Monday, November 20, 2017

The Laughter of the Gremlins

Hey there, WYMOP readers!
So there are these gremlins, and they . . .
Wait. Let me backtrack for the uninformed. There are little creatures out there in the world called gremlins, and they’re real. Did you just Google it? You did, I saw you. Well, I’m not talking about those things in the 1984 family horror movie, cute little moppets with demonic acid reflux (“Don’t feed them at night . . .”). I’m talking about gremlins, the homicidally destructive little Luddites from the forties, who either delight in the destruction and malfunction of anything mechanical or else feed on it, depending who you’re talking to.
I’m not going to go into them in detail (I have other blog posts explaining about them HERE and HERE), but I will point out that they seem to hate me—or maybe this is just the way they show their love?—and, at least where I’m concerned, have seriously expanded their repertoire from airplanes to include anything technological. They’ve messed with my cars, computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, digital cameras—even online servers and services that I’m physically nowhere near. Many people who know me, friends and folks who’ve dealt with me in the (ever more technological) writing world, have learned that to work alongside of me is to work alongside those techno-hating little asshats. Some have even learned to fear them.
But planes. It all started with planes. Sometimes I think they miss those planes.
So anyway, I was going to take a plane, was going to fly out to Colorado. The tickets had been purchased weeks ago, and I was going to ride through the skies on Southwest Airline. Southwest, in case you didn’t know, doesn’t assign seating with tickets. What you can get upon check-in is a boarding assignment: you board in order, and can sit anywhere you like. How this works out is that the first folks on the plane have their choice of seats, while the last two get to duke it out as to who gets the half-seat beside the bathroom door that doesn’t close all the way and who gets to sit beside the mother with the screaming child who smells strongly of poo.
I try to check in early and get myself a bit of wiggle room.
You can check in twenty-four hours in advance of departure time, and that meant I’d be at work and checking in on my phone. No worries! I set a reminder alarm, and right when I hit the twenty-four-hour-early mark, I hit the CHECK IN button. Bang, got myself an online boarding pass with a boarding assignment about halfway through the lot. Not bad! I downloaded the boarding pass into my phone, then went so far as to save the pass’s image in my photo gallery. I even tried downloading it again, just to be sure, but was told I’d already downloaded it. Would I like to download it again? No, I thought, start messing around and redoing stuff and it’s just a chance for things to go wrong.
Sound thinking, right? Yeah, but I’d forgotten something . . .
I woke the next morning—the day of the flight—and my first thought was to check on that boarding pass—just make sure everything was good to go, and that I had easy access to it so I wouldn’t cause a holdup at the airport.
Writing that makes me chuckle now. But I digress.
I opened my phone and looked for the boarding pass.
And I looked.
And I looked.
There was no record of a boarding pass anywhere in my phone. Nothing in documents, images, or downloads. Since I’d manually saved the image, I checked the SD card, in case it’d been shunted over there. Nope, not as far as I could tell.
Okay, I thought. It’s got to be in here somewhere. I’m just not looking in the right place. I decided to check the download history; no matter what strange place the phone had stored it, the download history would offer up a little map leading me right there.
The download history had no record of any electronic transactions taking place at all the previous day. That’s not possible, I thought. When I tried to do it again, the damn system told me I’d already downloaded it! I saved the stupid thing as a picture, just to make sure! I . . . oh, shit.
I’d remembered the gremlins.
Okay, I thought, listen to Douglas Adams: don’t panic. There are redundancies built into the system just for boneheads like me. And there were. I knew (from past, sad experience), that Southwest stores records of all these transactions on their own mainframe. All I had to do was log into my customer account with Southwest and I could download the boarding pass again—better yet, now that I was home I could just print the damn thing off and put the hard copy in my pocket; no more surprises.
I sat at my desk and brought up Southwest’s homepage, moused over to the login box—username and password fields already filled, since I’m lazy and took Chrome up on its offer to remember them for me—and clicked sign in.
We’re sorry, but we cannot complete that function at this time.
Please try again later.
Seriously? I waited five minutes, and tried again.
We’re sorry, but we cannot complete that function . . .
I tried—with mounting distress—every five minutes, for about a half hour. Then, the message changed:
Username and/or password incorrect.
“That can’t be,” I said aloud. “It’s saved—it’s the same username and password that worked yesterday!”
Username and/or password incorrect.
Username and/or password incorrect.
I was at this, becoming more agitated and vocal the whole while, for more than another half hour before the message changed again:
We’re sorry, but we cannot complete that function at this time.
Please try again later.
In a panic now (sorry, Douglas), I Googled issues with Southwest login boarding pass. Right at the top of the list was a link to a Southwest complaints page, last updated that morning. Fantastic! I clicked in and found . . . about a hundred people, from all over the country, all complaining that they couldn’t download their boarding passes, and couldn’t even log into their Southwest accounts—and the first complaint had been lodged shortly after I’d attempted to check in from work the previous day.
“Oh, shit,” I said, staring at the screen. “I broke Southwest!”
Somewhere, off in the distance, I heard gremlins . . . laughing.

Talk to you later.

P.S. Southwest, it turns out, is fine. I actually wrote this in Colorado. Friggin' gremlin sense of humor . . .