A Password Primer For Baby Boomers

Remember the old TV game show Password? If you do, then like me you are probably flummoxed by all of the passwords required to function these days. Sometimes, life feels like a frustrating version of Password in which Allen Ludden and the audience know the right answer but I have to guess it.

Can you blame me for not remembering? I have an Excel sheet with over 100 websites on it and at least 16 different passwords to remember. I have tried putting the important ones in a secret place on my phone. I know that's wrong. A 12-year-old could find them in two minutes. But how am I supposed to remember the five variants I have of my dead cat's name and which one goes with which site?

I know. There is password-generating software I could use. In desperation, I tried a highly rated one. It confused me even more. I just couldn't get it to work. It also felt a bit like letting a stranger look in my dresser drawers. Please don't judge. It just made me uncomfortable.

Actually, my computer guru recommended the Excel list. Despite all of his technical savvy, it works for him. Maybe he doesn't shop online as much as I do. Maybe his younger mind remembers to note every little change he is forced to make when a website suddenly decides a new password is required. Maybe his spouse doesn't scribble his passwords down somewhere, never to resurface again.

Lots of websites told me my password was weak. In response to my failure to come up with something of even moderate strength, I created a really strong password. It was filled with capital and lower case letters, numbers, and even an exclamation point. Here's a hint: I have eight grandkids and thought it would be very clever to use parts of each of their names, followed by a special number and "!". So here's the flaw. It's impossible for me to type it into my phone without messing it up. Takes me at least five minutes. So in case you have guessed it, that one was replaced.

Password has a cousin that is even more challenging for me -- PIN. I have had to redo mine several times. This is not for security reasons. Rather, I forget the clever combination of numbers I selected that meant something so significant at the time I chose them. Did it have to do with some anniversary or birth date or old address?

My favorite recent encounter with passwords happened when I upgraded my iPhone. My husband and I have three apple IDs. Not sure how that happened. We also have two AT&T passwords, one for each phone. So you would think that, armed with these, I would have no problem. Wrong. Just to get started, Apple and AT&T required a four-digit passcode. What on earth is that? I had no memory of creating one and had never used it before.

After providing AT&T with my social, my date of birth, my mother's maiden name, and the random answers to several "security questions," someone texted me this code. Aha! I see why I selected it but have no memory of doing so. But it was the key to unlocking access to my new iPhone. And it is pretty clever, so I've decided to keep it. I even used it as the password to unlock my new phone when it doesn't want to recognize my fingerprint. Want to guess?

If you have read this far and you are a baby boomer, chances are you remember another famous quiz show from the 50's, You Bet Your Life. In it, Groucho Marx uttered the famous line, "Say the secret word and divide $100" to contestants. If they guessed the word, a duck would drop down and reward them. Well, that's how I feel when I finally enter the correct password.

I think I deserve $100 every time I remember one of my secret words.

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