Set Me Free, I’ve Got the Key

A link to my latest column for The St. Augustine Record:

http://staugustine.com/living/sunday-life/2016-05-14/set-me-free-ive-got-key#.VziEDD7khdk.link

Below is the text:

I have a recurring bad dream in which I am standing in front of my high school locker panicked because I have forgotten the combination.

I sometimes still have that dream, although it has changed. Now I am sitting in front of my computer trying to grade student essays, but I cannot log in because I do not know my password.

That nightmare became real this past week when I clicked on an email link I shouldn’t have, compromising my Apple account. I quickly tried to head off trouble by changing my password.

Not so fast, little missy, Apple said. First you have to answer some security questions.

The problem I have with security questions is remembering exactly how I entered the answers. If, for instance, the question is the name of the street where I grew up, did I spell out the word “street” or use the abbreviation?

When Apple asked the name of my favorite teacher, I couldn’t remember if I had used Mr. or the man’s full name.

Trouble ensued. I was locked out of my Apple account for three days while friends and friends of friends received malevolent emails from me.

Imagine my horror later in the week when I received an email saying that I should change every password I have in honor of “World Password Day.”

The last time I changed all of my passwords was when I divorced. At the time, my sole password was “Hutch,” my husband’s nickname. Hutch knew the password, so it had to go.

I had trouble settling upon a new one because I believe passwords should be significant and therefore easy to remember. Of course, I couldn’t use a child’s name because that meant I loved one child more than the others.

Ultimately, I went with the dog’s name.

Apple has deemed the dog’s name insecure, however, and my computer has taken to suggesting passwords for me. These suggested passwords are impossible to remember because they are not even words. They are gibberish.

Of course, the computer offers to store these secure but nonsensical codes in something called its key chain. But I cannot see this key chain. For me, that is the stuff of more nightmares.

The word itself takes me back to junior high school, when my P.E. teacher, Mr. Gumbinger, doubled as the school’s maintenance director. On his belt, he wore a Stanley key chain with a retractable cord.

The key chain held probably 50 keys, in all different shapes and sizes. Some keys opened locker rooms, while some were for filing cabinets and even the Coke machines. The thing was so heavy it’s a wonder the man didn’t develop scoliosis.

The keys to the campus were constantly at his fingertips. That is my idea of a key chain.

Mr. Gumbinger always knew his keys and rarely fumbled for the correct one. It gave us students a sense of security to see him walking the halls with the cord pulled out about a foot, swinging those keys, and whistling.

I’ll take a pass on the Apple key chain because I can’t imagine it ever locating a password as efficiently Mr. Gumbinger did a key.

But all this does give me an idea for a new password, one easy to remember yet odd enough to be secure.

I’m going with Gumbinger.

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