it's great!

January 15, 2008 at 1:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger janisha said...

Gee, that sure was hilarious..... Good thing I haven't experienced anything like that....

January 16, 2008 at 4:20:00 AM EST  
Blogger Cathy Mullins said...

Hilarious. A scream. But I don't know what's more fun -- reading the post or reading the comments. What a trip!

January 16, 2008 at 2:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger veda said...

great blog!

January 17, 2008 at 6:12:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dan, can we please get a Q&A friday? please?

January 17, 2008 at 3:18:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In college my brother and I created a fan club on Facebook for our Lhasa Apso, Rusty.

January 17, 2008 at 4:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Good post, dude.

Wouldn't that suck if you got the nose-bleed seats for a bug fight?

January 17, 2008 at 10:29:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nicole said...

Where's Q&A Friday??!!

January 19, 2008 at 12:13:00 AM EST  
Blogger Shannon said...

Hahaha, that's so awesome. I would have enjoyed that tape.

January 19, 2008 at 4:22:00 AM EST  
Blogger Gillian said...

This totally cracked me up. Also can you please post the bug fight video? I'm wickedly curious.

February 14, 2008 at 4:53:00 PM EST  

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