Duncan Suzuki

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Time to rant like a phlebotomist

Have you ever found yourself on the helpless end of someone’s diatribe, where you can’t escape without doing yourself bodily harm?

Try sitting in the phlebotomist’s chair when she’s getting ready to draw vials of your vital fluid and is really, really angry about technology.

This particular person hated voicemail, email, text messaging, and Facebook – pretty much my whole life – with a side order of hating smart phones, laptops, and iPads. She told me all this while waving a needle about, and even though I am not a swooner, I was considering it.

She has a point, though, that I will concede without reluctance. My life is governed by a whole bunch of passwords, none of which are the same, and all of which, thanks to years of something called MOAT training, are randomly generated and impossible to remember.

(I do not know what MOAT stands for. Periodically I get a threatening email warning that my “MOAT certification is about to expire.” The Dean gets these emails, too, so whenever I get one, I do what it says.)

Passwords are what stand between me and people who want to steal my identity, sell my dog to the gypsies, put my fabric stash on Ebay, and send my salary to Nigeria, or perhaps Grand Cayman. The trouble is, they also stand between me and getting any work done.

This week, for instance, my voicemail forced me to change my password. In the bad old days of who-cares-about-passwords, I was able to alternate between two of them, so I knew if I got one wrong, it was a simple matter of trying the other.

Now, however, I am forced to choose a password that cannot be anything I’ve used in the last year, cannot have repeating digits, cannot be a discernible pattern, and cannot contain any of my life-digits, like my birthday or anniversary. No, my voicemail password must be un-guessable, particularly by me.

Who in their right mind would care about hacking my voicemail? Is there someone out there who wants to hear from my student that she missed the test because she was home for the weekend and didn’t want to come back on Monday?

Are there evil people in the world who would delete the excuses before I get a chance to hear them? Does it matter that none of these callers ever leave a name? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, because my voicemail is so secure, I can’t access it.

I changed the password, jotted it down on a sticky note, and promptly threw the sticky note away. Now I have no idea. I figure if it’s important, they’ll email me.

Except that my email password is kind of like the name of a Czechoslovakian city, only with fewer vowels. It has a randomly capitalized letter in it, too, and I could try something like 680,000 different combinations before I got it right.

I have to change it pretty often, and that means that I will spend two annoying weeks trying to get all my technology updated with the new password. Then I can enjoy a couple of days of peace and, surprise! It’s time to change again.

I have passwords for the bank, for my banking software, for Apple, for iTunes, for Facebook, for my e-reader, for our home voicemail, phone voicemail, work voicemail, for my note-taking software, my YouVersion of the Bible, for educational software, grading software, and test-creating software.

Our cellular carrier has an account password for each number AND a separate billing password. This once brought our oldest daughter right to the brink of insanity as she tried to activate a phone.

I counted, and I am not making this up, thirty-four passwords that I use on a regular (at least once a week) basis. I keep them in a password-protected file on my password-protected computer. Remembering the password to the password file is like opening the box with the crowbar that’s inside, and no, the password isn’t “password.”

I am either going to have to go lie down or rant like a phlebotomist. Hey, maybe “phleBotom1st” would be a good password!