Do you need a password to get to heaven?
If so, I'd better bring a magazine because I'll be spending time in the waiting room.
At last count, I have 35 computer-related user names and passwords hidden in my "secret place." (Don't get any ideas. My hidey-hole is deep inside a cave on an outer moon of Jupiter.)
I have passwords for Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Comcast and the Chattanooga Lookouts and e-mail accounts and banks and online magazines and Wi-Fi hotspots and so on.
I asked a co-worker if he has the same problem and he showed me a folder on his desk that looked like the unbound manuscript of War and Peace.
"Here are my passwords," he said dismissively, lifting the folder and letting it hit the desk with a thud.
This is what we've come to. Our digital world is taking revenge on us in the form of unsustainable password proliferation.
A study done a few years ago showed that the average Web user has about 25 accounts that require passwords. Computer users type an average of eight passwords a day, the study showed.
Here's the deal. I'll be 55 years old in May, and I don't have enough brain cells to remember 35 passwords. More importantly, I don't WANT or NEED 35 passwords.
Take my e-mail (please). Our new e-mail system at work requires us to change passwords once a month. Not only must you change passwords regularly, your new password must contain an uppercase letter, a numeral, a retina scan, a saliva sample and your entire human genome.
Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that computer security is an urgent issue that needs our complete attention -- after all, it's a concept promulgated by the same tech wizards who hoarded tuna fish for Y2K.
Honestly, the only hacking that keeps me up at night can be cured with a tablespoon of Robitussin.
I'm trying to get with the program. But frankly my e-mail is not worth protecting. My three most interesting subject lines from today's e-mails are (I promise I'm not making these up):
1. "National Pie Day is Jan. 23."
2. "Valentine's Day Lingerie for Every Personality." (Hmm. I might actually open this one. Wonder what a passive-aggressive brassiere looks like?)
3. "Rid Raccoon Eyes with Waterproof Eyeliner."
Yeah, right. If I ever make the mistake of asking my wife it she needs some help for her "raccoon eyes," I'll be the one with two shiners.
Still, let's suppose that I continue to rack up passwords at a dozen or so a year. I will eventually need some kind of iPhone app or lockbox or something to store them in.
Knowing I am not alone, I went to the Internet to find help. In newsroom parlance: I Googled it. I Googled it HARD. (This, by the way, comes under the category of things that sound naughty, but really aren't.)
I came across a piece of free, open-source software called the "Password Safe." And how do you keep your password stash in your Password Safe away from prying eyes?
Why, with another password, of course.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...