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T here were only two pass­words when I was a child: open se­same and abra­cadabra. Only two pass­words, but hun­dreds of phone num­bers, some of them seven dig­its long, and all eas­ily sum­moned to the frontal lobe by ev­ery man, woman and child in Ire­land. When mo­bile phone tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped to a point where phone num­bers could be stored, I wor­ried about our mem­o­ries. With the bur­den of flex­ing our mem­ory mus­cles in or­der to store so many phone num­bers lifted from us, I feared that, within a gen­er­a­tion, we would all be­come like Dory from Find­ing Nemo (the very fact that I’ve just had to ask The Boy what the for­get­ful fish’s name is speaks vol­umes about what’s com­ing). But I needn’t have wor­ried: be­cause now, we have pass­words.

I have, by my reck­on­ing, about two dozen pass­words. They’re al­most all vari­a­tions on just two words, one of which (for­give me, but I must make some pa­thetic at­tempt at pre­serv­ing what is left of my pri­vacy) is some­thing in­spired by my name (though not my ac­tual name; the pass­word po­lice don’t al­low you to do that any more; oh no), and the other the name of a city, plucked from the ether un­der pres­sure, veer­ing on tor­ture, from the afore­men­tioned pass­word po­lice.

Of course, nei­ther of these words is al­lowed stand alone. If I want to buy some­thing on Ama­zon, for ex­am­ple, I add two dig­its to the end of the sec­ond pass­word. A dif­fer­ent two dig­its gets me into my email, and cap­i­tal­is­ing the first let­ter of the first word and adding an­other two dig­its lets me log into my GAA sea­son ticket ac­count. Tick­et­mas­ter, Asos, my bank, my phone, my com­puter, my wifi, my iTunes, my house alarm; they all in­volve pass­words. One day soon, I be­lieve we will need a pass­word to scratch our arse and a quite dif­fer­ent one to ac­cess our el­bow.

The trou­ble with all of these pass­words is that I can’t re­mem­ber any of them. Or at least, I can re­mem­ber them – in­so­far as I could list them all right here, right now – but I don’t know which one is for what. Which means that I spend a huge part of my life point­lessly tap­ping the same two words, some­times with cap­i­tals,

I type in a safe word, add a cou­ple of dig­its, cap­i­talise the first let­ter if it’s a slow day, and promptly for­get it all over again

some­times with­out, and with a mil­lion dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of dig­its at the end, over and over into un­feel­ing web­sites that like to warn me that I have two more at­tempts be­fore they re­set my pass­word for me. Some­times when they do this, they send the new pass­word to an old email ad­dress that I can’t ac­cess be­cause I can’t re­mem­ber the pass­word. Other times, they send it to my reg­u­lar email ad­dress and ask if I want to change it. Which I al­ways do, be­cause it is usu­ally some­thing like fgUUk74//3bH – and who can pos­si­bly re­mem­ber that? So I change it back to one of my two words, add a cou­ple of dig­its, cap­i­talise the first let­ter if it’s a slow day, and promptly for­get it all over again.

So as you can imag­ine, chang­ing to a new phone is a nightmare for me. But needs must – es­pe­cially when one of those needs is a Boy who MUST HAVE an iPhone for his birth­day. As ( bad) luck would have it, my own, four year old iPhone has only just nar­rowly sur­vived an al­ter­ca­tion with a wa­ter bot­tle in my gym bag – a bowl of rice in the hot press re­ally is your only man – and so it was agreed that since it is a shade on the soggy side, The Boy can have the old one for his birth­day while I help my­self to a spank­ing new one (don’t all ap­plaud my gen­eros­ity at once).

‘It’s easy,’ the (real) man from Voda­fone as­sured me on the phone. ‘You just con­nect it to your com­puter, open your iTunes and fol­low the prompts.’ And per­haps, to the kind of per­son who doesn’t strug­gle to turn on the tele­vi­sion, it re­ally would be easy. But it took me the best part of a week, a week of weep­ing and wail­ing and a far­ci­cal eight at­tempts, fi­nally, to reg­is­ter the sim card. ‘En­ter the 19 digit num­ber on the sim card pack­ag­ing,’ said the (un­real) man from Voda­fone. For con­ve­nience ( he didn’t say this, I’m be­ing sar­cas­tic), that num­ber is in six point type and you only get one shot at it, be­fore be­ing ad­vised that you’ve screwed up, and you should try again later. Along the way, I have had to re­set al­most all my pass­words. This time, I have pru­dently opted to add four dig­its in­stead of two to my safe words. Now, what could pos­si­bly go wrong?

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