Today we have another guest post from Arlene! Show her lots of love. =)
I belong to several professional groups just for members with a certain outlook, either contained within a larger group, or a separate one. These allow a bit of social interaction where certain words, terms and expectations are common to the group. I still belong to some wider ones – and sometimes I forget that not everyone knows how software works; other than what they hear on the news or have read about.
In looking over the groups recently, there seems to be an emerging awareness of identity and what we do with it – outside of creating, in some spaces, a personal brand around some aspects of that identity.
One of the people shared a link to Identity Stories, and I thought I might share a couple of my related experiences, in hopes that my awkward blunders would bring awareness to others. Or in some situations, at least a smile of empathy. And I’ve made many blunders over the years – along with a few things I did correctly.
One of the ones I handled badly enough to make me blush years later was at a local shop that I frequented. I had brought someone in there, and saw the new hire, with lovely long hair that I instantly envied (both thicker and longer than mine, which was only mid-back at the time) and made the assumption that this was a female. I admit it was bolstered by the fact that the owner had mentioned that he had received only two applicants, both female. I guess I missed this one – the greeting of “Hello, ma’am – It’s good to have you here!” shocked the young man, and it showed on his face when he turned around.
Recovery was slow – looking back, very much too slow. I spent a good five minutes mentally kicking myself for my presumption. Okay, to anyone else, it looked like I was hiding in a corner – and that would have a ring of truth, too. The truth that I had likely hurt his feelings finally came to the forefront of my mind, and I made my way to the front, trying desperately to rehearse what I could say to apologize. What actually came out was parts of three potential things: “I’m an idiot. I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you can forgive me.” None of which was put together, mentally, so I figured I’d failed.
And looking back, the only thing that would have been better was to have said something – anything – then, rather than wander off with my mouth open like an out-of-water fish.
I’ve done this since. I’m looking at a reflection of vested, hard-hatted, and dressed nearly the same construction workers – and one has a full beard – I still sometimes hold the door for “the gentlemen”, even if one is female. The last one that this happened with giggled at me – I had noticed this wasn’t a gentleman, looked horrified, and blushed. Which helped. I need to watch this: the season where workers are out and mud-covered has started, and I am trying to improve.
The one that still baffles me was a blind person with a cane. We were on a narrow temporary walkway while the sidewalk was being refurbished, and I scrunched up on the railing to avoid the cane. (That thing looked like it would hurt! And I didn’t want them to need to apologize for tapping me with it.) I still haven’t figured out a better response – if you know, teach me!
Located where I am, there are not always a lot of different people, nor languages, nor cultures that are obvious (which saddens me). Unlike some here, that try and force a conformity on everyone they meet, I do make an attempt to listen, and empathize as much as possible with people that are unlike me – which, if you think about it, is everyone. If you hear someone making a statement, presume that they do know what they are talking about – context is everything. And empathize. And don’t try and solve the issue, unless asked; they may trust you to simply listen, and let them work it out in their own mind. And now the hard part: be aware of this for a while – you may see it unspoken in other people.
I guess what I’ve learned over the many years is “Mistakes happen. Own up to them quickly, and try and do better. And don’t kick yourself for mistakes, once you’ve acknowledged them.” This applies to so many areas of life; I still have a hard time with this.
Recognizing differences can be a tough thing. Even something as obvious-to-me as the examples I’ve given here, might get overlooked by another, and be deeply effecting for someone else. This is a good place to apply the golden rule of “treat others as you want to be treated,” and take the time to learn from your stumbles.
Excellent and poignant reminders. Always treat others with respect and dignity, and if you aren’t sure how to handle a situation, or you stumble, don’t be afraid to admit it and ask for help! Love & light.
Yes, my friends, occasionally the world of tech will spill into this blog as well. But this is not related to my career at all; this is something I experienced while helping out a family member. And I thought I would share the frustration — and the solution.
He has a Microsoft account, based on a Hotmail address. There are 3 devices: his phone, an old laptop running Office 2013, and a new laptop running Office 365. He has some work email accounts, which all remained working fine, plus the personal email — that being the Hotmail account in question.
One day, he does.. something. Let’s say he forgot the password, or perhaps typed it incorrectly too many times. This leads to a slight spiral of confusing actions, involving a password reset and a recovery code, which he faithfully, per instruction, prints on a physical piece of paper (not that we ever needed it). However, something is still amiss.
Outlook 2013 is now continually prompting him for his password, for the Hotmail account. Strangely, also, this old machine still lets him log on to Windows with the old password, even though it’s running Windows 10 under the MS account (not a local user account).
His phone still receives and sends emails just fine — he didn’t even have to re-enter the password there, as far as I know. Also strange. Or perhaps he did re-enter it at some point shortly after he re-set it, but forgot to mention it. Who knows. The point is, he can’t get his personal emails in Outlook anymore, on the old laptop.
Nor the new one, as it turns out. He just hadn’t tried it until I got there. So during my troubleshooting efforts, we turned on the Surface and discovered it, too, in Outlook 365, continually begged for his password, which we of course entered correctly, to no avail.
I tried a lot of troubleshooting, including repairing the account in Outlook’s account properties, removing it and re-registering it, and even removing it from Windows entirely, followed by setting it up again. None of that worked of course.
The actual solution is rather boring, as it turns out. It just took us forever to arrive at it, because MS in no way made it at all obvious, nor provided any direction toward it, until I actually asked for help with Outlook’s support-chat snap-in. The agent replied next-day, which meant I had to tell my uncle to literally let his Surface sit out, open, on, logged-in, all night. Thank God for TeamViewer, is all I can say.
What we found out, thanks to the agent, is that he (the user, not the agent) had somehow enabled Two-Step Verification. This was NOT OBVIOUS anywhere. What it means, apparently, is that after you enter your password, you’ll need a security code that either gets texted to you or uses the MS Authenticator apon your smartphone. This is very similar to Two-Factor Auth, but not exactly the same.
So where do you go to check on this? Again, not obvious. Go to your MS account page in a browser — https://account.microsoft.com/. Then click on ‘Security’, of course. Then.. uhh.. wait, there are only 3 big buttons here. “Change password”, “Update your security Info”, and “Review recent activity”. Well those don’t sound like what I want. Maybe the 2nd one, kinda? Nope.
Read the fine-print. I mean it’s not “fine print” like super-dinky legal jargon, but small enough compared to those big 3 buttons that most people would overlook it. Right underneath it says this:
Yep, there you go. Once you click that link, ‘Two-step verification’ is the 2nd option on the list. So, once we disabled that, he was back in business — his current (recently changed) password was now the only thing needed to configure/re-connect all Outlook apps to his Hotmail account.
More specifically, why is this a thing? Well, 2-factor authentication is actually a very good practice, security-wise. For example, when you log in to your bank’s website from a computer that you don’t normally use to do so, they generally want to text/call/email you with a “security code” to make sure it’s really you. Awesome! That means if someone guessed your password, they still couldn’t get in, because if you got that text/call/email while you yourself weren’t logging in to do some banking, you’d say “Not today, Satan!” and deny that sucker.
Now, let’s take the Microsoft account. Sure, it probably has some pretty important stuff — billing info, for one thing, if you’ve ever bought anything from them, like Office 365, or a game on the Xbox. But even if not, there’s still a lot of your personal info there. Plus, your email itself can be used for nefarious purposes, such as.. oh right, that banking example! If you hadn’t set up your phone as a “2-factor auth” contact-point, they might be using your email to send you those security-codes. And if you’re no longer the only pair of eyeballs on your inbox.. Ruh-roh.
So is this “Two-step verification” thing with your MS account all bad? No, of course not. Like anything, consider it holistically with the rest of your online presence and identity management. If you’re particularly worried about hackers, and you understand the trade-offs, go ahead and use it. If you’re fairly confident in your password strength, and you don’t have a ton of ‘risky’ information/connections involved in the account, maybe it’s overkill.
I personally use the MS Authenticator app, because I work in IT and it’s something I’m accustomed to. I have a lot of devices, and I know that the risk of me losing one is higher than most. But this family member’s situation is much more limited and much simpler. Therefore, we decided, he can live just fine without it; all he needs to remember is his password.
For a driver, most days aren’t bad — you get the person in that car, and they do their own thing. A few try and talk your ear off, or sit silent, staring out the window. Those type average out. But then you get those that are Having A Bad Day. That phrase will soon make you want to hide — ask any driver. The horrid part is, it may not be anything that actually happens to them; they could get a text or call and it would start. You learn to keep a close eye out for the signs.
Since Alice moved out, much to the relief of our night drivers — the parties going on after she was sound asleep not only made you wonder exactly how hard she slept, but also made walking outside an adventure, not to mention trying to squeeze the car into or out of the driveway — these situations seemed to have slowed. No more Josh “walking his dog” and then coming to chat; the drama of young people and their relationships had moved to another area. And Bob, coming over to pee on tires just as you were ready to back up, was starting to become a distant memory. I should have guessed it was too good to last.
One of the longer-term residents of the neighborhood, Adam, had his ups and downs recently. We were aware of it, as he was of the temperament to either be sullen and walk off his thoughts, or to create ideas and things, and to experiment with solutions to issues that were tough to solve, even for experts. With him in the area, there was never a lack of conversation on widely divergent topics to listen in on, when he and his friends got together — those varied depending on how welcoming he was, and frankly, how dangerous the experiments were.
After a bout with his now-ex girlfriend, Adam had gone into a cycle of Bad Days, and then found something to reignite his passion. He now would wave, and the group of people around got smaller, which normally was a good sign that he was working on something that wouldn’t burn, let off weird noises, or need to be transported someplace “to test it out”. The music they played usually suited our tastes, and even the winter season didn’t seem to slow things much.
However, something happened, and Adam Had A Bad Day. The music stopped, the people vanished, and the hours-long walks after dark started. There were no requests for rides, or only for short ones — a mile or so and back to pick up cheese-flavored puffed corn (his snack of choice). The silence bothered me, but not enough to really be too worried about it. The rides Adam asked for were quick enough that even A Bad Day shouldn’t affect me much.
The weather has been cyclic — snow, then cold, then nearly spring temperatures, and repeat. We actually had snow on the ground for a few days (and the local police force frantic with accidents, caused by those who forget that even if snow looks pretty, it isn’t nice to drive through once it melts and refreezes). We were being cautious, and telling folks that the ride would likely take twice as long as usual.
Adam called, and seemed up and cheerful — and wanted more than puffed corn. I personally was thankful for this; it was my turn to grab lunch for the office, and I wanted a particular sandwich that was a bit out of the way. So when Adam called, and wanted a ride to that same place — well, life just works sometimes, doesn’t it? I sent the order in from the business fax (yes, I know, but that’s how they wanted it done!) and gathered the keys, my jacket, and left out the door, with anticipation of a fresh, hot sandwich and my favorite fizzy drink in my future.
Little did I know that seemingly everyone in the world had decided that today was the day to go out. Traffic, normally even on a warm summer day, would have been half of what it was now — add in the ice-covered roadways, and you had to plan for potential disaster. One look at the higher-traffic roads, and I decided to take an alternate route. Which wasn’t a good idea — apparently I drove by something or someone that was not good for Adam.
I hear Adam shift, and look in the mirror just in time to see the hood of the hoodie go over his head. This is not good; it’s time to worry when the hood is tugged down. A telltale sign with Adam is that the more you can see of his head, the better things are going. Even when it feels below zero outside. So, hoping that this is only a brief mood, we keep going. And, it looks like I made the correct choice — there was nearly an accident outside the restaurant with someone trying to turn in, and the car didn’t want to stop even to cross traffic. At least I’m going the correct direction just to turn in!
Yes, you guessed correctly – there is a line for the drive-up window. Thankfully not long enough that there’s a danger of getting the car hit, but enough to be a wait. And Adam’s hood is still down. This means that he is now Having A Bad Day. And I’m the only one that is close enough to listen if he wants to talk.
There are days that I physically check from the back seats to make sure there isn’t a bar-tending license, or even psychology degree, visible from there. Some folks just want to talk things out, and that’s fine with me — I can listen and drive in circles for them. But some expect me to have opinions at best, and answers that will work for them in any situation. I once made the mistake of making a comment that solved one person’s problems — soon I had all of their friends in the car for literally weeks, wanting answers. Now I know why gurus choose the top of the mountain. Some of them actually got angry with me that I didn’t have a ready solution to their problem!
And the hood just got tugged down again, thankfully after he passed me his written order, and the money to pay for it. He’s still silent, so the radio plays quietly in the car, competing with the rap from the car in front of us, the new country from a parked car nearby, and something else that was making the entire car vibrate directly across from us in line. I guess I should have be thankful they had the windows up.
Thankfully, they turned off the music before rolling down the window to order. I looked to make a comment to Adam, and the words stopped — the hood was down below the mustache, and tears were flowing. As if sensing my gaze, he turned violently away from the building, and a slight sob escaped.
After several rounds of mental cursing, I decide, since the Bad Day is obviously getting worse without me doing anything, I’d wait until I was spoken to, or one of the other signs that the Bad Day was spreading. I went back to listening to music, and watching the cars go sideways down the road I was facing.
Oh come on! Whoever you are in the blue car — make up your mind before you get to the speaker! You’ve been in line for over three minutes now, and the menu is the same as it’s been for the last six months. You should at least know what you want, and even if they reordered the menu, you should be able to find it in less than the two full minutes you’ve been sitting there staring at the sign. Well, at least the line at the pay window is gone — but I bet I’ll be done with my order (I’m two cars back) before that person gets done paying.
Finally I get to the speaker, and tell them there will be two tickets on this order. Thankfully, the voice on the speaker is familiar, so it isn’t going to be an issue. I mention the business name, and make sure the order is rang up correctly. I start on Adam’s order, and get as far as the drink before that blue car pulls up to the pickup window. I was almost correct; another two seconds, and I’m pulling forward. Adam is still inside his hoodie, and facing away from the building — did he fall asleep? And since silence seems to be a good thing, I’m darned if I’m going to disturb him to hand him food and drink — so while keeping an eye on the line, I pull out a drink holder for the company, and one for his food and drink. With that settled, I pull up to pay.
There is a comment from the cashier that the fried items are about a minute from done, so I nod and finish paperwork for this half of the ride, while waiting my turn to pick up food. This also allows me to clear things out, and make sure that my logs don’t have drink spilled on them. I’m bad about this — I know I should do it, but some days you get rushed, and then never take the time to put things back. Plus, what better to do while waiting for…
I apologize for that, but this place gives the food as fresh as possible, and make sure it’s correct before handing it out. The drinks for the office came in a carrier, with Adam’s handed out separately. And then, hot, wonderful meals — all in their own bags, and labeled with names for my order. With only moments to get everything arranged, I set things onto the seat, and in the carriers, and got out of the way of the next person. A shift forward a few feet so as to let the next car access the window, and then some moving things around to make sure nothing slides onto the floor if I were to try and stop in a hurry.
Adam is now seriously Having A Bad Day — even the scent of food isn’t enough to bring him out. But things aren’t getting worse, so silence isn’t a bad thing, especially with the roads as they are. Sliding into a pole because you take your attention off the road isn’t an image I want presented of the company. Carefully moving forward, and watching for other drivers, we turn onto the main road; back toward Adam’s house, in lieu of any other communication.
A block later, and the flood of words starts. Adam is still turtled in his hoodie, but that doesn’t seem to stop him. I think this is what must have been disturbing him — the words cover everything from jeans that didn’t fit that morning, to his issues at work, and “finding another job” problems. It’s good that he doesn’t seem to expect a response, because I’d have issues getting a word in! The narrative is broken by sobs, and a request to go home promptly. At a red light, I hand back his large drink, and hear the straw suck air before we’ve gone two blocks.
The hood is up a bit, and the silence doesn’t feel as strained as the ride completes. I sit here, hoping that the telephone doesn’t ring and send him one direction or another. He mentions that a particular friend is coming to visit later, and I sigh silently in relief — that one is a good listener, and may be able to bring him back to normal.
The bill Adam hands me is enough to cover the fare, and he walks off while I’m getting change. Throwing the car in park, I grab his food (which he forgot), along with the change from both the meal and the fare, and catch up to him. He takes the food, and looks at the money, then walks in the house. Okay — even when Having A Bad Day, he still in generous with the tip. I stuff the money from the food bill into his mail box (it’s an old-style through-the-door one) and head back to provide lunch for the crew.
Then discover, while getting out of the car, that I had given my sandwich — the one I’d been dreaming about for days — to Adam!
Shrugging my shoulders, I resign myself to enjoying my drink and his lunch. And it isn’t so Bad after all.
Some of you have made your way over here from my other blog, and I very much appreciate it. Some of you may be just discovering this from your ‘Reader’ feed, or from Facebook or Twitter or wherever, and I appreciate that too! I love all forms of readership. That’s why we write, is it not? Well, partially.
I also write to understand myself, my head. I write because I often have trouble expressing verbally the complex swirling emotions and thoughts in this superlatively complex symbiosis of science and spirit we call the mind and soul.
What can you expect from this blog? Well! All kinds of things. Fiction. Nonfiction. Flash-fiction (I never claimed to be good at it, but it does appeal to me for some reason). Heartache. Joy. Trials and tribulations. Possibly a rant or two. (Or several dozen.) Memories. Memoirs. Movie reviews. (Yes, I’ll migrate the content over, hopefully!)
So pull up a chair, grab you favorite cozy beverage, and see what resonates with you. If you enjoy it, maybe share with a friend! Thanks for reading. ❤