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Helpful Technology Goes Awry, Again

Today’s guest columnist is Daughter Alicia.  After she read my column about my frustration with QR Codes, she shared a recent technology experience at her house.

Background: our laptop has a pesky habit of interrupting on-screen work with a multitude of notifications. It interrupts with no regard of manners or propriety. No doubt, there is a way to stop notifications, but I haven’t done that. 

When it was time for 15-year-old Elsie to take the drivers’ permit test, we learned it could be taken online. Hooray! How convenient!  I registered to become Elsie’s test proctor and jumped through the hoops downloading the TN proctor ID application, and we were good to go.

I welcome a second teen driver. Every time I get behind the wheel, my offspring share much needed tips in the form of side-eyed comments: “Blinker,” “It’s yellow, Mom,” and “Turn here.”   

Elsie had studied diligently; she was ready. Step one: scan a QR code, after my proctor ID app recognizes my face. In the two weeks since I had installed the app, my face must have morphed to a state of non-recognizability. I timed out three times due to ‘security concerns’ for having the wrong face.    

After a live chat with Josh, an online assistant, who verified I was who I said I was, we were admitted to the testing site. I tried to play it cool as my girl was a shade anxious, but I sweated from the effort of being recognized by the wizardry of biometric identity. 

Elsie read the instructions, which told her to not have any web-connected devices nearby and to not open other on-screen windows (presumably to prevent wayward teens from on-the-spot research/cheating/tom

foolery). Ever the rule follower, she put her phone and Apple watch several feet away. She began.

I sat quietly. No hints. No ‘Are you sure?’ mom-interference. About a dozen questions in, an email notification popped onto the computer screen.  To be able to see question behind the pop-up,  Elsie hit the x to delete the notification.

Immediately, the test screen blacked out and words in big red letters appeared: YOU HAVE FAILED.  Surely not. Oh, but yes. “An alternate tab was opened. This is against the rules. This test is marked FAILED.” 

We stared at each other in disbelief. I cannot think of one thing Elsie has ever failed, and to be suspected of cheating – devastating. I was gobsmacked when I realized she FAILED because she closed a notification: ‘You have a new email.’ Good grief.

Elsie buried her head and came out laughing. We laughed until we cried. I don’t know which was worse for my girl: failure or being found guilty of cheating without a jury of peers. She carries the burden of being the oldest daughter who has a rather high self-imposed bar of success.  The next chance to take this test is 24 hours later.  At which point, we’ll load up and head to the good ole Department of Motor Vehicles Office to test in person, just like God and Henry Ford intended.