Column Classic: Password

By Lisa Scottoline

In the beginning, God created the Internet and shopping online. I was an early believer. Where shopping is involved, I get in on the ground floor, especially if I don’t have to move from my chair. Shopping online was like having somebody bring you brownies and stuff them in your mouth.

In other words, impossible to resist.

Plus the economy was better then. It turns out that “shop until you drop” wasn’t such a hot idea. Or maybe we just dropped. Or somebody dropped us. Either way, don’t get me started.

To stay on point, early on, websites like Amazon and required a four-digit password. It was my first password, and what a thrill! Think of a secret word! It put me in mind of decoder rings, speakeasies, and people knocking on doors, saying “Sam sent me.” In those days, I used the same go-to password for everything – specifically, my goal weight plus zero. It was easy to remember because nobody ever forgets their goal weight, and the chance of ever attaining it is zero.

Then everybody caught on to online shopping, so much so that the other day I went into a pet store and they had only two dog collars, both large and blue. I wanted red and small, so they told me go home and shop online at their website. So you know where this is going. The bad news is that someday the stores will be empty. The good news is that there’ll be plenty of parking.

But somewhere along the line, passwords stopped being fun. Complex rules entered the picture, like an IRS Code for passwords. Nowadays passwords have to be eight or ten digits, mix numbers and letters, use both upper and lowercase, no asterisks or other punctuation, can’t repeat digits, and never on Sunday.

Now I hate passwords.

I have 3,929,874 passwords, not only for shopping but for banking, Gmail, satellite radio, and other stuff. I try to keep track of them but I can never remember to record the password, and if I keep forgetting it, I get locked out of the website and have to reset the password. Then I reset the password to something close to the original, which means that all of my passwords are scarily similar, like some inbred mountain family, so I’ll never be able to keep them straight.

And then websites started requiring user names, because our regular names stopped being good enough and we became users and not people. I can never remember my user names, because sometimes the website requires lscottoline or lisascottoline or, and the other day I got so fed up, I made “password” my user name.

This amused me.

Then of course I couldn’t get into a website because I misremembered either my user name or my password, and they don’t tell you which one you got wrong, so you have to try different combinations to hit paydirt, which never happens before you are locked out of the site. And you can’t get an email sent to you reminding you of your password unless you remember your user name. But if you’re like me and you forgot your password, you’re also the type to forget your user name, which is when you throw your laptop out the window.

But it gets better.

Yes, I’m talking about Security Questions. These are something my bank has come up with, wherein after I finally get my user name and password correct, they ask me questions, the answers to which I established too long ago to remember, around the time I lost my car keys. And if I get all the answers right, I’m still not in the clear, because the website shows me a picture of an oak tree and asks me to remember the caption I wrote for the picture, once upon a time.


I can write a novel, but not a caption. All my captions stink. And so therefore they’re impossible to remember.

I look at the oak tree picture and try the caption, “This is an oak tree.”


Then I try, “This is not an oak tree.”

Surreal, but also incorrect.

I try “Oaky Dokey!” For fun.

Also incorrect, so I’m locked out of the bank. At which point, I leave the house to go to the store.

And park.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline