Jewish World Review July 9, 2002 / 29 Tamuz, 5762

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The password is 'frustration' | Dear American Express:

I'm writing in order to prove that I am me.

If you'll just look at the byline that accompanies these words, you will be able to confirm that I am, indeed, myself - just as I've been trying to explain to your Web site. However, it still refuses to believe I'm me and won't let me have access to my account.

All this because I can't remember my password. Was it my mother's maiden name? The title of my favorite song? The license number of that old Pontiac I used to own? I can't say.

American Express, I have reached a state of advanced brain lock. My personal human hard drive has crashed, and I couldn't process another password if courtside seats depended on it.

I am suffering from Acute Password Overload. It's a disease characterized by severe gastrointestinal distress along with an uncontrollable rolling of eyes and pursing of lips whenever one encounters the words "Please Create Password."

No, doctors have not recognized APO as a disease yet. But trust me, it's just a matter of time.

I want you to know that it's all your fault. You and every other corporation that uses technology to automate its services. It seemed simple enough in the beginning. You'd sign on, create a password, and conduct your business quickly, privately and conveniently. There was just the one catch: Security experts forbade you to write down your password for fear somebody might find it and use it to steal you blind. You were strongly advised to commit it to memory instead.

Which was all well and good, back in the innocent days of the '90s. But here in modern times, the whole thing has gotten way out of hand.

Today's passwords are required to be longer and more complicated than a Russian novel. Worse, they're multiplying like rabbits on Viagra.

I have passwords for my credit cards, 401(k) and bank accounts, for my Internet service providers and online research services, and for Heaven knows how many cyberspace retailers of flowers, books, CDs, toys and videos. I need a password to book airfare, rent a car, reserve a hotel room. I need one to watch a movie on my DVD, change the settings on my cell phone and read the sports page in my hometown paper. Heck, I needed a password before I could use my computer to write this complaint about passwords.

Can you say ARGH?

Look, I understand the need for security. I've seen all the dire reports about identity theft, watched local TV anchors hyperventilating about the idea that someone can steal your personal information and use it to run up all sorts of debt in your name. I have no interest in buying a home theater system for some low-life scam artist. All I'm saying is that there has to be a better way.

I've tried recycling the same few codes. Problem is, each company has different password requirements - some require the use of numbers, others restrict the number of characters. It gets confusing. Maybe all you corporations, all you makers of gadgets and sellers of cyber services, can get together and agree on a way to standardize passwords.

Or if you've got a better idea, let's hear it.

All I know is that I find myself nostalgic for the days when we still had the option of doing business with good old low-tech, high-maintenance, mistake-prone human beings. The days before conveniences became requirements.

Yes, I know that ship has already sailed and not all the backward glances through rose-colored lenses in the world can change that. But you can't blame a guy for trying.

In the meantime, would you please accept the word of this fine daily newspaper that I am who I say I am?

I appreciate your effort to make it impossible for some cyber thief to claim my identity. But it kind of defeats the purpose when I can't claim it, either.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column by clicking here.

06/25/02: My Head And Heart Are At Odds - I Can't Watch Video Of Pearl's Beheading
06/21/02: Your kid's going to pay for cheating --- eventually
06/18/02: Stuffy 'correctness' robs races of give and take
06/07/02: A gift of the Masai
06/04/02: Now what? Use your 9/11 pain to combat complacency
05/24/02: Has your life changed since 9/11?
05/19/02: New world disorder is nothing to smile about
05/14/02: White men can jump, so why do black kids come up short in the classroom?
05/03/02: Catholic Church should be ashamed for blaming abuse victims
04/19/02: A reminder of how small the world has become
04/16/02: 100 death-penalty mistakes and counting
04/12/02: Until all the bad guys wear black hats
04/10/02: Connecting with history with hope for future
04/08/02: Just me and the boys: A black father's road trip
03/26/02: It's time to give up fighting the good fight and join the masses
03/22/02: It's not the art, it's the artist who's troubling
03/19/02: Don't ask, don't tell when it comes to police work
03/15/02: Do we have an inalienable right to TV?
03/12/02: What will we learn about ourselves as war toll grows?
03/08/02: Marriage madness --- oh, please!
03/05/02: A risk free life
03/01/02: Pentagon's idea of lying to media was breathtaking' in its stupidity
02/16/02: Will the Afghans forgive the U.S. for the beating of innocents?
02/15/02: In search of manhood, some make a fatal decision
02/08/02: Time for blacks to give the same respect they demand
02/05/02: A question of character and "unlawful combatants"
01/31/02: There's only so much a parent can influence a child
01/29/02: Mike Tyson is incapable of embarrassment
01/25/02: Acts of patriotism or acts of desecration?
01/18/02: Waiting for tears in the rain at Ground Zero
01/15/02: A little cultural respect works both ways
01/11/02: Can blacks be racist?
01/07/02: What price for the priceless?
12/21/01: An intriguing study on race
12/18/01: To err is me
12/14/01: Admit it, folks, If you've ever been 16, you can probably relate to Walker
12/11/01: Blacks-on-blacks poll is a healthy project
12/07/01: The best defense against government excesses
12/05/01: Better hoist caution flag
12/03/01: Martin Luther Ka-CHING!
11/27/01: Beauty reflects an ugly truth
11/22/01: Another reason to be thankful
11/19/01: If only they knew our names
11/12/01: Watching a 'dying' man live
08/01/01: Should a man be put in jail for what he's thinking?
07/27/01: It's your responsibility to invade their privacy
07/20/01: Is optimism for fools?
07/17/01: Everybody should have a white man

© 2002, The Miami Herald