The Last Word : My password, my self
Abracadabra! The magic word that opened the cave for Aladdin and his cohorts. Passwords in literature are hard to come by except through great challenge and not a little luck, highly valuable words used to access something very important kept behind an impenetrable stone or wall or door. Treasure of some sort. A magic lamp. Access to a hidden place.
I don't know about you, but I have accumulated somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred passwords. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but, really, who doesn't have to remember at least a dozen personal identification numbers in order to obtain access to the kingdoms of banks, email, social networks, and shopping?
Passwords condense our self-awareness into one word. Or, if you're a math fan, a set of important numbers. Choosing a password is a rare opportunity to define oneself, to write a little one-word haiku of self. I am brought to mind of that episode of Seinfeld where George, the perpetually mensch-y mensch is asked for his ATM password by his fiancée, the doomed Susan. George is beyond reluctant, he feels like the gates of his self-hood are being stormed. Eventually circumstances require that he give up the tiny piece of himself and he confesses that his password is Bosco. He loves the chocolaty drink. To say it out loud reveals him as a childish man. But he loves it and it's easy for him to remember. In his mostly out of control world, it's something he has a grip on. To loosen that grip is agony.
The trick is to make a password personal enough that it's easy to remember, but not so personal that anyone who knows you can guess what it is. Rumpelstiltskin anyone? Of course, it's not necessarily the danger of your brother knowing your password that's so terrifying, but those invisible thieves who manage to break through the encoding to get to your treasure. Literally. I've had it done - twice. Suddenly the bank account is drained and someone in Novgorod is spending my cash in cool rubles. True story. Happy ending, our local bank fixed the problem, returned the money and I had to choose another password. But the point is I got to choose my password, a word that means something to me, that makes me smile every time I use it, or its variations. I do have trouble remembering which account or online store requires which variation, but I just run through them all until I get it right. Of course, that only works with online shopping with its never-ending patience. Try that with a financial institution and you're shut down as quickly as if you've poked the wrong digits into an ATM machine three times.
Recent headlines have reminded me that it's necessary to change a password every so often, to keep the cyber-villains guessing. Changing my password - even just one - challenged my sense of self. I have for so long identified myself with this one. Can I really recall a new password when my fingers are muscle-bound with using the old one? I was taken out of my comfort zone, partially because my memory isn't as sharp as it once was, and partly because I like my PIN. At the same time, the threat is apparently real and the need to replace one's defining word is critical.