Instead of going to the gym or out for a run like I always do at noon on Mondays with my friend Larry who works at the Y, today I decide I will instead use this time to be efficient. I will use this time well to get some chores done and besides, I got my exercise in today, I biked into work this morning. So I stand at my fancy new computer desk and open my email and am ready to start efficiently scanning, responding and deleting email messages from the past two day when I see an email about pictures that are being shared with me from a recent event. I think that is a very nice thing that someone wants to do. I wonder if someone took pictures of the worship service yesterday. I am thinking about writing a blog about that service. Perhaps, I could use some of the pictures in my blog. I click on the blue Shutterfly link and suddenly my computer screen is flashing and my speakers are blaring:
“WARNING! WARNING! YOUR COMUTER HAS BEEN HACKED BY SPYWARE AND NOW IS DOWNLOADING YOUR CREDIT CARD, FACEBOOK, PICTURES AND OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION! WARNING! WARNING! DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER! CALL THE NUMBER ON THE SCREEN WITHIN 5 MINUTES OR WE WILL AUTOMATICALLY SHUT DOWN YOUR COMPUTER TO PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE! WARNING! WARNING! YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN HACKED!”
I know at this very moment that my credit card numbers are being downloaded by men in purple facemasks with gold trim who are running to the bank and emptying my accounts. I know my car at this very moment is being broken into and my house ransacked.
“WARNING! WARNING!” my computer screams.
I think about my trip coming up in two days. I think about having no credit cards or plane tickets. I wonder how I can take care of all this in the day before I leave. I wonder what “personal information” means. I wonder why someone would want to download my pictures. I think about how I have no time to deal with all this.
“WARNING! WARNING! YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN HACKED! CALL THE NUMBER ON YOUR SCREEN IMMEDIATELY!”
The screen is flashing. I can’t see any number to call.
“ARGH! WHAT CAN I DO!” I yell back at the computer.
“WARNING! WARNING!” It shouts back.
“ARGH! I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS! WHAT DID I DO!”
My colleague Rebecca rushes to the door, “WHAT! WHO! WHO DIED!”
“ARGH!,” I cry! “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS!”
“WHAT? WHAT? WHO DIED?” she asks again.
“OH, I’M SORRY, NO ONE DIED” I yell over the blaring speakers.
“WARNING! WARNING! YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN HACKED!” My computer yells back.
“MY COMPUTER HAS BEEN HACKED AND IS STEALING ALL OF MY CREDIT CARDS AND PICTURES AND PERSONAL INFORMATION! I CAN’T GET IT TO STOP!” I shout over the speakers.
“I hate when that happens”, Rebecca says, “You should call David.”
I try calling the office. One, two, three extensions. No one is answering.
“WARNING! WARNING! YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN HACKED!”
Perhaps our whole computer system is shutting down. Perhaps men in purple facemasks with gold trim are rushing into the church office at this very moment. Years ago I shut down our entire computer system by opening a little odd message that said “I LOVE YOU”. I thought it was a bit odd, wondering who loved me. I sent the “I love you” virus on to our entire data base. I think, I can’t believe I did this again.
One more “ARGH! WHAT HAVE I DONE!” before I turn and walk down to the office. David, our Church Administrator, is in his office. I apologize for opening some link that is now making my computer yell at me and is stealing all of my credit cards, pictures, personal information and perhaps infecting our whole computer system. He walks with me upstairs to my office. He turns off the speakers. He says he will call the computer techs. He doesn’t seem too concerned. He offers a laptop so I can keep on working on my project. I can’t imagine working on another computer at a time like this. I tell him that I will take the break I should have taken earlier instead.
Instead of going for the run I planned, I drive to the running store. I choose a new pair of running shoes exactly like the last pair I bought and the ones before that and the ones before that. They are the kind I always buy. The kind where there are no surprises. I am relieved that my credit card still works. I wonder if I will get a call asking if this is a legitimate purchase. I think of George W. telling us we all needed to go shopping in response to 9/11. I think, sometimes shopping helps. No, I think it is getting outside and out of the office that helps. Getting away from a computer that is yelling helps. Anything helps to make me forget what has happened.
I return to the office. The computer techs have been called and say, alas, that nothing dire has occurred. I opened what was just a particularly loud and scary spam message. Yes, I think, it did its trick. And somewhere someone is laughing for getting me to jump. I think about who would do something like this. I think about forgiveness. I think how forgiveness is no easy matter.
And yes, I am relieved. For thankfully, no one died today. And as far as I know no one is running around showing off my sailing pictures.
I wonder. I wonder what I’ll do the next time the screen starts flashing and the speakers start blaring, “WARNING! WARNING!” Will I panic? Will I turn off the speakers and go to get help? Will I call the number on the flashing screen and rattle off all my passwords and credit card numbers and personal information in the hopes of doing something, doing anything to make the shouting stop?
Or maybe, hopefully, before all this, I’ll remember that efficiency has its limits. That sometimes the most efficient thing to do is to get out of the office and go for that run, to come back in an hour, clearer, collected, not nearly as likely to open strange sounding links, yell ARGH and make me and my colleagues jump.
Yes, maybe, I’ll go and try out those new shoes now.