A Blog by Gail Cushman
Passwords Will Be the Death of Me
I’m working on a book about online dating and had to join a couple sites. I refuse to pay for sites, so only get whatever they offer for free, which isn’t much, a few blurred photos of men and occasionally a woman along with information about how I can spend some hard-earned money by finishing my registration. The sites assure me that I’m sought after, certainly a big change from high school and every morning I wake up to thumbs up, smiles, winks, and hearts, and so far, no one has sent me a .357 magnum, which I would take to mean, “Get lost,” but it could happen. I had one offer, though, to move to a $14 million condo in New York, if I would only send him $500 so he could buy a ticket from one of the “Stan” countries as his accounts were frozen. My birthday was last week, but I wasn’t born yesterday.
In order to register for these sites, I had to enter a username and a password, which brings me to the subject of this blog. I have several usernames and can usually figure out which one to use and some sites hang on to them, so I don’t have to remember which is which, freeing up some of my brain wrinkles. But when it comes to passwords, I surrender.
All of us are on too many websites and it is beyond my thinking ability to differentiate Lowes from Girl Scout cookies from a cruise line, so I finally developed an Excel spread sheet page containing every website I use regularly or irregularly. It has four columns: site name, username, password, and other, which has a mishmash of information hinting at my password, like my eye color, date of birth in case I forget it, my mother’s maiden name, the name of my second-grade teacher (Mrs. Kryznenski, but I’m not sure to spell it any longer), my least favorite food, which changes from day to day, and all kinds of other useless information. I also have a few hand-written notes, in case I forget something like my grandkids’ first names.
My method worked pretty well until one day the website said, “You have used this password for three months. Time to change,” and led me to a password-changing page. I was on a tree cutting site that I had used once, several years ago, so I wondered two things: why I had to change it and who would steal my information to a tree-cutting outfit. Why did I need a password anyway? Baffling.
I receive a regular message from the doctor, who uses something called MyHealthIssues saying that I need to check it for an important message about my health. Now we’re cooking. I know both username and password. Woo-hoo, I’ll find out what my important message is lickity split, but, alas, after multiple tries, I received a message reading, “You’ve tried too many times, try again later.” I called the poor receptionist and asked nicely…nicely, mind you, if she could help me and she cheerfully said, “What is your username? I proudly was able to supply and heard her whisper, “old people.” She paused for a long time, then added, “Could you verify that this is you? Confirm your name, rank, serial number, and your favorite baseball team?” Good land-a-livin’, all these questions. I told her everything she asked for, except lied when I told her the Yankees, as I prefer the Cardinals, but what difference should that make to getting into MyHealthIssues chart. She said, sounding shocked, “Ma’am, you are dead. We closed your account because you died a few years ago.” This was amazing because I had gotten blood work done only a few days prior. When I finally got online, the important message was, “Congratulations. Your account is closed.”
Now, I know that I am old and slow, but as far as I know, I’m not dead. I now have to reenter all the pertinent information, and hope that I don’t die again. But for the time being, I think I’ll return to the dating apps. They, at least, recognize my existence and give me thumbs up, winks, smiles, and hearts. Ah, technology.
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