Identity Crisis: Navigating a Password-Protected World

My life is password protected. But whose life is it, anyway?

I tried to tackle my to-do list today, but things haven’t worked out as planned.

Illustration by Dewey Saunders1. Pay mortgage.

I went to pay my mortgage but couldn’t remember my password. After asking for help, I was told I first needed to answer the following:

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“What is your favorite food?”

My first thought was pizza. Then again, I really like tacos. I took a guess:

“Cheeseburger, medium-well.”

Apparently not. Seems the computer knows my taste buds better than I do, and I’ll probably end up in foreclosure.

Continued on page 2 …

2. Buy a gift for Aunt Foo-Foo’s 90th birthday.

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I searched high and low, hour after hour, looking for the perfect gift for my aunt. When I finally found it—a water-balloon slingshot—I passed along my credit card number and my address.

Seems that wasn’t good enough, though. I was told I must first establish an account. In order to do that, I had to disclose the color of my best friend’s sister’s eyes. Failure to do so, I was warned, would prevent me from easily purchasing water-balloon slingshots in the future.

I grappled over which best friend they were referring to, as there were several over the years. Finally, I had a hunch they were referring to Chris. He had five sisters, though, so I couldn’t be sure whose eye color they wanted. Too stressed to continue, I gave up. So much for water games at the nursing home.

Continued on page 3 …

3. Renew library books.

I wasn’t quite finished reading my loaned copy of Pride and Prejudice, so I went to renew it. They needed my library card number, which seemed reasonable enough. Then I needed to create a
password that adhered to the following guidelines: 43 characters, including two numbers, one capital letter, an ampersand and an obscenity.

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I spent an hour thinking up something I could remember. I was told to enter it again, at which point I forgot my password. Pride and Prejudice wasn’t all that interesting anyway, so I gave up on renewing it.

4. Order photos.

After spending a few hours whittling 537 photos down to 24, then removing the red-eye from each, I was ready to order some 4-by-6 prints for the first time in five years.

Before I could continue, I needed a user name. I tried the usual variations, but they were all taken.

I spent a good hour in deep reflection, trying to come up with something that captured my inner nature, my passions, my purpose in life.

Alas, it was already taken. I began to question who I really was.

Continued on page 4 …

5. Make an eye doctor appointment.

I was in dire need of new glasses. On a giant computer screen across the examining room was one of those reCAPTCHA windows you’re often confronted with when entering a password. Apparently, my doctor wanted to make sure I was still human.

“Read the first line,” he directed.

I fumbled to decipher the jumbled, wavy, crooked text, failing miserably. I explained that I was being held hostage by technology, all to protect whatever identity I had left. “My life is password protected,” I pleaded.

He would hear none of it.

“No,” he replied. “You’re going blind.”

Michael T. Dolan is a writer from West Chester. See more of his work—password free—at
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