Sunday, April 5, 2009

What’s the magic word?

I hate passwords, don’t you? I detest that technology continually forces us to come up with new combinations of letters and numbers to do everyday things – like access computers, read e-mail, do our banking, check our kids’ grades, etc. If they ever require passwords for grocery shopping or starting a vehicle, I’m doomed.

The sheer number of tasks requiring passwords boggles my mind. Even worse, we’re supposed to create a password that's complex – using unexpected numbers and letters – not "simple” passwords that can actually be remembered. We’re also not supposed to use the same password for every task. Some Internet sites try to make it easier by making you record a clue. That way, if you forget the password, they'll tell you IF you answer some stupid question like: "What's your great aunt's least-favorite pet's name?"

This is all apparently aimed at thwarting cyber-criminals. But I suspect we’re the only ones being thwarted.

I hope my co-workers are getting used to the annoying “bing, bing, bing” sound my computer makes when it rejects my password at the start of the workday as I frantically search for the scrap of paper with the latest magic code. I have to change passwords every three months, or so the computer reminds me almost every two months. And if the new password resembles the old one, the computer rejects my choice. Believe me: Rejection by machine can be demoralizing.

I’ve heard that organized people keep lists of passwords in notebooks or on index cards. Anyone who’s seen my desk knows I’ll never be a member of that group. Besides, those organized people will be sorry when computer criminals steal their notebooks. That won’t be a problem for me.

Someone recently told me the best password is the name of an old boyfriend or girlfriend. This not only thwarts cyber-thieves, but also your loved ones – unless they’re the rare types who actually listen when you tell stories about your past.

So I "Googled" my high school boyfriend, who also was my debating partner, to see if he was worthy of being a password. Up came a link to a video of an environmental debate he’d participated in just weeks earlier. It was strange to realize I could still read his body language “tells” all these years later. I e-mailed to see if he objected to being a password. But then I became concerned he'd be able to access my bank account. Since he lives in San Francisco now, my money might just be enough to finance dinner out for him and his wife – once.

If that happens and I desperately need to replenish my account, it's a good thing I can remember the names of high school sweethearts of other people, which is odd because I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner yesterday.

For example, I’ve never forgotten the names of three former girlfriends revealed by co-workers after more than a few beers at the Knox Street Pub, a Dallas bar reportedly owned at that time by (I kid you not) Marina Oswald, widow of Lee Harvey Oswald (though I never saw her there). I did work with the guy who convinced Marina the body in her husband’s grave wasn’t his and that she should have it exhumed, though. Of course, the experts ruled it was JFK’s assassin, but I digress.

Anyway, at this after-work gathering, the guys around the table traded tales of their high school romances. Three decades later, I can still remember the names of those girls. Mayadelle, Starr and Scootchie would make really great passwords today. Watch your bank accounts, guys.


Rosemary Harris said...

Every once in a while I suffer from password meltdown..I just can't think of another $%^&ing password. I do keep a sheet on my bulletin board with all of the p.w.s on it...if you bookmark a page (and don't re-enter the password for a while) it's easy to forget.
I really hate the systems that require you to have a number or a symbol in the password so you wind up with a password like MyFirstDog 1967!
The best password I ever came up with was for a photo site - I don't use it anymore so it's okay to share. I used "I forgot." I always remembered it even when I didn't think I did.

ALittleGuitar said...

ha! as soon as i read the bit about using names of old flames for passwords, i wondered if inderman was deploying skootchie butler.

as for my own potential password, i'm told she's now on her fifth husband.

PatRemick said...

I think Rosemary has a great suggestion -- my passwords could now be Iforgot1 and Iforgot2, etc.!
As for the not-Scootchie password (how is it we remember these names???), i googled your password just to check the spelling of the first name and her picture was on -- maybe it's the one she used on, too, to get all those husbands.

ALittleGuitar said...

i remember frank's brother referring to myadel as 'a tall drink of warm water on a hot day.'

MaxWriter said...

Those are really Texan names, aren't they? ;^)

I somehow don't think that Tim or Roger or Dan would make very good passwords. Now Tibor, my first real love in high school, has some possibilities (he was a tall, handsome, brilliant Hungarian...).