Pass On Passwords

I’m taking a pass on any new passwords.

I was early for a lunch meeting so I sat on a railing near the War Memorial in Marine Park in Sag Harbor. I silently thanked the men and women of our foreign wars for such a safe, tranquil day in a gorgeous corner of America. Pleasure craft bobbed in the sparkling waters under a yolky spring sun.

I found a credit card bill in my inside jacket pocket and realized it was deadline day for payment. I decided to use the rare spare time to pay the bill by phone.

I speed-dialed the company number on my iPhone, punched in my 16-digit card number twice because the first time I couldn’t find my reading glasses.

Then I was asked by a recorded voice for the last four digits of my Social Security number. I added those. Then the voice asked for my zip code.

I added that.

Then my call was transferred to a live human being with a flat Area Code 800 American twang who said hello and asked whom he had the pleasure of speaking with. I told him my name. He asked if I had my card with me. I said yes. He asked for my credit card number again. I searched for my glasses again and tilted my card to the sun to read the raised numbers. He asked me expiration date and the little number on the back of the card.

“That’s fine,” Area Code 800 said. “What is your mother’s maiden name?”

I gave him that.

“Okay, so what is the special password you have set up for this account,” Area Code 800 asked.

“What? I set up a special passcode, too? C’mon, enough already.”

“Yes, sir, you did.”

“I have no idea what the password is,” I said. “When did I do this?”

“I can’t tell you that, sir.”

“How about I give you my blood pressure which is now about 350 over 200.”

“I need the passcode, sir.”

“Listen, I’m not looking to take out a second mortgage, here,” I said. “I just wanna pay my bill. Give you money.”

“Yes, it is due by today or you will be charged a late fee.”

“Right,” I said. “So I want you to deduct money from my bank. I don’t want to charge anything or increase my credit or get a second card. I want to pay you money.”

“You need the passcode, sir.”

“Okay, I told you I do not know the password. I have more passwords than the Strategic Air Command. I can’t remember all of them. You security guys tell us not to use the same password for every card and to change them all the time.”

“I’ll put you on hold while you take a moment to try to think of your passcode, sir,” Area Code 800 said. “Hint: It could be a number or a name or a combination of both.”

“Jeez, that’s really helpful.”

I was placed on Muzak hold while I closed my eyes in the East End sun and scanned the ever-shrinking hard drive of my brain for the credit card password. But there was gridlock on my information highway, a digital centipede of passwords like the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Montauk Highway come Memorial Day Weekend. There were passwords for my computer, my email, and my social media accounts. Passwords for my streaming services, my cell phone, my cable company, my car insurance, health insurance, my debit card, my mortgage, my union website, the college where I teach, for Apple iTunes, for my bank. The passwords jumbled together with passwords for old defunct accounts, old jobs, dormant websites, various apps, software programs, and online shopping venues.

I needed a password for nut house.

Because as the Muzak played, my blood pressure rose, and I walked in a tight little circle spitting four letter words that were not passwords and I realized that I would probably pass on from this world from a stroke induced while trying to remember a damned password to access my own money, health insurance, credit line, or the antidote to toxin in some new biochemical attack.

“I’m sorry, sir, but without your passcode you are going to have to die,” the Area Code 800 voice in the future will tell me on a Sunday morning. “If you do live, please call back during business hours and speak to a customer service representative or go online and follow the prompts for Forgot my Password.”

“But I can’t remember my user name,” I’ll shout. “So, I can’t activate the Forgot the My Password function . . .”

Then, as I paced in Marine Park in Sag Harbor, the Muzak ended and the operator came back on as my blood pressure rose like a new North Korean missile launch aimed at Robert Mueller’s office.

“Did you remember your passcode, sir?”

I tried out three different ones that I had used in the past on various accounts.

“Sorry,” said Area Code 800. “Those are all incorrect. You will have to go online and change your passcode or I can place you back on hold and I’ll see if I can transfer you to a special operator who might be able to help you.”

“Nooooo,” I shouted. “No more on hold. No more Muzak. No more passwords. I wanna pay a freakin’ bill! If you don’t want my money, fine. Forget it.”

“Sir, today is the deadline.”

“Right. And I’ll be dead from a cerebral hemorrhage before the end of this call.”

I hung up, reached for my wallet, took out an old fashioned folded check, and a book of Forever stamps. I made out the personal check with an old fashioned Bic ballpoint pen and I placed the Forever stamp on the self-addressed envelope that came with the bill, and drove to the post office on Long Island Ave., and snail mailed the envelope that would be postmarked before midnight on payment deadline day.

I passed on creating a new password.

And paid cash for lunch.


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