My Christmas wish – fewer passwords

By Tom Joyce -
Tom Joyce -

In the true spirit of Christmas, but one that goes against the prevailing I-want mentality of the holiday, I’m not asking for anything special to be left under the tree. In fact, I’d rather have something taken away:

Those pesky passwords the average person now must remember to carry on nearly every aspect of his or her daily life — unless you have the great fortune to be locked in a dungeon.

I realize passwords are an abstract kind of thing that you can’t put in a gift box, but I’d somehow like to pack them all into a crate and ship them off on a one-way voyage to Hades.

If you’re like me, you’ve reached a saturation point that is threatening to break a Guinness World Record for most numbers memorized by a human brain — and counting.

My day on Friday began by withdrawing money from an ATM (it being payday and all), which, of course, required punching in a password. At least it is only a few digits long, so I was able to take out a cool million and be on my way without incident.

Then it was on to The Mount Airy News office, but before I could even get into the back door (they don’t let me come through the front), I had to punch in a security code on a keypad to gain entry to the Sacred Hall.

Due to that code being many numbers long, I have a recurring fear that one day I’m going to show up at the back door and my mind will go blank as to what it is — and no one will hear me knocking. In fact, this almost occurred once. I was in a hurry to get inside, being chased by an angry mob bearing torches, and for the life of me could not remember the pass code.

Fortunately that day, someone inside heard my plaintive pounding on the door. And later when the stress had ceased, the code came back to me so I immediately typed an email containing the numbers and sent it to myself so they could be accessed in a future emergency.

Before I could send that message, though (you guessed it), I had to access the email system using a password.

But back to the present…

In order to even start typing up this column Friday morning, yes, I was required to log into my computer with yet another password.

In our technological world, that still was not good enough in terms of allowing me to ply my trade as a so-called wordsmith. Actually getting to work meant typing in another password to access the database where our stories are prepared.

By then, I had very little left in the way of brain power, so I’m doing the best I can with this rendering.

It doesn’t end there as far as passwords.

In my case, in addition to those aforementioned, I have memorized passwords for at least three email systems, including our office one and two for personal correspondence, along with another for our company database where personnel information is managed. Then there are passwords for phone voice-mails, both at work and home.

There are about 10 others for various utilities, online pizza ordering, etc.

I previously mentioned the ATM password, which also is the subject of a horror story that involved my mind again going blank while trying to withdraw funds — perhaps brought on by the local loan sharks holding guns on me at the time.

Anyhow, this led to me slinking into the bank and asking for my password from a teller, who said it would have to be mailed to me from Raleigh. Security, don’t you know. Naturally, I recalled what it was about two hours later.

If all this were not bad enough, some of the passwords have ridiculous standards, such as forcing you to include so many numbers and so many letters and at least one odd character (besides myself).

So I often must type in a password several times before I get the order right, and God forbid if you exceed your allotment of failed log-in attempts. Although I’ve so far been lucky enough not to cross that Rubicon, I have heard the consequences involve removal of fingers or toes.

And just when you have all these complicated passwords committed to memory, while also seeking a prescription for anti-blackout medication, they require you to change them. I have received about three such commands this week, which must be an end-of-the-year thing or something.

Along with being run ragged by passwords at present, I wonder what the future holds and where this madness will end.

Will passwords eventually be required to use a restroom or drive a car?

I don’t know the answer, and would appeal to Santa Claus for help — but contacting him at the North Pole probably would require a password, too.

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce Joyce

By Tom Joyce