The Public Eye

printed 07/20/2018

No matter what anyone says, our technological advances have not made life easier. On the contrary, they have complicated things beyond reason.

For instance, when Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves of Arabian folklore wanted to enter the secret cave, the password was “Open sesame.”

If he said that today, the cave would reply, “Please reset your password. Avoid recognizeable words. Use upper and lower case letters, punctuation and two or more numbers.”

Consequently, were Mr. Baba to arrive at the cave door now, he would find himself saying two things: 1. “Does anyone remember the password?” 2. “How do you say, ‘X47Ghr#1!’?”

Discounting scientific marvels such as Billy the Singing Bass of years past, this techno stuff has made things more difficult.

Consider, for example, the simple matter of buying a pair of shoe laces. In earlier times, when you needed a pair of shoe laces, you would go to — surprise! — a shoe store. You could walk in and there they would be, right next to, yes, the shoes. Now, however, shoe stores don’t carry shoe laces.

“What do you mean no shoe laces?” I asked during my pursuit of a replacement pair for my lace-ups. “This is a shoe store, right?”

“Yes,” she replied, “but we just sell shoes. Replacement laces would be an accessory. You might try …”

I had already been to four general merchandise stores, whose merchandise wasn’t all that general.

“Excuse me, but do you carry shoe laces?”

“Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Finally, I landed at the sort of shoe store that stocks whatever no one else could sell.

“Why, yes, the shoe laces are right there.”

Yep, six whole pairs of them — two plaids, two heart patterns, one Mickey Mouse and one pair that were either former tow ropes or were for people who wear shoes the size of Volkswagens.

“You should try online,” she suggested.

Ah yes, online, where you need umpteen passwords to protect you from thieves, outlaws and, apparently, political snoopers.

I am so well protected that even I don’t know how to get into my various locations, and have to use a password manager to “organize your passwords for easy application” and which requires its own password that has to be written down elsewhere because it looks like sankrit and you’ll never remember it.

I opened my password manager, went online, signed in and … “We’re sorry, please update your payment information.”

Did that twice, once with a typo and once without, and then went to the link that promised “2,000 shoe laces to choose from.”

That included exactly what I needed for $9.99 plus $4.99 shipping. Personally, I think a $15 pair of shoelaces ought to be able to make change or speak passable Spanish or something. I ordered them anyway and went to my email for confirmation.

And there it was, my confirmation email: “The item you ordered is temporarily out of stock. Make another selection or re-order in 10 days.”

“BzglQw*4#!” I shouted (actually, it was something much less refined). But interestingly, my voice recognition software happened to be running and everything opened at once — online, internal, hidden, protected and otherwise. I need to remember that. It could simplify everything.

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