The outgoing text message on my cell phone said: “mmmmkmmmbbh inhumanely to him as opposed to plbghhhfd Lappish The fact that wglmmmnn But the”
Make sense? It didn’t to me either. The text had been sent to a friend several hours before I discovered it. She hadn’t yet replied. It couldn’t have been an accidental “butt dial,” as such mistakes are so indelicately called. In the first place, I don’t keep my phone in my hip pocket. And in the second place, when I’m finished with the phone I click it off so that it must be swiped open to use.
Where in the world had this nonsensical garble come from?
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that granddaughter Emmie, age two-and-a-half, must have been the culprit. I’d spent the night at her house and shown her some videos of her cousins stored on my phone. Then I’d plugged it into the outlet beside my bed and—being old school and in no way married to the phone or any other piece of modern technology—left it there, untouched and charging, until the next morning.
When I went in to pack my suitcase, I found Emmie happily re-watching a cousin video. She’d swiped the phone open, found the photos app, and chosen the clip she wanted to watch.
Amazing. And more than a little terrifying.
Apparently, Emmie had also found the message app and sent a text to my friend. For those of you who aren’t familiar with how a “smart” phone works, this is not quite as impressive as it sounds. Once you begin typing a message, the phone guesses what word you might want next and lets you touch that word on the screen. (Yet another reason to proofread before hitting the SEND button.) Thus the cryptic phrases and the word “Lappish.”
But that wasn’t the end of last weekend’s technology woes.
I turned on my computer Sunday afternoon to begin writing today’s column but decided to scroll through Facebook first. Big mistake. When I clicked on a link a friend had posted, this warning appeared instead: “Debug malware error. Do not shut down or restart your computer. Doing that may lead to data loss and failure of operating system. Contact Microsoft certified technicians to resolve the problem.” Then it gave a toll-free phone number.
I couldn’t close the warning message. I couldn’t close Facebook. I couldn’t open anything else. I couldn’t decide if it was a scam or the real thing. So I called the number.
The man who answered the phone had a heavy foreign accent. I told him why I was calling and he transferred me to another technician, whose accent was even harder to understand. He tried to walk me through the fix, but about five minutes into his coaching I became confused and frustrated and began asking him to repeat himself. Much more slowly, please, I said.
With that, we were cut off.
Thank goodness. Rather than calling back, I got in touch with my son-in-law Andrew who makes his living as a software developer. With my cell phone, I took a picture of the warning and sent it to him. “Looks like a hoax,” Andrew said. “Shut your computer down and then turn it back on and see what happens.” I did. Everything was fine, except that I was furious at myself for being so stupid.
I saved the photo of the fake warning to show to Emmie next time I see her. Because it won’t be long before she’s the one I turn to for technology advice.
(September 6, 2015)