Monday, February 28, 2022

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. Meanwhile my pups were jumping about on the bed, enthusiastically, as if exclaiming "Good Morning, It's another wonderful day! Can we go for a walk now? Can we? Can we?" However, before I gave in to their demands, my first action was to get my phone, turn my 5:30 alarm off before the obnoxiously merry tune started, and then check 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 White Rabbit appeared. 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, typed in the Gmail url and entered my username. It said, "No account found with that email address. Please try again."  

I "Googled" 'Deleted Gmail account'.  Not only was my email gone, so were my contacts, my blog, my pictures, and anything else I had connected with Google. In other words I no longer existed. Now I was down the hole with the Cheshire Cat. And, to matters worse, 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 going back through the Looking Glass.

Quickly, I logged into my Blog, it no longer existed. There was no link to my picture, no way to access Photos, nor my contacts that were attached to my email. To add to this madness, one of my laptops is a Chromebook that only works off my Google Cloud account so the morning was now officially a Mad Tea Party and the Croquet field was in sight.

Next I "Googled" 'How do I recover my Google account?' Basically I saw entry after entry of horror stories from folks like me who found themselves greeted with that ominous message. To make it worse, the Google forum, started, "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, yesterday before. On 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 I 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. 

Best I could come up with was that I got my Gmail account before Google went "live" with the program. In other words, I was one of their first users (among many millions I am sure). Best guess was summer of 2005. Great - the summer has three months in it.

I took a deep breath and entered "August 2005". It accepted my answer and I moved on. 12 questions to go. The forum went on to say one of these would be - the 3 addresses you email most often, and other questions only the account holder 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, blog, 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. Lesson learned, now I will also back up my email and contacts. Google is the best thing since sliced bread and Google is the worse thing since mankind discovered sugar. Can we live without it? Not very well. A bit of advice from the Caterpillar - 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 notification sent via text to my phone or emailed to 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 meeting with the Queen 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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