Technology’s Dark Side

Yesterday was one of those days that I would have been more than happy to pull the plug on my computer, walk away from it, and never come back. For awhile at least, it seemed that this powerful genie I've come to rely on had been hijacked by the Dark Side of the Force.

When a Domain Name Really Isn't

Looking back, of course, perhaps I should have been aware that The Force was no longer with me when my domain name expired Sunday. It turned out that the ten dollar fee I paid in May when I received an email warning me that my domain was up for renewal wasn't for the renewal of my domain name at all, but, instead, was for renewal of "domain management," something I've since been told I really didn't need at all. It was painfully obvious, however, that a domain name is an absolute must unless you're as smart as Shelley Powers and know another address that will get you to your site.

I even learned why you might need more than one email address from this experience. Many people who tried to notify me by email that my site was down using loren (at) lorenwebster.net couldn't get through because, of course, it uses the domain name as part of the email address.

When Your Call-In Wasn't

Things didn't go much better when I went in to Walgreen's Monday morning to pick up a prescription that I'd called in the night before on the phone. The pharmacist, of course, said he had no record of the request, so I had to sit and wait for the prescription to be filled. The lady sitting next to me said Walgreen's had an online service that would automatically have prescriptions filled. When I asked at the counter if they could put my name on the list they said no, that I'd have to go online to request the service. After yesterday's experiences, I hesitate to do so.

That Labyrinth Called the IRS

Apparently, though, hindsight is greater than foresight, because I blindly forged on in an attempt to complete a number of financial transactions using my computer yesterday. I'd actually been putting off finalizing pre-paying my income taxes on line at EFTPS because I figured it would be time consuming. After signing up a week or so ago online, I finally received a letter telling me how to obtain a password over the phone. I just knew I would have to punch in endless numbers and wait an interminable length of time to get a password.

I was only half right. Because it was automated, I didn't have to wait at all. What I did have to do was punch in several long strings of number, at times without truly understanding what numbers they wanted. First of all, in the IRS's usual attempts to obfuscate their process, they requested that you input your T.I.N. number, never once letting on that this was your Tax Identification Number, more commonly referred to as your S.S.N., or Social Security Number.

Is this some attempt by the IRS to distance themselves from the much-maligned Social Security system? Are they afraid they'll become the next target of Conservative Republicans once they rid us of the dreaded Social Security? That can't be. The Republicans are already doing everything they can to get rid of the IRS, aren't they, though it's still unclear how they'll pay for their wars and funnel money back to their contributors without a tax system.

Despite having spent two years in the army using the Radio Operator Alphabet and never having trouble in Vietnam understanding a single message, I had to listen to the programmed message from the programmed voice several times to figure out what my password was. Why couldn't this have all been done on the computer? Why introduce snail mail and telephone calls into what would seem to be a fairly easy transaction? Still, after an hour or so I managed to complete the transaction, though I'll have to check my online bank a little later to see if the money has really been transferred.

With Friends Like PayPal Who Needs Enemies?

Being the slow learner that I am, when I saw Shelley Powers' request for donations to help maintain her web site, I immediately clicked through to PayPal to make a donation.

What followed is not for the fainthearted or for those who don't want their faith in America's financial institutions undermined. Tell me Paypal isn't run by eBay!

I've used Paypal once or twice to buy software online and to make donations to websites that I frequent. I even have an "account," though judging from yesterday's travails it's an account I'll never be able to access again because I have moved and changed my email account.

Unfortunately, I couldn't remember my password because PayPail wouldn't accept one of the three or four standard passwords I've used over the last few years. When I went back to my Keychain Access, there was no entry for Paypal, apparently lost in the dreaded hard drive crash last year or in the transfer from my G3 to my G4 many years ago.

No problem, I figured, have them email me my password with their handy email feature. Not so fast, turns out that they want to email it to the original email address you used when you signed up. Of course that company hasn't been in business for years now, having sold out to Comcast. Next, they'll send it to a new email address if you pick up your phone within two minutes. Oops, you generally don't take the same phone number with you when you move half way across the state. Okay, then we'll send it to your original address. Not there? Then gather up a statement with your original address and bank account number and fax it to them, and they'll mail you your password in four or five weeks.

After all this, I decided to just try to sign up for a new account. After I registered all my information and entered my VISA number, I was informed that that VISA account number belonged to a Paypal member and I couldn't register for an account using it.

I suppose if I were a "normal" American consumer I could just pull out another credit card and use that number. After all, I'd been told that at the airlines when my credit card wouldn't scan at their e-check in line. When I told the attendant I didn't have any other kind of credit card, she looked at me in a strange way and for a moment I was afraid that she was going to call security and accuse me of being Un-American for only having only one credit account.

Needless to say, I won't be faxing my account information to Paypal, and if necessary I will walk my contribution to Shelley in St Louis. It might be faster that way.

2 thoughts on “Technology’s Dark Side

  1. Not to make light of your misfortune, but I’m sorry Loren — I got such a chuckle from this.

    After you see the pics from my walk today, you might prefer to walk the contribution here.

    (P.S. And I don’t have a credit card — bank debit card only. Even more unamerican.)

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