This is a daily occurrence while at the Reference Desk at my public library. I’m not even joking. I have some version of this exchange almost every day at the Reference Desk.
Patron: Can you help me? I can’t get this dumb thing to work.
Me: Okay, sure. What are you trying to do?
Patron: I need to get into my email to print something, and it won’t let me!
Me: Okay, you’re already logged in the computer, so just double click on a browser to get on the Internet.
Patron: I just double click on a browser?
Patron: Which one? [choice of Internet Explorer or Google Chrome]
Me: Doesn’t matter. [I know it does, but they wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it]
Patron: But which one? Internet?
Me: [resignedly] Sure.
Patron: [clicks scroll wheel on mouse repeatedly]
Me: No, no, click it on the left side.
Patron: The left side?
Patron: [gingerly moves hand on top of computer mouse, gently clicks left side of mouse]
Me: You have to double click it.
Patron: [clicks twice slowly, achieves moving icon down a little]
Me: Here, try this. Click it once…
Patron: [clicks it once]
Me: … Now hit ‘enter.’
Patron: Hit ‘enter’?
Patron: This right here? [finger hovers over ‘enter’ key]
Patron: [hits ‘enter’]
Browser then opens to the library website as the default homepage.
Patron: It did this before! I don’t know what this is!
Me: This is just the library website. You just type where you want to go up at the top.
Patron: I want to go to my email!
Me: What email do you use?
Me: Is it Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo…?
Patron: Oh, um, Yahoo. [it’s always Yahoo]
Me: Okay, type in Yahoo .com up at the top here.
Patron: Up here? [points at address bar]
Me: Yes, there.
Patron: [starts typing in full email address]
Me: No, no, just Yahoo .com.
Patron: But I need to get to my email address!
Me: Right, but first you have to go to Yahoo .com, and THEN you can get to your email.
Patron: [gives me a look like they don’t believe me, types in Yahoo .com, then stares blankly at the screen]
Me: Hit ‘enter’
Patron: Hit ‘enter’?
Patron: [hits ‘enter,’ browser goes to Yahoo] Oh, yay!
Me: Okay, now click ‘Mail.’
Patron: Click ‘Mail’?
Patron: [clicks ‘Mail’]
Me: Now type in your email here. [Indicates screen]
Patron: Type it in here? [Points at screen]
Patron: My whole email?
Patron: [Uses search-and-destroy method to slowly type out their email, not knowing where the “@” symbol is, and inevitably getting at least two letters wrong]
Me: Okay, now type in your password here. [Indicates space under email address]
Patron: My password?
Patron: What if I don’t remember my password?
Me: Well, you need your password to access your email.
Patron: I do? But I don’t need it on my phone!
Me: Right, because your phone is set up so you’re always logged in. But these are public computers, so lots of people access their email through them.
Patron: [putters, contemplating this] Okay, maybe I remember it. [starts typing in a password]
This could go on for some minutes while the patron maybe remembers their password or does not and gets increasingly more frustrated. If they do manage to log in —
Patron: [has over 5,000 unread messages in email inbox] There it is! Thank you! I just don’t get these machines!
If they don’t remember their password, I attempt to help them reset it, but they never remember a recently used password, backup email, or answers to security questions, and 9 times out of 10 decide whatever they needed to print wasn’t really that important and storm off.
Now, helping a patron to print something from their email is a whole other story.