I have too many secrets to remember them all!

Published 3:57 am Saturday, April 19, 2003

By By Lloyd Albritton
Single men used to always carry a "little black book" with the names and phone numbers of all their girlfriends: current, past and potential. Barney Fife had his. I have my own little black these days too. It's not actually black, but it is little. There is no room for girlfriends in it though. First, I don't have any. Secondly, it is filled with all my "Secret Words," which I have a lot of. If I did not have all my secret words recorded in my little bl . . , er, I mean, my little book, I would be in big trouble because I have too many of them to remember.
I have become a computer nerd, you see. I do all my banking on the computer and I pay all my bills on the computer and I manage my web site on the computer and on and on and on. If I listed all my computer accounts which require their own special set of secret words there would not be room in this column to tell you more. In case you are wondering, I do not visit the porno sites, but I do check out Match.com candidates recommended to me occasionally. I have a secret word to enter my Match.com account, but they did not give me a secret word to get a girlfriend. That's just as well I guess because even if I did have a girlfriend, I'm afraid I do not have room in my little book for her name and I'd probably forget it if it wasn't written in my little book.
Remember the poem, "As I was going to St. Ives?" It goes like this: "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven sacks. Each sack had seven cats. Each cat had seven kits. Kits, cats, sacks, wives. How many were going to St. Ives."
Well, I am reminded of that poem every time I access a web site on the Internet. Each site has a Host Name. Each Host Name has a User ID. Each User ID has a Password. Each Password has a Secret Word. Then, once I get into the site, I can expect more barriers to progress in the form of a host of other "special" secret words and handshakes.
Each secret word must also be entered in a secret way. You see, the secret word must contain a combination of secret letters and secret numbers (no dashes or spaces are allowed). You can't just use a simple secret word like "Abracadabra." You have to have some numbers in your secret word, like "Abracadabra1234.". Also, the secret word is case sensitive. If the secret word is abracadabra1234, for example, you can't enter it as ABRACADABRA1234. When you enter the wrong secret word, the computer only tells you that you entered the wrong secret word. It does not give you any idea of what you did wrong. You have to figure that out on your own.
This would all be easy enough, I suppose, if I could use the same secret word for everything. That way, I could remember abracadabra1234 and fugitaboutit! But, that does not work either because I will get a computer message, which says, "That secret word is already in use. Please select another secret word." This whole process of selecting just the right secret word is a project in itself which might take all day, when all I want to do is to check my bank balance.
Sometimes the institution does not allow me to select my own secret word. They provide my secret word to me in a special secret message. When they do this, they oft as not will give me a secret word like "OJTI60R12." This creates a whole nuther issue. Are the first and sixth digits in my secret word letters or numbers? I'm not too sure about the "I" and the "1" either. Which one is a letter I and which one is a number 1? By the time I try all the variations of this complex secret word, I am usually so confused that I decide to drive down to the bank and talk to a teller. When I do this, the nice lady at the window pretends she understands my problem, but I can tell by the tone of her voice that she thinks I am an idiot.
If I feel like an idiot when I talk to bank tellers, it is nothing as compared to how I feel when I have a telephone conversation on the Technical Assistance Hotline. This is sometimes necessary when I have to download a specialty software application which does not work right. The download usually comes with instructions to consult the "Help" screen if I have a problem or a question. Help screens usually provide such inane technical advise as, "Make sure you are using the correct Secret Word."
Consequently, it is sometimes necessary to call the technical assistance toll free 800 number to actually speak to a computer whiz. Just getting through on that line is a whole nuther ordeal, but suffice it to say that, after a hold of approximately two hours on the telephone line waiting for a technical assistance advisor to become available, a young man finally comes on the line who is not only of Oriental or Pakistani origin, but he is also from New York or California and is speaking to me on a cheap telephone headset. I can hardly hear him, and when I do hear him, I can't understand a word he is saying! Still, this is an important phone call and I have waited two hours for the privilege so, with lots of patience and attentive listening, I soon get the gist of what he is saying to me. He then spends another two hours talking me through a complete tour of my computer system, instructing me to change this and that selection deep in the bowels of my computer that I did not know existed. In the end, the downloaded program still does not work and he tells me I need a computer system upgrade (which means a new computer), or that the problem is probably with my Browser and he wishes me good luck and a nice day.
"And, oh yes," the young man adds before dismissing me, "you want to make sure you are using the right Secret Word too."

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