So why do I feel like I’m doomed to spend the rest of my days imprisoned in an old Groucho Marx quiz show?  Or, during my time off for good behavior, my confinement is relocated to a Monty Python movie?

Not just any Monty Python movie, but specifically “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”  My captors do not permit me to romp through the entire film, but limit me to one scene, which, like “Groundhog Day” (as long as we’re using cinematic references), is repeated over and over again.

shutterstock_87086870The scene I refer to is the one where the knights, on the quest for the Grail, arrive at a bridge which spans a dangerous ravine.  Or maybe it’s a river.  It’s been a while.  They can either cross the bridge or plunge into whatever it is that’s below.  Their fate is in the hands of a twisted bridge keeper who requires they each correctly answer three questions in order to gain safe passage.

When it’s Sir Gallahad’s turn, he aces the first two questions, but unfortunately fails the third.   He is asked  “What is your favorite color?”  He answers “blue.”  “Wrong,” says the evil bridge keeper.   And Gallahad can go no further.

So what is it about the present that causes Groucho Marx and Monty Python to visit me on a daily basis?    It’s due to the dismaying sense that my existence is now controlled by a series of secret personal questions and a complex collection of letters and symbols which will gain me access to an entire universe of information and convenience.  If only I can remember my password!

At first it was simple.  When I started living life on line, I created one clever password that I used  for each new resource.  That was all fine until I started having conversations with the internet.

No,” it scolded me.  “You can’t do that.  It isn’t safe.  Never use the same password twice.  You need multiple passwords.”     

Okay.  So I went about creating an additional clever password.  But as it turned out, it was flawed.  “No, the Internet yelled at me again.  “Your password is too weak.  Try again.”  So now the Internet is judging me? This didn’t seem right.

But the dialogue continued.  “Your password isn’t long enough.  You need at least 8 characters.  Use a combination of upper and lower case letters.  Add some numbers.  Throw in some symbols.  No, don’t use exclamation points or hash tags.  They’re so yesterday.  Try an accent aigu.”   Accent aigu?  My computer doesn’t speak French.

As a result of all advice and warnings, I am now the proud possessor of a long string of passwords for different web sites, whose construction reminds one of unpronounceable Eastern European names.  Or conjures memories of  Superman’s archenemy, Mr. Mxyzptlk.  But I have been informed by the unknown knowing source that my passwords, though unpronounceable, are safe.  So what if I can no longer remember any of them?

Having multiple cryptic passwords and the need to remember your responses to secret personal questions does indeed put a great strain on the aging mind.

It’s time to change your password; you’ve had it long enough.  What? No! It’s a good password.  You said it was safe.  But you can’t keep it forever.  That’s not safe.  I resist, but access is blocked to my account.

Because I was a dissident,  I am now required to answer my personal secret question.  Who was my best friend in the 4th grade? I type in a name.  Wrong!  And like Sir Gallahad, I can go no further.  I am locked out until tomorrow, when I’m told I can try again.  I had two best friends in the fourth grade.  Is it fair that I’m being penalized because I was popular?

My various passwords are written down.  Somewhere.  But there are those times when iSusan and her iPad  are away from home.   In fact, it happened just the other day.

I was elsewhere and needed to access information from a particular web site.  I was asked for my password, which, of course, I could not remember.  I tried several I thought might be correct, but none were.  The little forget password? link seemed the only way out.  I would change my password, then use the new password to access the site.  I figured I could remember the new password for at least the time it would take me to enter it.

But wait.  Before I was allowed to change the password, there was that message: We want to make sure you are you.  And the secret question again; Who was your best friend in the 4th grade?  I type in the name of my other best friend.  Bingo!  This time I nailed it.  I was in.

Hey, Groucho. I finally got the secret word.  So where’s the duck?

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