Thursday, March 17, 2016

Down the Google Rabbit Hole

I awoke yesterday and found myself in something akin to a Steven King movie, just without the popcorn, the large Diet Coke, and an Exit door. As usual, my first action while still in bed, after I removed my pups from my face (telling me "Good Morning, It's another wonderful  day! Can we go  for a  walk now? Can we? Can we? ) was to get my phone and turn my 5:30  alarm off before the obnoxiously merry tune started, Then I checked my email. Well, I tried to check my email. I could not open it. Phones can be temperamental so I dismissed that, climbed out of bed, and took the pups on their morning constitutional.

After that was done, they were fed, and I had made my first cup of iced cappuccino I sat down at my laptop to start my morning pre-shower ritual. First - check email. This is where the black hole began. A blue and white Google screen came up and simply said, "We have detected an issue with your Google Account and it has been deleted." I immediately went to a clean Google search screen, entered the Gmail url and entered my username. It said, “No account found with that email address. Please try again.

I "Googled" 'Deleted Gmail account'.  This is where the white rabbit and the Cheshire cat appeared. Not only was my email gone, so were my contacts, my blogs, my pictures, and anything else I had connected with Google. In other words I no longer existed. And,I only had, at most, 48 hours, to figure out how to recover it before the Lords at Google deleted it forever and there was no getting back through the Looking Glass.

Quickly, I logged into my Blogs, they no longer existed. There was no link to my picture, no way to access Picasa nor my contacts that were attached to my email. And, one of my laptops is a Chromebook that only works off the Google Cloud so it had just become a Tea Tray.

Next I "Googled" 'How do I recover my Google account?' And - yes- I found myself at the Tea Party. Basically I saw entry after entry of horror stories from folks like me who found themselves greeted with this message. To make it worse, the Google forum, started with, "This will not be easy, but there is a 15 step process. Start with this url . . ." (Hell, AA only has 12 steps!)

So, I entered the url, prayed to the gods of the internet and waited. The first question: Your username - done. It moved to No. 2 (this was encouraging). Second question: Last exact date you were able to log into your account: - done, day before. It moved to No.3 (I finally breathed - there was hope.) Then the Queen of Hearts appeared - What was the date you first opened your Google account?

Are they sh*%%*$3 me? Going back to the forum they suggested to go back to earlier email accounts and check for the initial email from Google congratulating me on my new account. No problem - except there was a problem - both my old Yahoo and Hotmail accounts had gone through changes and only retained the past 24 months of emails. 

I contacted my DH and my daughter. Could they go back through their emails and see the date of the earliest email they had received from my Gmail account? After looking, my DH texted me he had Gmails from me back to 2006. Then, he texted, that the dates were in the fall of 2005 and he remembered I got my Gmail account before Google went "live" with the program. In other words, I was one of their first users (among many thousands I am sure). His guess was summer of 2005. Great - the summer has three months in it.

I took a deep breath and entered "August 2005". 12 questions to go and the forum had said that they would include - the 3 addresses you email most often, and other questions only you could answer. This not bode well.

Then there was a light at the end of the tunnel - a Log In screen appeared with my username asking me to create a new password. I carefully did so, and I was back among the living. I checked my contacts, pictures, saved folders, blogs, etc. It was all there, as if it had been a bad dream. 

Being anal about my photography, I back up my regular laptop redundantly to 2 external hard drives, as well as the cloud. Now I will back up my email and contacts. Google is the best thing since sliced bread and Google is the worse thing since the mankind discovered sugar. Can we live without it, not very well. My only advice - back it up and, for God's sake find out the date (month/year) you first opened your account and you should be OK. If you can get to step 3, you will be home.

I also learned that there should have been a backup that texted me to my phone or emailed a third party (in this case my daughter) advising of this issue. At that point I would have been given the chance to change my password and the hulla-balloo would have been avoided. However, in my case, I never got the warning and the account went down in 18 hours.

Off the grid is one thing, off Google is a nightmare - like it or not.

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