“Identity Crisis” in Main Line Today (July, 2011).
I tried to tackle my to-do list today, but things haven’t worked out as planned.
1. Pay mortgage.
I went to pay my mortgage but couldn’t remember my password. After asking for help, I was told I first needed to answer the following:
“What is your favorite food?”
My first thought was pizza. Then again, I really like tacos. I took a guess:
Apparently not. Seems the computer knows my taste buds better than I do, and I’ll probably end up in foreclosure.
2. Buy a gift for Aunt Foo-Foo’s 90th birthday.
I searched high and low, hour after hour, looking for the perfect gift for my aunt. When I finally found it—a water-balloon slingshot—I passed along my credit card number and my address.
Seems that wasn’t good enough, though. I was told I must first establish an account. In order to do that, I had to disclose the color of my best friend’s sister’s eyes. Failure to do so, I was warned, would prevent me from easily purchasing water-balloon slingshots in the future.
I grappled over which best friend they were referring to, as there were several over the years. Finally, I had a hunch they were referring to Chris. He had five sisters, though, so I couldn’t be sure whose eye color they wanted. Too stressed to continue, I gave up. So much for water games at the nursing home.
3. Renew library books.
I wasn’t quite finished reading my loaned copy of Pride and Prejudice, so I went to renew it. They needed my library card number, which seemed reasonable enough. Then I needed to create a password that adhered to the following guidelines: 43 characters, including two numbers, one capital letter, an ampersand and an obscenity.
I spent an hour thinking up something I could remember. I was told to enter it again, at which point I forgot my password. Pride and Prejudice wasn’t all that interesting anyway, so I gave up on renewing it.
4. Order photos.
After spending a few hours whittling 537 photos down to 24, then removing the red-eye from each, I was ready to order some 4-by-6 prints for the first time in five years.
Before I could continue, I needed a user name. I tried the usual variations, but they were all taken.
I spent a good hour in deep reflection, trying to come up with something that captured my inner nature, my passions, my purpose in life.
Alas, it was already taken. I began to question who I really was.
5. Make an eye doctor appointment.
I was in dire need of new glasses. On a giant computer screen across the examining room was one of those reCAPTCHA windows you’re often confronted with when entering a password. Apparently, my doctor wanted to make sure I was still human.
“Read the first line,” he directed.
I fumbled to decipher the jumbled, wavy, crooked text, failing miserably. I explained that I was being held hostage by technology, all to protect whatever identity I had left.
“My life is password protected,” I pleaded.
He would hear none of it.
“No,” he replied. “You’re going blind.”