Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blogger Number 2-10-19-19-25 2-5-20-20-26 Checking In.


Along with all the other back-to-school information that the dean announced in our faculty meeting before the semester started, was the news that we would all need to memorize new codes for the Xerox machine.

I heard a slightly hysterical, short staccato yelp-like sound come from my area and I looked around to see who made it. Judging from the stares my way, I soon discerned that it had come from my very own throat.

That short yelp was just my brain’s involuntary response to yet another pass code about to be inserted in to my already overloaded memory bank.


Just that morning before returning to work after summer vacation, I had dug around the grey matter for my nine-digit employee number.

I used four different passwords to check all of my e-mail accounts.

On the way to work, I stopped at the bank and used my pin number for my debit card.

Once I got to work, I checked my voice mail using a six-digit code.

I logged on to my work computer using a password and then onto my work e-mail using a password and then went to my online classroom to click on the right class code to check my student numbers.


Numbers and pass codes and passwords, oh my.


To get into my back account online, I use a code. To check the balances on my two credit cards, I use two different codes. My insurance company requires a code to check information. Amazon requires a password each time I order a book. To check my voice mail at home I have a pass code. If I want to send in pictures to be printed at Costco, I need to enter a code on the computer. My pharmacy requires a code to place an order over the phone. I need the right passwords for E-Bay, YouTube, Facebook and yes, Blogger too.

I think you get the idea.


When I was about fourteen or fifteen, I had the opportunity to go to New York with a group of other 4-H kids from Kansas. It was my first time in a large city so you can imagine the impact the experience had on me. After all, I came from a town of 600 people and had never traveled far from it.

During that trip, the leaders took us to the subway so we could experience riding it. I sat there, totally alert, wide-eyed, taking everything in. I watched as a young African-American boy got on. He was probably just a few years younger than was, but I remember being fascinated at how comfortable and matter-of-fact he was on the subway. He carried a backpack and he opened it to take out a stack of plastic cards to thumb through. There was his school ID, his library card, his YMCA card and others. I noticed that inside the front pocket of his backpack was a keychain with about four keys on it.

It struck me then how different our lives were. Our school issued no ID cards. The librarian in our small town knew everybody and no one needed a library card. We just signed our names on the cards inside the books. We had no key to our house. In fact the only lock we had was the hook and eye variety and it was on the outside of the door to prevent it from blowing open during a strong wind if we were away from home. I had no plastic cards to prove who I was to anybody. At that point, I realized how simple my life was compared to his. It was not a feeling of superiority or of disappointment, just a juxtaposition of lives that was fascinating to me.


These days about thirty plastic cards clutter my wallet, each one proclaiming my name and some associated number that means something to the distributor of that card. To each company I am that number.

I have been assigned digits, required to create unique pass codes, and asked security questions that I must answer to prove my identity. A good deal of my life seems to be taken up with proving who I am, affirming that I have permission to enter a porthole, justifying my attendance at an activity, kneeling at the keyboard, hoping I put in just the right mixture of numbers and letters that will allow me to participate.

My daily life requires about 10 or so pass codes just to do the job I am paid to do and so these dance in the spotlight at the forefront of my brain. Other numbers and codes that I do not use as frequently are there too, but in the background. Some of them occasionally fall off the edge and I must struggle to bring them on stage when they are needed.


Last night I asked my 17 year-old son how many pin numbers, codes, ID numbers, and passwords he had, and he nonchalantly said, “I guess about twenty, maybe thirty.” He seems totally nonplussed by this. He takes it as a matter of course. Unlike his mother, he does not utter a sharp sound when another number is added to his repertoire.

He is the boy on the train, heading into the future, already used to being numbered, categorized and given passwords. Just like that day in New York, I sit and look at him, fascinated by how different his childhood has been from mine.

He takes it all in stride, riding confidently into the future while at every stop, I am tempted, so tempted to get off.

It's a fantasy: I walk down the street, the plastic cards, the passwords, the identification numbers falling from me, scattering behind me in a colorful wake as I start to float up in the air, higher and higher.



63 comments:

Momma Fargo said...

Numbers...ugh. The headaches. LOL

Shan said...

It's strange how this "life simplifying" technology can be so complicated.

Bethany @ Organic Enchilada said...

I feel your pain. I only have two passwords that I used for everything on the computer. If it's not one, it's the other. It's the user names that always foul me up.

Maybe we have small brains or something.

Michelle Faith said...

No kidding right...I say they just put a barcode on our forhead and they can just scan us for eveything. Its sad really. I not only have all my passwords but my sons to, so I can check up on what he is doing on line. Wow really only 600 people.

SquirrelQueen said...

If they took away all of our identification numbers, codes and passwords would we cease to exist?

Senorita said...

I have way more passwords and pin #s than I care to remember.

I remember as a child, like you I didn't even have a housekey, a phone, passwords, access to a computer. It's all so different now.

loveable_homebody said...

All these passwords and keys and things make us conscious of our society's desire and feeling of need to protect ourselves and, like the Xerox machine, sacred or elite spaces that people outside of the community, like students, don't belong to. The Xerox code is a reminder that teachers aren't supposed to trust students.

Still, you shouldn't have to remember a code! Staff should have cards to swipe into the machine or something.

Baby Sister said...

This is sooo true it's not even funny.
I like your fantasy...makes me feel all light and cheerful!!

Baby Sister said...

This is sooo true it's not even funny.
I like your fantasy...makes me feel all light and cheerful!!

Nat said...

This post struck a chord! We are so overwhelmed with codes and passwords...worst thing is when you have to change them! Had my credit card and bank account hacked and my facebook account too...such a hassle to change everything!

faye said...

Just when I get comfortable with
all my work passwords, they make me
change them every 6 weeks...
I probably utter a bit more than a
yelp....

slommler said...

I have so many codes and passwords that I have to keep a small journal (kept in a safe place) to store all of them. But amazingly, I can remember most of them!!! Several of them I have to change regularly..hence the journal!! It is a fact that we have become the coded people walking the face of the earth.
Hugs
SueAnn

Joyful said...

I can totally relate to this post. I've got so many accounts on line that I haven't used in awhile and trying to get into them is a nightmare. I've given up in some cases.

citymouse said...

The physicians at our hospital need a password to access the electronic medical record. They even get to choose the password. I think I authorize password resets pretty much every day. These folks can memorize every system of the body but can't remember if their password is their dog's name or what city they were born in (or whatever). The truth is I'm not any better!!

It's crazy how password dependent we've become. I really just feel like writing them all down in my wallet!

I loved this line from your post: "It's a fantasy: I walk down the street, the plastic cards, the passwords, the identification numbers falling from me, scattering behind me in a colorful wake as I start to float up in the air, higher and higher." Your words painted the exact picture you were aiming for!

Peggy K said...

Every time I need to change a password because I can't remember what it was, I have this nagging feeling that if I embraced and worked at the "improve your memory" techniques I've seen, I wouldn't be having this problem. So it's good to read this post, Betty, to realize I'm not alone. I, too, grew up with doors always open (mom was always home). So this world of passwords and numbers has always been a little frustrating, especially as they lengthen the requirements for the passwords.

Tabor said...

I have two typed pages for my PC passwords...about 40. That is just the ones I use on the PC. I am getting old, so changing passwords is a big deal for those I use often and have memorized such as my bank card. When hubby recently lost his wallet, I almost killed him!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Life has really changed, huh? I'm lucky to remember my SSN!

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

Hi Betty: You struck a chord with me. My first piece of plastic was my license. I keep a spreadsheet for all of my passcodes and pins. Whenever possible I try to use the same two so that when my brain freezes I still have a chance of accessing whatever it is I need to access. I guess, as long as we are not assigned the Logan's Run style of ID, we are okay. My eyes fill up and my chin starts to quiver whenever a cashier at some store asks if I have my preferred customer card and insists I have to have one to get the sale price. And men still get by with just a wallet. Amazing.

Mamma has spoken said...

This reminds me of the time when you needed TWO photo id's to write a check. I only had one. Now it's type my four digit pin into the machine.
You've make me think this morning, thanks!

Madi and Mom said...

OH BB I 100% agree with you...every three months we have to change our password for a particular account at work...it drives me crazy because I have just finally memorized the last change.

Great Post!!! Even though this is a maddening process you made it fun!!

28654321011x2111518 over and out

Copyboy said...

The real strange part is if you add all the code numbers up and divide the answer by 18 you get 4. I learned that from LOST.

Parsley said...

My husband used to work for a government facility and they changed passwords every month one to get in, one to open a safe, one to go into a computer room, etc. I'm surprised his head didn't explode.

A girl needs 2 Talk said...

I love this post. You should be a book writer, I'd read you any day.

There's something so beautiful in your writing when you write about your kids. I love it!

My passwords and me- still trying to be friends! I will succeed!

Joe Cap said...

Yup, all the passwords we have to endure in life are a pain. I have to write them all down. They say you shouldn't but if I were smart enough to remember them all, I also be smart enough to be farther ahead in life than I am right now.
So, what's with the picture of the office building? I hope you are not zooming on on people to spy on them...

baygirl32 said...

Hello, tech support; information, I have lost my pin number again, oh and I've forgotten the ssecret security question too...

Out on the prairie said...

This made me think of a movie where one of the actors had a barcode on the back of his neck. I wondered who would be able to understand all I have to use if I were not around anymore.I like the library without a card, I have always carried that.

Gigi said...

The movie the previous commenter is referring to, I believe, is Memento. excellent movie.

I find the older I get the less I can remember of all this stuff. Then, I write it down so I won't forget it, and forget where I wrote it down.

If we could have a national effort to standardize passwords to the same amount of letters and numbers, life would be so much easier.

Georgina Dollface said...

All of those passwords scattering a breadcrumb trail of alibis all across the universe. The other day I realized that because of the key fob we need for our highrise, it is possible for the strata management company to track my comings and goings. Kind of creepy. - G

Flartus said...

What irritates me about my passcodes at work is that they have to be changed every 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the system. And heaven forfend they all change at once!

Oh, and per company policy, we should NEVER write down our 15 different changeable password numbers!

Yeah, right. 'Cause being a walking fount of memorized randomized personalized characters is one of my primary job functions.

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

5438-7622079807733121
That means: Have a good weekend!
xoRobyn

Brian Miller said...

i like the fantasy...i dont remember how many numbers i have...i usually just keep trying until they kick me out or i get it right...smiles. have a wonderful weekend!

KleinsteMotte said...

What I find interesting is what happens to all the ones the are abandoned and never ever used again, accounts that remain dormant. I'm guessing there'll be many as time moves on and we're gome

Old Kitty said...

Oh digitalised and numericalised (I'm doing a G.W. Bush again!!) BB!! How true! Unfortunately this is the way of the technological and ever so paranoid world!

Remember The Prisoner?

"I am not a number, I'm a free man"!!!

Oh yeah!

take care
x

Sarah said...

I just cancelled the cable, and they wanted a number from me too. I told them I had no clue. One less number (and passcode) to remember now!

Brian said...

I would tell you what I really think of all this darn passwords...buy you would have to take a number!!!

Marlene said...

My head hurts, just reading this.

liz said...

i don't want to even attempt to count passwords! Craig's company makes them change theirs every 3 months! and a new password cannot be a repeat of a previous password. as if needing 1,000 passwords isn't enough, could you imagine having to change it 4 times a year?

Noelle said...

I'm with Marlene...my head hurts too. I use two usernames and two passwords...for all of my accounts. I'm in BIG trouble if they ever get discovered. :)

Pearl said...

I keep all my passwords filed under "Passwords" on my Rolodex.

Yes, a physical Rolodex.

Pearl

Carol said...

Giggle all the way, today I bought groceries and guess what,for a second I double guessed my debit number. Oh boy, too many numbers and too tired to think through all of them. I did get it right and went home with my necessary and not so necessary items.

Lydia Kang said...

The complexity of living in the modern, civilized world. It's nuts!
I even have a password protecting my Blackberry Password keeper.

Jimmy said...

Oh for the days of going to town without having to lock the door and checking out a library book with a signature on the card inside the front cover, I remember those days and if I had known then what we would be experiencing now, I would have laughed in disbelief.

Ann said...

I miss the simpler times when you were a name instead of a number or a password. I can't keep them all straight. Even though it's what they tell you never to do I have to write them all down because if I don't I know I will forget most of them

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daisy said...

I am so with you, Betty. It is overwhelming at times what all we have to do just to prove who we are.

Aging Mommy said...

Fabulous post Betty, I absolutely loved this. I am totally with you, I hate all these ID's and codes and numbers that our modern world requires us to remember and use.

CherylK said...

I know JUST what you mean...I actually have a book with everything written down and it terrifies me if anything would happen to that book! There's GOTTA be a better way!! Let me know if you ever figure it out, please. :-)

Pat said...

Would it be easier if we just had a bar code on our forehead and it could be used for everything?

Beth Zimmerman said...

I keep thinking I'll winnow things down to just a few special passwords but the distributors keep coming up with new rules for the silly things to comply to! I can put a password safe app on my smart phone but I need a password to get into it and I'm just not up for it right now!

Beth Zimmerman said...

I keep thinking I'll winnow things down to just a few special passwords but the distributors keep coming up with new rules for the silly things to comply to! I can put a password safe app on my smart phone but I need a password to get into it and I'm just not up for it right now!

Jane said...

Thank you for your kind comments on my blog. I enjoyed this post and will be back to visit again soon.

Jane

Jingle said...

have a relaxing weekend,
your post is fun and beautiful.

Cheeseboy said...

I recently read an article about some guy that accessed every single one of his friend's bank accounts by figuring out a series of passwords that he did not know.

The worst is when a site or a program makes you change your password every 3 months and you can never use the same one twice. Ugh.

The Empress said...

Oh, I love your banner pictures, but this one is THE BEST>

I LOVE IT.

Writing Without Periods! said...

You really hit on something here. Too many codes, passwords and pins. When I was in high school the only numbers I had to remember were friends' telephone numbers and my locker combo! What the hell has happened to life?
Mary

Lourie said...

We really are becoming faceless numbers and codes aren't we?

Fragrant Liar said...

Incredible the number of passwords, PINs, and assorted other IDs we have to keep on hand. It's dizzying, in fact. I can't imagine having 20-30 different ones. I'd fall apart trying to remember just a couple.

Hilary said...

It truly is overwhelming at times. We all have those accounts where we just stay signed in and usually don't need to know the password.. until we somehow get signed out. Each place requires passwords of different character numbers and/or combination, and some are arbitrarily assigned to us making retrieval difficult. Account/user names are another puzzle if and when we need to obtain or change a password. It's time you invented the handheld Password Organizer. Please get back to me when you have the prototype. ;)

CherylK said...

I find it ironic that I don't need to remember phone numbers because we have speed dial. I'd like one of those hand held password organizers, too, so put me on the list behind Hilary!!

Betty Manousos @ CUT AND DRY said...

Interesting photo!
Numbers.. always numbers, codes, pins etc.
You have to love technology or hate it.
It simplified our lives though.

B xx

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I have an excel spreadsheet to keep it all straight.

And I can never get my bank PIN on the first try.

So much for all of my organization.

Sandra said...

In my case, the plastic cards in my wallet have numbers associated to them alright...with dollar signs next to them...sigh...i-owe-i-owe, it's off to work I go...
Terrific post by the way. You are such a good and captivating writer.

Pat Tillett said...

I have no problem remembering my PIN numbers or passwords.
I always use 9876 for my PIN and ducks99 for my passwords.

OH DARN...