Janet Sheridan: Proliferating passwords
November 28, 2014
I recently heard that children who lick their iPads could develop mercury poisoning. Unable to validate the rumor, I decided to start another, verifiable from personal experience: old ladies in charge of passwords could develop hysteria.
"They multiply faster than rabbits," I muttered in a voice tinged with lunacy as I worked my way through three passwords needed to open a document for a meeting that was about to begin. Blood pressure escalating, fingers fumbling, I managed to remember and accurately enter the first two, only to discover the third had expired and must be reset — a frequent task that taxes my mental capacities inordinately.
My ineptitude with all things technological doesn't surprise me. When I entered junior high, I wandered around for three days without textbooks because I couldn't master my locker's combination padlock — even when my homeroom teacher, Mr. Beckstrom, sweating profusely, barked directions over my shoulder.
As you can imagine, the current security measures required for using technology totally flummox me. To ward off identity theft, scams launched in foreign lands, and the possibility of houseguests discovering my secrets, I must think of clever usernames, create complex passwords, and answer inane security questions. If I can do so, I'm allowed to buy an iTune, access my medical records, review my finances, and find the perfect partner to sit with in separate bathtubs.
Some sites offer advice on creating unique usernames. One suggested I use my first name paired with either an alliterative word or a rhyming word, which led me to Jumbo Janet and Dammit Janet. How helpful.
Once I had an appropriate username, I had to create my password: a task as time-consuming, detailed and daunting as memorizing "Moby Dick." The password for my blog had to consist of at least eight characters that couldn't be identical or consecutive and include one capital letter, one lower case letter, one number, and one punctuation mark. I'm surprised I didn't have to prove my proposed password had been vaccinated.
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How ridiculous. Who'd want to hack into a blog called Aunt Beulah?
Many times security questions are required in case usernames or passwords fail. Usually, three questions must be answered from a list the site provides. I choose three and supply truthful answers. Then, I amuse myself by thinking of answers I'd like to give to others. Q: Where did you meet your spouse? A: Which one? Q: What was the name of your first pet? A: I don't name my snakes.
Once everything is in place for every site I use, hell begins: I have to remember them. If you want to start an animated conversation in a doctor's waiting room or on a crowded elevator, ask those assembled how they keep track of their computer passwords. So far I've been advised to save them on my smart phone, keep them on an index card in my purse, write them on post-its and stick them on my computer screen, put them on separate cards in an alphabetized Rolodex hidden in my house, and type them on a document buried in my computer files. My favorites so far: (1) embroider them on the waistband of my underwear and (2) tattoo them on my arms, then kill the tattoo artist.
I dread the day refrigerators come with passwords to help us control our appetites, dryers with security questions to keep children from crawling inside to take a spin, and remote controls with usernames husbands can set to render the gadgets inoperable if their wives should touch them.
It's enough to send me to bed with a case of the vapors.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.