Before you read this column, please enter your user name and password.
What? You don’t remember?
My wireless Internet access went out recently and the next day I called and went through the dance that we all face.
“What’s your user name? Password? For verification purposes, can you tell us the Social Security number of your mother’s first-grade teacher?”
It makes me want to scream, but I’m afraid they’d think that was either my user name or password. (“Sorry Mr. Stanhope, “aarrrrrrrrrrrgh!” is not the answer you provided when you set up the account. Would you like to speak to another operator?”)
We live in a world where we have immediate access to everything – music, bills, health records, loan documents – either by phone or the Internet. But every organization – even this newspaper’s website, unfortunately – acts as if it’s the only place with a user name/password combination.
They all require a user name (sometimes it’s your email address, sometimes it’s not) and a password (sometimes anything is OK, sometimes it requires at least one number and at least one letter, sometimes it requires at least two of each, sometimes it requires a symbol).
They all expect us to remember them and be able to use them at a moment’s notice.
In the past week, I had to sign in to my work computer, two email accounts, my health-care system, my bank account, a student loan account for my son, the Daily Republic system (different from my simple work computer login), an online music provider and to view my retirement account.
How am I supposed to remember all those?
Everyone admits that having one user name/password combination is a bad idea – in that scenario, if you figure out my fantasy football login, you also can clean out my bank account, impersonate me on Facebook and have my TV service turned off.
But the alternative is just as bad. An impenetrable series of combinations of login names and passwords, making them all impossible to remember – especially those that require symbols (I prefer !, $, # and &, but I’m not sure. They’re all awesome).
I realize there’s technology that makes it better. I know that people will tell me about an app that keeps all your email user name/password combinations safe, but I’d have to remember the user name/password combination to access it.
Here’s what I really want: Some grace from the password people. I want you to state your rules when you ask for the combination (for instance, if you require at least eight characters, including at least one letter, one numeral and one symbol, tell me that when I’m signing in). I want a quick and easy way to “retrieve” my password when I forget it (and don’t tell me I can’t change it to something that I’ve already used, because I probably just forgot).
I write all of that with one final caveat: Please don’t complain to me about the Daily Republic user name/password system, because I don’t have the authority to change it. If I could, I wouldn’t remember my user name/password system to do so.
It’s probably mixed up with my fantasy football combination.
Now, please log out of this column, using your unique user name/password combination.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.