Facebook’s non-existent customer support

Facebook confusion

When I’m not writing, taking a break from writing or procrastinating on writing, I work for a company that, among other things, manages social media for a wide range of organisations. Which means I spend copious amounts of time on Facebook. And as cruisy as that sounds, it can be incredibly frustrating too. Such as last week, when a new client of ours wanted us to assume control of their Facebook.

The client had set up a personal profile under their company’s name instead of a business page. So in order to manage their brand effectively, as well as comply with Facebook’s terms, we had to log into this personal account and convert it to a Facebook page. Easy enough? Well, not quite. When I went to migrate the profile, I slammed into this roadblock:

Facebook customer support

Please switch to a computer that you’ve previously used to browse Facebook.
To ensure your account security, please complete this process on a computer you’ve used in the past. If this isn’t possible, please contact customer support from the Help Center.

Obviously using our client’s computer wasn’t a practical option. Besides, organisations that outsource their social media management to us do so because they lack either the knowledge or time to deal with it themselves. It’s something they don’t want to have to worry about at all, so calling them up to talk them through the process wasn’t a practical option either.

And there are other reasons why innocent people may not be able to use an old computer. Computers stop working. Computers get stolen. Computers get upgraded. Lots of things can happen to computers.

Facebook confusion
Photo by stoneysteiner
Now, my gripe with Facebook is not the security measure; in today’s internet-dependent world, we could use all the help with security we can get.

My gripe is that you are told to contact customer support when it is virtually impossible to do so. You could easily spend hours trying to find what you need from the Help Center to no avail; at the time of writing it doesn’t seem to provide any answers on what to do if you can’t access an old computer. (Or if it does, the information isn’t very easy to find.)

Luckily for me, I’ve hit this particular rut during the course of my job before and there is a quasi-solution. If you browse Facebook using your new computer for a while, Facebook eventually lets you complete the page migration.

Spending half a day logging in and out and aimlessly “browsing” with my client’s Facebook account was also far from practical (especially when you’ve got other clients to take care of) but at least it worked — we were able to migrate the profile to a page and it was business as usual once more.

Has anyone else had trouble with Facebook’s customer support?

Flash fiction: Living on a Lie

Special thanks to the highly talented Icy Sedgwick who provided the photo prompt for this story.

Mandrake
Photo by Icy Sedgwick

Kelly’s life began with a lie.

Hector planted the first seed. “Of course I’ll use protection, beautiful,” he smiled. “I love you. Let’s do this.”

For Megan, the walk of shame to the pharmacy counter was almost as mortifying as sitting on the frosty bathroom tiles of her childhood home, staring at a stick she’d just peed on and feeling the future dissipate into the wind.

“Megan? Are you okay in there?”

Megan jumped at the sound of her father’s voice. “Y-Yes,” she lied, watering the seed. “Everything’s fine.”

The news hit Hector like a bullet to the brain, spraying his dreams and aspirations into blood-soaked oblivion. Forcing a smile, he took Megan’s hand and silently ticked off all the things his mother would want him to say. “Will you… be my wife?” he finally asked.

“I…I’d love to,” Megan whispered. The roots pushed their way into the earth.

Their daughter Kelly came screaming into world eight months later, piercing into Hector’s raging hangover. He prayed he would just black out but unconsciousness eluded him.

Belinda, the new secretary, reeled him in with a wink and a smile four days after Kelly’s first birthday. Hector dialled home, told Megan he would be working late and quickly hung up to cut the sound of Kelly’s wails. After a few months, he stopped calling and Megan stopped expecting him to.

“Hey, let me help you with that.”

Megan turned to meet the next door neighbour, Cody, who effortlessly scooped up three bags of her groceries and carried them inside. As the year dragged on, her reliance on Cody grew. During endless nights of pretending to be asleep, she found herself wondering what sort of dad Cody would make, while Hector stumbled into the room still reeking of perfume.

The shoots broke through the dirt, reaching towards the sun.

“Daddy, can we have a doggy?” begged Kelly.

Hector, who had no intention of cleaning up dog poop now that his daughter was finally toilet trained, smiled and shook his head. “No, sweetie, it’s a big responsibility we can’t afford right now.” He thought about the diamond necklace he’d just bought Belinda and how beautiful it looked on her.

Thick, vibrant leaves uncoiled from their stems.

Megan sank into the couch, planning her next words to Cody. She felt a sudden, stern tug on the tails of her dress.

“Mummy, are you happy?”

Megan blinked down at Kelly. “Of course I am, honey. Why wouldn’t I be?”

The flowers were in bloom.

Star Wars in 3D: Is it worth it?

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Hey George, is this 3D on? (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox/Lucasfilm)
I love Star Wars. All of them. Yes, even the prequels.

Except maybe Attack of the Clones, but if you fast forward past those sickly scenes between Anakin and Padmé (or better still, mute them and ad lib your own dubs) it becomes awesome again.

And to be perfectly honest, the mere presence of Obi-Wan Kenobi makes everything okay for me anyway. The Star Wars franchise — Gungan warts and all — has become one of my biggest creative inspirations (even though I don’t typically write science fiction or fantasy).

So I was pretty pumped to win a double pass to the Perth premiere of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D (courtesy of The WiRE Mag). I even plaited myself a Padawan braid for the occasion to honour my idol Obi-Wan.

But was it worth the hype?

The Phantom Menace was the first movie I’d seen in 3D that hadn’t been originally released that way. It didn’t “pop” as much as I was used to for 3D movies – not that I necessarily want lasers flying into my face, but at times there was only a minimal difference from watching it in 2D.

That was kind of disappointing; I know nothing of converting to 3D but Star Wars has traditionally been on top of its game when it comes to special effects.

Having said that, there were scenes where it did look really cool. If you’ve ever wanted to pilot a Podracer in the Boonta Eve Classic, this is your best chance to do it.

Moreover, my guest at the event had never seen a 3D movie before and was highly impressed by the effects.

So I wouldn’t say it’s terrible by any means; just don’t expect Avatar.

My guest was also new to the Star Wars universe so if you know someone who hasn’t been introduced to the saga, what better way to do it than a cinema screening in 3D?

Besides, the last time I saw a Star Wars movie on the big screen, I was still a kid. 3D or not, prequels or not… it’s an epic experience. That childlike wonder I had the first time I saw Star Wars‘ yellow scrolling text is something I hope to never lose touch with as I get older.

I was also pleased to be able to “catch up” with my favourite Jedi partnership (Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi — or as I call them, the Jinnobi Dream Team) in a cinema once more.

Well, twice more… I’m going to see it again with a bunch of friends when it officially opens this week. 😉

Will you be seeing The Phantom Menace in 3D?

Flash fiction: Fish Live In Trees

trees

trees
Photo by John-Morgan (Flickr)
“Did you know that fish live in trees?”

“Rubbish.”

“It’s true!”

“How?”

“The leaves are little fishes.”

“Don’t be silly. Fish need water.”

“Yeah, that’s why we water them.”

“I mean, they need water to swim in.”

“Well, these fishes are in hospital. That’s why they’re not in the ocean.”

“Hospital? But that’s where you go when you’re sick!”

“Yep. The trees are fish hospitals. The branches are really a life support system that delivers water to the fish. That’s why the leaves – the fish – die if they fall off the trees.”

“I guess that kind of makes sense…”

“Of course it does. Would I lie to you?”

“Well…”

“Come on, I’m your big brother… Trust me!”

Flash fiction: Resignation to the End

rings

Resignation to the End
Photo by apdk (Flickr)
“We need to talk.”

The words tore themselves from Nate’s throat and he felt Olivia stop slightly behind him, bracing herself for what they both knew was long overdue.

Nate swallowed firmly and let his eyes meet hers. He recalled the same butterflies he’d felt the day he first laid innocent eyes on her.

***

“I think I’m in love,” Nate gushed to the only person who would listen without making fun of him – Kaylen, his neighbour and best friend since primary school.

“Tell me about her.” Kaylen was almost four years younger than Nate – a lifetime when you were a teenager – but it had never bothered him. She was mature for her age and easier to talk to than the guys.

“She’s beautiful, smart, warm, friendly, I just want to be around her all the time!”

***

It seemed so long ago now. Nate stared into the depths of Olivia’s ocean blue eyes and realised the one thing that hadn’t changed was that he still loved her. But they were older now; not old, but jaded. The past few years flashed before him.

***

“Why is she always hanging around you?” Olivia demanded through gritted teeth.

“She’s my friend.”

“I’m your girlfriend!”

Nate shrugged in resignation, catching a glimpse of Kaylen outside. She’d been watching the entire reel play out from just behind the letterbox. Catching Nate’s eye, she mouthed ‘Sorry’ through the open window and quickly disappeared up her driveway and into her house before Olivia could turn around and erupt any further.

***

Nate reached over and took Olivia’s left hand in his right, lightly tracing the smooth contours of her knuckles and fingers as he’d done a hundred times before.

“You know how I feel about you,” he murmured. “When we started out all those years ago, I never thought it would come to this.”

***

“I’m moving in with Olivia.”

Kaylen paused, her backpack slung over one shoulder, and began to fidget with her top button. “When?” she asked.

“In about a month,” said Nate. “We found a rental half an hour out of the city.”

“That’s great, I’m so happy for you,” said Kaylen with a quick smile, before gesturing up the road. “I’ve got to get to school.”

She sprinted towards the bus stop before Nate could reply. He realised sadly that in a month’s time, he would no longer get to see his best friend every day.

***

“I’ve been putting this off for a long time,” Nate continued. “We both have. But it’s time.”

He knelt down tentatively and produced a small red box, studying Olivia’s face as he opened it.

“Olivia. Will you marry me?”

Stunned surprise melted into a smile, a breathy nod and a gratified shriek, and suddenly Nate felt confident everything was going to be okay.

***

Nate picked up his mobile and rang the only number on his speed dial. “Kaylen, guess what?”

“What?”

“I proposed to Olivia. She said yes.”

There was no response at the other end of the line.

“Kaylen?”

Silence.

“You there?”

The phone went dead and Nate was left alone in the room.

***

Olivia stood in the bathroom, her back resting against the door, twisting the new diamond adorning her left hand. She wondered if perhaps, after all these years, she’d finally won.

Flash fiction: Black Dog

Black Dog

Black Dog
Photo by sergis blog (Flickr)
It’s always there.

When you wake up to another dreary morning, haunted by the ghosts of your dreams, it’s perched at the foot of your bed. Staring at you with big stoned eyes, then pouncing, and pasting a thick dollop of slime across your face.

It’s always there.

You stare blankly at grey, sickly features in the mirror. Your features. With a lethargic sigh, you systematically paint on your ‘happy face’ as the shaggy black dog sits dutifully behind you. Its head cocked gently to one side, it observes you with mocking sympathy while you examine the gaunt, scabbed skin stretched across your wrists.

You mumble cheerful phrases before shuffling from the house to begin another day of existence. Someone calls your name, and you and the dog turn in perfect unison. It’s your best friend. You greet them with a glowing smile, and engage in some excited chatter about the latest episode of some inane television program you can barely recall. Walking and talking down the street while a ball of matted black fur scurries after you.

It’s always there.

You sit gingerly like The Thinker at a cramped desk in the corner and scrawl illegibly onto the page. You vaguely recall a time when being good at school secretly meant something. When life actually meant something. When you experienced the world instead of watching from the sidelines. When you felt real emotion instead of this freefall into a pit of endless nothingness. You glance up at the clock on the wall, hearing each tick-tock echo around your head. Coarse fur rubs irritably against your leg.

It’s always there. Lurking in the shadows.

Warm amber liquid slowly pools around your feet. This is a dog you couldn’t abandon; it’s too deeply entrenched in who you are. The black dog is your only friend and your worst enemy. You are the dog and it is you. Bound to each other. The dog tracks your every move, every second of every day. It followed you to school and it will follow you home again. It will be panting at your shoulder as you scrawl a short message to the world into your notebook. It will hunt you down when you detour away from your house. And it will be sniffling at your heels when you sway at the edge of the footbridge, peering at the frantic river below.

Poem: Terror

No matter how dark it is...

No matter how dark it is...
Photo by liesvanrompaey (Flickr)
A cold premonition.
Ice chills my veins
and condenses on my skin.

Clouds blacken

The earth rumbles.
Together we tumble
Like lifeless pins at the mercy of a rolling bomb.

White light
Burnt eyes

Distant screams
Skittled streets
Scattered pieces of you

Faces lost forever in the smoke and soil

Searing heat grips my soul

A final breath catches in my throat
Calling a long forgotten faith.

Cleanse my body
Free my mind
Kill my vengeance
and only then can I rest in peace.

Flash fiction: The City Is My Home

Rush hour

Rush hour
Photo by blmurch (Flickr)

The city is my home. Every street, every corner, pulsating with the stories I know too well.

I rise to the sound of the morning rush. Rolling waves of bleary-eyed zombies step off the train and trudge towards the station exits in crisp business suits and ill-fitting work uniforms. Horton, a beefy transit guard who once dreamt of becoming a police officer, stands over a sandy-haired boy of about 13. The boy stares at his scuffed sneakers as Horton berates him for forgetting his student pass before letting him go with a warning. Horton returns to his post and sighs, his eyes as lifeless as those of the weary workers who shuffle past him.

The city has calmed down by mid-morning as the homely aroma of caffeine drifts down the café strip. I was never much of a coffee drinker but I savour it deeply, imagining the liquid flowing down my throat and warming my stomach. Melissa sits alone in the alfresco area with a steaming cappuccino that lies untouched on the table in front of her. Until recently she ran the bookstore around the corner. The books have now been cleared and the space is available for lease.

At lunchtime, workers from the central business district and university students flood into the main streets. I desperately wish to eat but there’s nothing I can do except hover by a nearby bench and watch the buskers. Rajesh sets up in the middle of the busy pedestrian mall, armed with an acoustic guitar and his best smile. He gratefully thanks everyone who is polite enough to drop a couple of coins or maybe even a small note into his guitar case. Rajesh is a year into his pharmacy degree but harbours secret dreams of being a musician. He tries to busk at least once a week in a bid to live out his fantasies while keeping his parents assured that he’ll get a real job someday. But it’s hard to find the time.

Later in the afternoon, high school students begin to spill into the city, their shirts untucked and half-unbuttoned. I follow their lead through the malls and arcades, examining things I’ll never buy. Staring at her reflection in a shop window, Angelique puckers her mouth to apply a gooey layer of lip gloss before joining her friends to flirt with the cute boys in the surf shop. She wishes she could talk to someone about how she isn’t really into boys, but she knows they wouldn’t understand. And there’s nothing more terrifying than being at school and alone.

As the sun begins to dip in the sky, the zombie workers clamour onto the trains once more and start draining out of the city. They are replaced by a younger, fresher mob that drifts towards the pubs and clubs, laughing hysterically and looking for a good time. A fight breaks out on a street corner but is quickly scattered by a pair of beat cops. Trash talking and wrestling is nothing compared to what will come later in the night when drunken, stoned bravado takes hold.

Jared is haunted by memories of his best friend’s 18th birthday. The group of about a dozen had a simple plan: hit the bars and get wasted. It was a rite of passage, after all. He doesn’t really know why he brought the knife. He can’t quite remember what happened. But he’d heard the stories and guesses he just wanted a little security. Just in case things got out of hand in the city. Now he’s surrounded by all the security he needs. His mother visits once a week. But he doesn’t feel safe. He’ll never be safe.

I sigh and turn away from the entertainment precinct. The city is my home and I know its stories only too well.
I find a spot in the park by the flower garden where I used to play a lifetime ago. My hand drifts to my stomach where the blade entered and passes through air.

Tomorrow will be another day in the city.

Flash fiction: Falling Alone

The Bottle
Photo by skippyjon (Flickr)
A hint of five o’clock shadow had collected on Joe’s face and his office was lit only by the eerie glow of moonlight seeping through the window. Everyone else had gone home but there was only an empty refrigerator waiting for him there.

“My name is Joe and I’m an alcoholic,” he announced to the room.

“Hello, Joe!” he replied to himself.

He made a noise that sounded vaguely like laughter and started to tremble.

Gripping the desk, Joe closed his eyes and thought of Ella. He imagined the feel of her silky dark hair between his fingers and her racing heart against his chest; the exhilaration that came with stealing a final desperate kiss before they returned to the reality of their lives. He’d known from the moment she smiled back at him at Neil’s party almost a year ago that he would have her.

Two years earlier, Joe had pulled that angelic white veil away to reveal Charlotte’s innocent eyes peering expectantly at him… like he was some kind of hero. Joe loved that look. It spoke everything he needed without uttering a single word. He’d known then he would crave that look forever.

“In the presence of God and before these witnesses I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal husband to you, for as long as we both shall live,” he mimicked to the room, and chuckled humourlessly. Tender, beautiful Charlotte; his to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health… until Ella had caught his eye. And now he was nothing but a pathetic, lonely cautionary tale who’d gambled away his life.

Joe…

“What?” Joe looked around but there was no one there.

You know you want me, Joe.

It was coming from his desk. He opened the drawer. His hand closed around a bottle. He shook it. Empty. He dropped it to the ground in disgust.

“Yeah, real funny, you jerk!” he muttered to the ceiling.

From the outside, Joe had always led a charmed life. Handsome, popular, astute. It was in his blood. No one knew how much he hated himself. Or how he hated the father who’d given him his name. Joe Senior was a drinking legend but unlike Joe Junior, he still had his family, friends and respect. Joe Senior had kept more women over the years than his son could count, and Joe Junior couldn’t even get away with one. It didn’t seem fair. For as far back as Joe could remember, he had played the game of life exactly the way his old man did and now he had nothing.

You have us, the bottle reminded him. We’ve always been there for you.

Joe held his head, choking back angry tears. “No…”

We can take away the pain, the bottle promised.

“Shut up!”

When have we ever let you down, Joe?

Joe screamed, standing and kicking his chair away in a fluid motion. He grabbed the bottle off the floor by its neck and with a Hail Mary pass, smashed it into the wall. Shards of glass sprayed back across the room. Almost instantly, the shock of bereavement tightened around Joe’s throat. He crouched into a fetal position behind his desk as the strangled sobs escaped him.

He was still there when the first rays of sunlight filtered into the room, telling him that it was time to brush his teeth, comb his hair and shave before any of his colleagues arrived and thought something was wrong.

Flash fiction: Mother

Fault Lines
Fault Lines
Fault Lines

This flash was published in Fault Lines, an Australian eBook to raise money for earthquake victims in Japan and New Zealand. You can still get your copy here. Please support this great cause.

We have a complicated relationship. I love her and fear her. I cherish her and treat her with indifference.

She brings me joy and despair. She is beautiful and ugly in turn, or even at the same time – so peaceful from afar, only to reveal harsh facets to her personality when I get too comfortable. She nags me incessantly, gnawing at my guilt, crying that I don‘t help her even though I‘ve told her time and time again that I‘m very busy and the spare change I send her should be quite enough, thank you.

Sometimes she is a calm wave, sweeping across the clean white sand and splashing on my toes. Sometimes she is a furious volcano bleeding with pain. Yesterday she was a rich rainforest writhing with life and today she is a desolate desert suffering beneath the searing sun.

And sometimes, she just cracks. I never quite know when it‘s going to happen or how bad it will be. But as the floor sways beneath me, like I‘m taking my first steps on dry land after a rowdy boat trip or a rollercoaster ride, I know she is only getting started. And when I‘m knocked to my knees, shielding my face from the plates and glasses and mementos from my life that fly across the room and crash around me, I know that I‘ll never be able to go home.

Hell hath no fury like Mother Nature.