He came to the desk for help. A friend had set him up with an AOL mail account, but he'd lost his password. "Show me where you're at", I said. He had tried to reset his password, but AOL needed an alternate e-mail account to send his new password to, and he didn't have one. He would have to create a new account. I got him to the new account web form, and had to leave to answer the phone.
He came to me again. AOL told him that his "screen name", TonyD, was already taken, (possibly by his old account), and to choose another. He was using his Social Security number for his password. His girlfriend was trying to help him. I explained that he should probably add extra letters or numbers, because countless thousands of users already had taken the more obvious screen names. He tried Tony1. Taken. Anthony. Taken. Tony111. Taken. And every time he had to do that maddening image verification thing where you retype the distorted letters & numbers designed to foil spambots.
AOL offered to suggest a screen name if he would supply three keywords. Again I had to leave to answer the phone. As I got off the phone I saw him leaving. Did he get it done? No, he muttered darkly. I said that I was sorry. MF thought he might have had better luck with Yahoo or Gmail.
He was just so frustrated when his input was rejected. He didn't want to generate new stuff to have to remember. That someone else was already using "TonyD" as a screen name seemed to offend him. In a time when an e-mail address is the price of entry for so many things online, particularly applying for a job, he found the process insurmountable.