Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Father's Day to you, TOO, Google

Yesterday, I woke up feeling somewhat refreshed; I yawned and stretched and then grabbed my laptop to check my email.

Like a lot of folks, especially folks my age, I use Gmail, Google's email service.  I'm sure many of my tens of readers do, too, since Blogger is a Google site.  I love Gmail; it's the first email service I've used that I've loved enough to stop using other email providers.  That is, back when I had AOL mail, I also had a Hotmail account and a Yahoo account.  I checked all three on a regular basis.  Now, my AOL mail is long dead (RIP Steflutie), my Hotmail is officially my spam account, and I think I check my Yahoo mail once a month to make sure no one's emailing me there by accident.

Meanwhile, my work and grad school accounts are both hooked up to my Gmail, even though my grad school email is Gmail-based.  I just can't be bothered to check BOTH accounts.  Plus, my regular Gmail is already set up just the way I like it.

Last year, when Gmail put free voice calls in Gchat, it was a lifesaver for me.  My cell phone microphone had just broken, and I was waiting two weeks for my new smartphone to arrive (it was out of stock at the store).  I could make some phone calls at work, but my boss was discouraging us from using the work phone for personal calls.  So I quickly set up a Google Voice account and was able to make calls using my home and work computers.  It wasn't as convenient or easy as making a regular phone call, but I was able to make necessary phone calls during those two weeks.

These days, I don't use the phone call function, mostly since I've got a working cell phone again, and it's just much easier to use that.  But that didn't stop me from noticing something odd yesterday when I pulled up Gmail.

The "Call Phone" button had a line of text underneath it.  It said, "Reminder: call dad."

At first, I wondered if one of my siblings had somehow hacked into my computer, thinking they were doing the right thing.  Then I realized that neither of my siblings would know how to do that, and that both of them have been pretty great with respecting my decision to stay estranged from our father.  Then I wondered if maybe I had somehow signed into the wrong email account.  But no, those were my regular contacts underneath the offending message, and here were all of my emails.

And then I got what it was.  Granted, this all happened in the span of a few seconds, so if you're imagining me scratching my head, pacing around, shouting, "I must find the culprit!" you are both very imaginative, but also a bit wrong.  It wasn't my siblings or the wrong email.  Google put it there.

I mean, I understand why.  It's a good way to remind folks about the call phone function.  Great.  But seriously?  Not a good idea.

Like plenty of other people, I'm estranged from one of my parents, in this case my father.  A reminder to call him is like a bad joke.  But what about people who don't have fathers anymore, whose fathers have died?  What about people whose fathers have abused them, neglected them, deserted them?  What about people who have grown up with a single mother, or with two mothers, or who were raised by a sibling?

So, Google, if you're listening, please don't ever do that again.  It's enough that Father's Day is all over the place commercially.  But invading my email, putting up a reminder that stayed up ALL day?  It made me seriously angry and uncomfortable.

Also, you need to have a way for people to complain about shit like this.  Your "Help" section doesn't let us do that.  Bulllll.

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