Forty thousand Gmail users can breathe easy today: their email accounts, temporarily wiped clean, have been restored. Google worked quickly and openly to correct the meltdown, and assures us that email data was never really in danger. They keep tape backups—lots of them.
I wasn’t among the .02% of Gmail users who briefly lost their mail, but I know how they feel. One drunken evening a few months back, I suddenly became certain that I needed to beef up my personal security profile RIGHT NOW. I stumbled out of bed, changed my banking, Gmail, and Facebook passwords, and then quickly regained unconsciousness.
I awoke to find myself locked out of my mail, friends, and money. I had no memory whatsoever of my new passwords. I tried every possible combination of my usual letters and numbers, but the algorithms grew suspicious of me for my multiple attempts and put me on timeout. I clicked “Lost your Password?” buttons in vain, knowing full well that recovery emails would be sent to an address I could no longer access.
Waiting for my exile in timeout to pass, I searched my subconscious for answers. Names of old pets, childhood streets and junior high locker combinations churned through my hungover brain, leading to moments of nostalgia, melancholy, then existential angst. Who was this Jesse Brown character? What numbers and words have meaning to him? Without them he had nothing—his friends and employers could not reach him, he was impoverished, and he could not acknowledge the many hilarious Internet memes gaining popularity at that very moment. I was stuck in a bad Paul Auster novel, or a very boring Bourne sequel.
I went for a walk to clear my head and immediately realized I had forgotten a “7” at the end of my Gmail password. With email access I could restore the other accounts, and was soon feeling like myself again. I spent the afternoon reading emails from old roommates, reviewing Visa purchases from November ’08, and liking every damn thing on Facebook.