Passwords: Seeing my whole life flash before my eyes

Passwords: Seeing my whole life flash before my eyes

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Then there is the matter of passwords. In a life that I am forever trying to simplify, passwords are the detritus on the highway. The need for them trips me up, interrupts my momentum, as I am tooling along.

Am I the only one with this frustration?

Let me illustrate by repeating some of the inane conversations on the subject. I call my credit card company to get some information. When I am lucky enough to get through to a live, warm-bodied person, he or she will ask the dreaded question: “What is your password?” “Could you give me a hint?” I ask, since upon the advice of experts, I try not to use the same password more than once. “It might be the name of your dog,” comes the sympathetic response — if I am lucky. “My first, second, third or fourth dog?” I ask nervously. We then go through the list if the customer service person on the other end has the patience and feels like prompting me. The response might be, “It starts with a ‘T.’” That only helps 50 percent of the way since two of those four dogs had names that began with T.

Sometimes, after I’ve run down the possibilities to no avail, the nameless, faceless voice at the other end, in a desperate attempt to move along the conversation, might volunteer, “Maybe it’s your mother’s maiden name?” “The last four digits of your Social Security number?” “Your first child’s birthday?” “The last four digits of your first phone number?”

And so it goes, with ultimate success possible but not assured. By this time, several minutes have elapsed, during which I could have transacted the business at hand several times over.

I have tried writing down all my passwords. But then where do I keep the list? And protected by what password? The logical place, to me since it is usually with me, is in my cellphone. “Nooo,” caution the experts. “That is the first place a thief would look.”

OK, then, how about in my glove compartment? Being a good suburbanite, I am usually only steps from my car. Again, that is such an obvious place that, like my vehicle registration, such a list should be kept anywhere but there — despite the logical need for one’s registration when in one’s car.

But I digress, probably due to the stress of the challenge at hand. Forget about car registrations. Back to the urgent subject of passwords.

We are advised never to use the same password twice or, heaven forbid, multiple times, because once our code has been broken, our whole lives and assets lie open to villains.

We are also advised to change our passwords often. Oh, please, have mercy! If I can’t remember the original passwords, how can I reasonably be expected to remember subsequent generations of passwords? They are not like children and grandchildren after all.

I am anxious about the future use of passwords. Will I be expected to know a password to shop in the supermarket? To shop online, it’s already come to that. I can’t get on my computer without my password, so no online shopping. How about filling up the tank with gas? We already must provide our ZIP codes, but that may turn out to be too broad a code. How about to visit an emergency room? Oh, but wait. We already have to produce the qualifying information on our identification cards. But if they need to follow up with the insurance company, we had better know our password before the ER can go any further. But not to worry. We can’t get to the ER anyway because we are unable to gas up the car.

This leaves me wondering: Do our passwords keep the rest of the world out or, once forgotten, do they lock us in?


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