Generation Why?

Here is a source of frustration new to the digital age. My grandparents never dealt with a scenario like this – but then again, I never walked to and home from school each day, uphill both ways and in the snow:

Most people who work in an office setting have a company computer network they must log into and out of each day. So when we corporate cogs start work, we create a password. Every few months, our trusty system (or office IT professional) prompts us to create a new password for security reasons. Some networks force users to have a rotation of three, and even four different passwords because when prompted to create a new password, one parameter often states “please choose a new unique password, distinct from the password you used both most recently and during the period before that” (or some reasonable facsimile).

We sleepwalk into work on anymorning M-F, and we power up our workstations. A familiar prompt greets us, and those login fields beckon. Pure reflex takes over as we hunt and peck our password symbols into the correct field. Alas, we get a red error message. Maybe we misclicked an adjacent character on the keyboard. Perhaps CAPS LOCK was enabled, screwing up the entire process. Or, on occasion, we key in a password in our rotation that is not currently correct, forgetting that it recently changed.

This mental lapse is akin to writing the wrong date, on checks and homework assignments, for instance, for an indeterminate but prolonged period after New Years each year.

So we silently mutter a four letter word or two in our office/cubicle/hotel room/living room (depending on where we are working from this lovely morning). And we try again. This time, we make sure CAPS LOCK is off, and we wrack our brains to make sure we know which password we are currently using. We enter the characters and hit enter. Generally, we hit pay dirt and are able to exhale.


BUT…on rare occasion, we get an error message again.  This time, the red seems to leak into our already groggy and bloodshot eyes and our ringing ears. We audibly shout another four letter word or three. And we mentally prepare ourselves for the battle to come.  For we know, through trial and error, that our final attempt is upon us.  Fuck this up one more time and we are doomed to a visit from an IT tech or our office administrator, who would have to unlock our workstation.

Now we scour our desk drawers to find the little piece of paper we have our current password written – if we are even that organized.  Maybe it is in our phone. Hopefully it is somewhere. Cause if not, then we must endure every movie scene involving a bomb dismantling scene, where a ticking clock is speeding toward zero point zero zero in reverse and the protagonist‘s brow is teeming with beads of sweat, veins popping out of his or her forehead as he or she debates whether to cut the blue wire or the red wire.

Our hands become clammy. We put on our game-face and start to type, taking every precaution to only hit one key at a time, and in the correct order. We know we aren’t going to blow up the entire office with a mistake, but the frustration we feel this early in the morning, and our overarching desire not to have to waste more time this morning having to explain what happened and then waiting to have our computer unlocked throws some serious pressure onto our shoulders nonetheless.

As we key in the final character, we count the little dots in the password field. Hopefully there are exactly as many dots as characters in our password.  Hopefully we typed the correct password – our current password. Hopefully this never happens again.

While we hit enter, thoughts run through our heads – almost universally we imagine the scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton, Samir and Peter take a baseball bat, a la Casino, to their office fax machine. We visualize this scene even if, for some ridiculous reason, we live under a rock and have never seen Office Space.

We can barely watch the screen. Part of us wants to turn away. Another part forces us to endure the carnage of the train wreck that might unfold. And those next split seconds dictate our day to come.

If we have success and log on, we chalk up the frustration we just experienced as a lack of sleep, but are sufficiently psyched to have weathered the storm and come out on top. We will channel the momentum our ridiculous victory creates, and plow through our day.

However, if we fail on this all-important third attempt, and start our day off with what can only be described as a steaming pile of office shit, slathered onto the top of our desk and left to fester in our minds for hours to come, we know our day really couldn’t have started with any less promise.  It throws our whole morning off, invites unwanted negative energy into our heads and basically ensures we will be fighting an uphill battle to restore sanity and serenity into our day. If it is a Monday, this might border on the impossible.

Oh well. At least I can say this with a decent amount of certainty. My computer allows me to do more in one day at work than my grandparents were able to accomplish in weeks. And check Facebook, and read the news, and update my fantasy football lineups and buy a large assortment of products. So take that octogenarians.

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