I was working in Dublin on Friday, so I went to bed early in the hopes of getting to sleep early. Of course, that didn’t happen and I was still awake and playing on my phone at 4:00 am when I got an email. It was an email from Netflix, saying that they had changed my contact email as I had requested. I was a bit sleepy, so I kind of accepted this. Maybe I had asked them to change my email at some stage. I have 5 email addresses that I use regularly, and three more that I use occasionally. (This is not a boast. Organised people don’t have eight email accounts.) About 5 minutes later, I got another email from Netflix telling me that the contact phone number on my account had been changed, as I had requested. Had I really requested a change in my contact number? Maybe I’d put my Longford landline number on my account. (I know. I have my own landline now. I’m so mature.) But I didn’t think I would have given Netflix my phone number. Why would I? I clicked the link in the email to my account.
My account listed email@example.com as my email address and my phone number was 01 899 332 4414, which is apparently a Mexican number. The viewers on the account were listed as Connor (that’s me) and Elisa. Who is Elisa? I tried to change the contact details and I couldn’t. They’d changed my password and locked me out of my account! I was being cyber-attacked!
I have to admit that my first reaction was delight. This was so exciting and zeitgeist-y. I felt like I was Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief. Someone would make a movie someday about my night of cyberwarfare on the plains of Longford.
But as well as being excited, I started getting panicky. My account showed that while the contact details had been changed, that was still my Visa Debit card number that was being used. I couldn’t afford to get robbed. I tried ringing the Netflix help number and they were closed. I wrote an email to “Elisa”, asking why she’d stolen my account. She didn’t answer.
I had two pictures in my mind. Maybe this was part of a major cyber war being waged by a Mexican drug cartel on rich Westerners and I was just one cog in a massive online assault. Either that, or it was a poor young woman who just wanted to watch Orange is the New Black and couldn’t afford a Netflix subscription. Should I really be trying to stop her? Maybe she knew it was the middle of the night in Ireland and she would sign the account back to me in the morning. I also vividly imagined meeting my hacker, a young Mexican working for a criminal syndicate and we would fall in love and he would toughen me up and I would soften him up and it would be ADORABLE.
I decided to start changing all my passwords. This was too big a job for my iPhone. I went into my freezing kitchen (no heating for two weeks now) and sat down and changed all my passwords. All of them. It took a very long time. You have no idea how many accounts I have online. And I was trying not to change them all to the same thing, so I had permutations of the 3 different basic passwords going on my mind as I went from site to site, from account to account. The adrenaline began to die down after a while. After a few visits to Netflix’s site, I managed to get someone on webchat to help me. His name was Abe (though for all I know he was actually called Prathamesh and he’d just been instructed to change his name to something more English for his job). Abe was very helpful and I had control of my account again in less than ten minutes.
After all that excitement, I didn’t sleep very well and was tired as I set out for Dublin in my newly-repaired car. It was running fine pretty much all the way to Dublin, although since the repair the petrol gauge had stopped working. If there’s anyone in the world who needs a warning when he’s running out of petrol, it’s me, so I’m going to have to get that seen to.
I got lost a number of times as I drove along the quays in Dublin trying to figure out where I was going. The Google Maps on my phone wasn’t working – it insisted I was still in Longford when I tried to use it, so I was forced to use Apple Maps, which is fine, but Apple Maps doesn’t know which Dublin streets are one-way or which are bus lanes. It tried to to take me through the College Green bus corridor twice and it’s lucky I didn’t get penalty points.
As I tried to drive into the city centre again, after about twenty wrong turns, somewhere in Dublin 8, the car began to struggle as I drove uphill. And then the engine cut out. And it really struggled to start again. The traffic behind me started beeping. Eventually, everyone overtook me. I didn’t know what to do. No matter how many times I started the car, it just wouldn’t go up the hill. I had to go down, but the car certainly wouldn’t give me enough power to do a u-turn while driving upwards, so I found myself with no choice but to roll backwards, so that I could turn downhill rather than turn uphill. I let the car roll backwards, trying to maneouvre myself into a position to turn. Of course, the traffic didn’t stay clear for very long and as I found the back of my car bumping into the footpath, two lanes of traffic going uphill were stopped behind me, beeping. On the other side of the street, the cars going downhill could see what I was trying to do, so they had also stopped to (A) watch the fun and (B) allow me to complete my turn-around and go downhill ahead of them. There was a lot of beeping and the car was still faced more uphill than down, so I couldn’t get it started. It strained and hiccuped and whined, but it wouldn’t start.
As I sat there, my car refusing to move and four lanes of traffic beeping at me, I felt completely defeated. I had had no sleep the night before because the internet had turned on me and now after robbing hundreds of euros from me, my car had turned on me yet again. The repetition of cruelties that my car has inflicted on me made me feel desperate and I had half a mind to just get out of the car and leave it there blocking traffic and never come back to it again.
In the end, two young men jumped out of one of the beeping mass of cars and started pushing my car and managed to get it into the downhill queue, where it started again. I didn’t know how to get where I was going, and I didn’t know whether my car would keep driving, so I pulled over in a parking place and hailed a taxi. I didn’t really know where I was but the parking ticket machine said “Island Street”, so I remembered that.
I went to my various meetings and at the end of the day’s work I was due to meet a friend. We had been messaging back and forth to arrange to meet up, but I was quite vague about when, where or whether I could meet. I was walking to Island Street. I had to rescue my car. It was 5:00 and I’d only paid for parking until 6:00. I didn’t know where Island Street, where I’d abandoned my car, was. I was using Apple Maps on my phone to navigate. Understandably, my friend was somewhat mystified when, at 5:10, I couldn’t say for sure whether or not I could meet her at 5:30, so she rang me. We decided that I would continue my quest to find the mysterious Island Street and my faithless car and I would “share my location” with her via my phone and then she could follow me by bus. I apologised, but she said it was like an exciting treasure hunt, which made me the treasure!
I was about five minutes from my car looking at my phone to figure out directions when I felt someone’s hand on mine. Since my iPhone was stolen from my hand on Grafton Street three years ago, I have been very careful to hold my phone with my whole hand and not just hold it between my fingers. And here I was somewhere near Thomas Street and a young man had his hand around mine, trying to steal my phone.
Today had been bad enough already. And I wasn’t going to go through the loss of another iPhone. Not today. No way. I gripped my phone tightly and I roared. I let out a barbaric yawp directly in the man’s face. Testosterone coursed through me. He looked scared, left go of my hand and ran. Phew. I still had my phone!
I sat in my car and calmed myself. I had a lovely dinner with my friend, re-living all the dramas of the day and sat into my car to drive home. It’s running fine, but it really doesn’t like hills and I know that the saga of the car isn’t finished. Sometimes you have to prolong a marriage past its most natural date of conclusion and that is the case with Julian and me. Shackled together until I make my fortune.