Monday, October 29, 2007

Shhhh. The password is ... "password."

The old game show, "Password," still gives me a tummy ache. Maybe it's because the only time I ever got to see Allen Ludden and his cast of stars was when I was holed up in bed, home sick from school. It came on right after "As the World Turns" every day. (An aside from the "I know way too much useless information about TV stars" files: Allen Ludden was married to actress Betty White, a.k.a. silly Sue Ann from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and one of "The Golden Girls.")

Anyway, I learned a lot about the English language from "Password." I even had the home version. What could be more fun for a kid with a pretty good vocabulary? The "Lightning Round" could make me a little queasy -- pressure, you know -- but I discovered there was pretty good money to be made from knowing what words meant: at first, $50 per correctly guessed word, can you believe it?

The reason I started thinking about all of this "Password" business is that the word, "password," morphed from its early military and speakeasy days into game-show usage and now is the second half of the "username and password" combo to enter a secure Web space. Which brings me to a mini rant for the day.

Apparently it's just not enough to have a plain old username and password today. Now you have to be able to answer challenge questions like, "Who was the best man at your wedding?" or "What is your mother-in-law's middle name?" or "What color was your second pet's third toenail?" to enter a supposedly secure Web site. It's becoming a whole new game show in itself. I can't even get the answers right when I have written the questions myself!

Today, case in point, I entered a site to be left unnamed, to pay a bill. "In an effort to serve you better," it said (that's always the reason), I had to list answers to FIVE challenge questions that I could remember answers to later. Heck, I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday, much less the answers to a bunch of questions that I chose today. The thing is, I can answer questions today that I'm asked today and not necessarily will I answer them the same way tomorrow or six months from now. You see, I'm a "shades of gray" person. Answers aren't necessarily always the same. It depends on when one asks them. So, when you ask me, "What was the name of your first pet?" I'll retort, "My first pet when I was a kid? Or after I was married?" And when someone asks me, "What was your grandmother's middle name," I'll wonder, "Which grandmother?" The frustration is dizzying. Which makes me queasy, in need of a cold washcloth on my head, a hot water bottle on my belly and "Password" on the telly.

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