Passwords Are Eating My Brain

Maybe it’s the aging process.  Maybe it’s parenting.  Maybe it’s both.  But I feel like I am losing brain power by the day.  You know that feeling?  {Please say yes.}

And with my ever-diminishing mental capacity to retain details, let me tell you what is pushing me over the edge.

User names and passwords, people.  Eating. My. Brain.  One log-in at a time.

Like most folks, I have a few go-to user names and password combinations on hand.  And I follow the basic rules of online security:  Don’t give away your password (duh).  Don’t be a jackass (I’m paraphrasing from official guidelines) by using obvious personal information, like your birthday.  Do use a combination of letters, numbers and characters.  Don’t repeat passwords across multiple log-ins.

And it’s that last little rule that is killing me.  I can’t keep them all straight.  And I feel like they are multiplying.

Unless it’s a log in that I use regularly (this blog, Facebook, Twitter, banking or online wine purchases by the case), I pretty much give up after one failed attempt and resort to the old “Reset My Password” option.  This tends to involve my favorite part of the process — The Secret Question.  I’m always strangely nervous about failing a pop quiz about my own  life — for which I’ve pre-set the answers.  There’s a treasure trove of psychotherapy, don’t you think?

If I remember my own life and pass The Secret Question, I basically go on to the vicious cycle of having to repeat this exercise and reset the password upon each log-in.

I mean, really.  How many of these combinations can I be expected to remember?  And obviously it’s not smart to keep a list of these on my computer.  And more obviously, I’m not going to be a pioneer and go purchase things in person.

It’s frustrating.  And it came to an ugly head yesterday.

I was on the Zappos website to order a fetching pair of summer shoes.  Now, I’m a long-time Zappos girl.  My user name and password were seared into my frontal lobe.  Or whichever lobe is responsible for the swift purchase of fabulous footwear.

But there was a problem.

Their system got hacked recently and, as a result, they are forcing everyone to change their passwords.  I get it.  It’s totally the right thing to do.  No problem.  Zappos has my back.  And I want these shoes.  The web page tells me there are only two pairs left in my size.

OK.  Time is of the essence.  I enter one of my other go-to passwords.

This password is not strong enough.  It must be at least eight characters long, with one upper-case letter, one number and one special character.

They’re trying to protect me, I tell myself.  It’s fine.  Let’s see what else I have in my mental password arsenal.  I try another one I’ve committed to memory.  These shoes will be mine.

You may not use any of your last six passwords.

Right, right.  I understand that.  Makes sense.  I try again.

You may not use any of your last six passwords.


And then.  In red text:

Only one pair left in your size!  Order now!

People of Zappos, I’m trying!  Please take my money!  I want the damn shoes!  But I’m clear out of password ideas that make any sense to me and conform to your requirements.  Just invent one for me, because I’ve got nothing.  And really, I’m not investing my retirement money here. I just want to look casual yet cute from the ankle down this summer.

I create a new password under Cute Summer Shoe Duress.  One that means nothing to me and I’ll surely never remember again.  But whatever.  I think it was BuySize7.5Now!  Or maybe it was 88__**&*^%^$^pain*in*the*ass^*&&*^%rynTTTT+++$$.

I type it in.  Twice, somehow, because that’s required.  I’m rushing.  I know that some other woman with a more organized mental password file, who also happens to wear a size 7.5, is after that last pair of my shoes.  It’s going to be an online showdown.

In my haste of typing the new meaningless password twice, I get this:

Passwords don’t match.

Sonofabitch!  I type them again.

Your password has been changed!

Great.  Whatever it was.  Let’s just get on to the business of shipping those wedges to me, stat.

And then.

We’re sorry, this shoe is no longer available in your size.

That password-organized wretch.  She got them.

What’s a size 7.5 shoe-deprived girl to do?  Go to a department store?  Let’s not be crazy.

It seems I have to create some additional strong passwords for my arsenal.  And then remember them.  According to Microsoft, once you have a strong password, you can create an acronym from an easy-to-remember piece of information. “For example, pick a phrase that is meaningful to you, such as My son’s birthday is 12 December, 2004. Using that phrase as your guide, you might use Msbi12/Dec,4 for your password.”

Is it just me, or does this seem like a stretch?  The only acronym I have for that is STFU.

But, hey, I’m not going to miss out on my shoes next time.  So maybe I’ll use the phrase “I can’t fucking remember another goddamned password” — easily reduced to IcFraGDpw!!

You must include a number.

See?  My brain.  It has died.  All in the pursuit of shoes.


* * *

{Unrelated PSA:  Just a friendly reminder that The Fordeville Diaries is on Facebook.  If you’re not already following along with my nonsense over there, I’d love to have you.  And I totally know my password to that account.}

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  1. M says:

    I am hysterical because I have the same problem. I can’t remember even the ones I had previoulsy memorized. Someone told me to lost them in my phonebook. Hmm? I have to do something bc I waste SO much time changing passwords, retrieving them and sitting at my computer trying to think up clever new ones.
    Here’s to being mentally unfit!

  2. Brett Minor says:

    I keep a ledger next to my computer with a list off all my user accounts, names and passwords.

    I don’t have any of them for financial sites in there.

    I don’t have to consult it very often, but when I do, it is very useful.

    • fordeville says:

      It does make total sense. I guess the paranoid person in me should remember that, on the off-chance someone were to break into my house, they really wouldn’t be after the notebook on my desk.

  3. Jenn says:

    This is what caused me and ING Direct to part ways. Because, not only could I never remember my password for the site because I clearly didn’t access it often enough, but I couldn’t use the online forgot password functionality becuase they had a “feature” that augmented the “secret question” with supposedly public information about you that you had to know (i.e. a former phone number). ONLY THE &$!%^$! INFORMATION THEY HAD WASN’T ACTUALLY ABOUT ME BECAUSE THEY HAD IT WRONG. So the only way to get my password when I forgot it was to call them and have the mail me (yes, via the US Mail) a new password. Which never really seemed like a good option when I had to submit my taxes, or my mortgage application, or whatever, in the next day or so. Let’s just say that after the 3rd time or 4th time through the process I was a raving (angry) idiot on the phone and the customer service rep and I agreed the best solution was that they send me a check with contents of my savings account.

    Ahh well….let’s just say I’m with you. There must be a better way. And I wish my pre-children memory would come back to me. I miss it. Desperately.

    • fordeville says:

      I’m familiar with the “guess this ancient public information about yourself” process from when I worked in financial services. It’s common practice but the info is *so* cryptic. Like the time they asked me to name one of my neighbors in Manhattan, “a few houses down the street.” Huh?

      As for the pre-children memory, I think it’s gone for good. I’ve kissed mine goodbye.

  4. Ed says:

    Allow me to solve your problem so you never have to type out a blog post like this again.

    Lastpass is a password storage system and generator. If you can remember one password – the one you use to create your lastpass account – you’ll never have to remember another password again. It will even log into sites for you automatically. There’s even an app if you pony up the 12 bucks a year. That’s a dollar a month, kids, for sanity and peace-of-mind, which may or may not be the same thing.

    That’s right, folks, Don’t delay, sign up today.

    I am a non-attorney spokesperson.

    You’re welcome. As usual, beer is an appropriate form of compensation. Preferably with a lot of hops.

    • fordeville says:

      See, this is why I love blogs — look at this totally helpful information. Thank you! Now I’m just waiting for someone to make that pirate birthday cake for me.

      Here’s my question, because I am paranoid: Does Lastpass store all of your other passwords on their server? That would make me nervous.

      • Ed says:

        I should point out that I am in no way associated with Lastpass other than as a very happy, paying customer.

        I don’t know for sure where they save your passwords; my guess is that if they do save them on their servers, they’ve taken into consideration people’s hesitance to store passwords with someone they don’t really know. Passwords are definitely encrypted, so theft shouldn’t be an issue.

        You could probably email them or check out their site for an answer to your question.

  5. Anna says:

    It’s like you were reading my mind – only you make my mind sound so much funnier than it is!

    Thanks for linking up to #findingthefunny. I’m pinning this to our Finding the Funny Pinterest board!

  6. christine says:

    I in fact saw this Microsoft ad on the subway poster and was like OMG are they fucking kidding me? I can’t even understand it – let alone make it my password. “For example, pick a phrase that is meaningful to you, such as My son’s birthday is 12 December, 2004. Using that phrase as your guide, you might use Msbi12/Dec,4 for your password.”

  7. sparkling74 says:

    and to make matters worse, we can ask the computer to remember our passwords so we never have to use them again. unless we are on a different computer or GASP ours crashes and we have to buy a new one. and start all over. shudder.

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