I stood in front of the ATM machine with my almost 3-year-old grandson contemplating the meaning of life. It was already 98 degrees and 3,542 percent humidity, and this was supposed to be a very quick stop to get money from Nana’s rarely used “special” account for our spontaneous adventure.
The problem was that said cash was being held captive by my ability to remember my personal identification number.
Luckily, I was wearing the uniform of smart desert dwellers- sandals, light weight, loose pants and shirt – so I wasn’t yet dripping sweat as I tried various four-digit combinations at the keypad. Little A was similarly attired in a loose t-shirt that came to his knees (a gift from relatives who are size-challenged when it comes to toddler wear), and was very excited because of the moose, bear and elk appliques on it.
With the intense “Isn’t this the most amazing thing” enthusiasm only present in preschoolers, A was identifying each animal, stretching out the shirt in front of him and peering downward: “This is the moose, Nana! This is the bear, Nana! This is the deer, Nana!”
He always appends ‘Nana’ to every sentence when talking to me as if he has to remind himself who I am, and as I was struggling to remember my PIN, I realized that if I’d only spent the past year exclaiming it frequently, maybe I’d have remembered it: “I’m heading to work, 4-8-7-5!” “Let’s go for a walk, 8-3-5-1!”
Because I was a late adopter of All Things Online, Throw Out Human Contact and No More Paper Documents, I’m not sure exactly when the world became completely run on usernames, passwords and PINs. It was no doubt a frog-in-slowly-boiling-water kind of thing, but there are now so many online everythings that woe be unto you if you forget the digital key to one of the 2,000 portals currently required to live in this connected world.
This is especially crazy-making if you’re in the creative class, trying to sell your art or build your brand or network with Important People, because you’re tethered to Instagram stories and Twitter posts and Facebook whatevers. Or, if you work for a major employer with sensitive data and have to access online records. Or, if you’re a mom shopping and want to get a digital coupon off your phone. In other words, just about all of us.
My job now requires two-step authentication to get into the online systems, as well as changing passwords every three months and forbidding re-use of passwords used in the past two years. C’mon, people! There’s only so many 8-24 letter phrases that also have a special character and a capital letter that I can think of. I’ve gotten to where I just type my frustration (IHATEPASSWORDSYOUNIMCOMPOOPS#!) into the password field simply to get it off my chest.
Eventually, a line of sweaty humans started to grow behind A and I at the ATM, so I gave up retrieving the cash and we headed home. My grandson continued to narrate his shirt from his car seat because he’s very attuned to when I might be bored and believes in saving me from ennui. (“The moose is friends with the bear, Nana!” “They’re walking on me, Nana!”)
When we were safely back in air-conditioning, I laid on the living room floor, trying to gather up energy for an at-home adventure while A started putting small plastic cars and tiny plastic people in a line facing a wall. Then he poked the wall with his index fingers, chronicling the experience of modern life to his toys. “I can’t remember the numbers,” he explained quite seriously, then poked the wall frantically again. “Maybe 1-2-3-4. Nope! Maybe 2-3-4-5. Nope! Maybe 3-4-5-6. Nope!”
It was, like much of my time with him, pretty hysterical, and that point, I was glad I hadn’t remembered my PIN. Who needs a secret adventure when you can watch a toddler illustrate the ridiculousness of life? Not 1-9-5-9 me.