A friend of mine made fashionable cloth facial coverings for the plague and was selling them online. Mentioning them on Facebook, she said that they were available online, but if we were in the neighborhood, we could pick them up less expensively. Cool, I thought, and tried messengering her back about info on where to pick them up. Picking up my cell, I received the instructions: "Please sign into your Facebook account, username and password."
Me: "Hell, I don't know. I'll do this later."
Later, I couldn't remember where I saw the darn info on the Facebook, so I looked on Instagram. Didn't find it there, so I went to her Instagram page to send her a message. I received similar admonitions, precluding the preceding of my proceeding: "Sorry. That message is not sent. Please sign into Instagram using your … username and password."
Please enter your special pin number if you want to use your debit card, pay a bill online, get technical support for your computer, get a bank balance over the phone, or log onto your web address. "Please punch in your social security number and pass code." Can't remember your username or password? "Reset by clicking here. Enter the email and phone number associated with this account, and we'll send you a one-time passcode of six numbers. Enter them below to reset your password. Your password should be 8-16 characters, at least one uppercase and one or more symbols, i.e. !#$%&*."
Periodically, a seemingly innocent message is sent to my phone, advising me to open an attachment sent by a "friend" ("I think I saw you in this; tell me what you think! Click here to open attachment.") Open it, and I'm hacked! I need to change all my passwords. Where do I start?
I have three bank accounts (savings, checking, and credit card). I have two debit card numbers to remember. I have three email addresses. I have Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, eBay, different websites that I purchase things from (yes, even that one). I have my cell phone password, a keypad front door, and a username and password to file for unemployment and to contact my healthcare provider, open my laptop, check with my auto insurance company, and check the status of my COVID-19 tests.
I log on to stream shows. I use three different remote-control thingies for three different screens. I identify myself by license, passport, voter registration. I need to show my ID when I buy beer at Winn Dixie and enter and leave Costco.
I punch a keypad at Walgreens, Petco, CVS, and AutoZone, and I've got to punch in my zip code when I buy gas. I never wanted this.
Then there are the keys.
I have two keys for my car, one each for front door, back door, side yard, back yard, and I have the neighbors' in case they lose theirs. Instead of leading a simple life, I'm a frickin' hostage!
I foresee a possible future when I have a microchip imprinted in my left palm, a barcode tattooed on my right wrist, an MP3 implanted behind my right ear, and my cell phone attached to my medulla oblongata. Implanted behind my left breast nipple is an Alexa-like device connected to my ocular lenses.
I'll buy beer with the wave of my wrist and pump gas with abandon. Alexa will make and break my appointments and direct my deposits and automatically withdraw my expenses, all to the soundtrack of my life pumping into my cerebral cortex. The guesswork will be taken out of an exercise routine. I'll learn to speak Italian and play the piano. Life will simply be a matter of whatever I wish. I'll be free to evolve spiritually: "Alexa, book a yoga class for me with my guru and a reservation for a vegan late lunch, block out some time for a nap, and have a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015 delivered. Oh, and remind me that the dog's been promised a long walk this afternoon. Thank you." Naturally, Alexa will answer, "No problem, Boss." (Or Master, Biatch, Honey, or whatever I might be calling myself that day.)
I'll get up in the morning, and coffee will be made, the paper delivered, and the thermostat set on a lovely 78 degrees. The laundry service will have come and gone, and I'll be free to take my sketchpad to the park (with pup in tow) and capture nature as it's intended, pausing just long enough to apply some sunblock to my solar-paneled bald head. If I'm approached by a friend, Alexa will remind me of their name and where I know them from. I'll invite them for tea; we'll wear tiaras. Oh, I will sing the body electronic.
The only challenge is that that would be too perfect. You see, objectively speaking, for every stress that I've created, there is a compensation, and each compensation comes with a responsibility to accept or not. Some stresses I create; others just come with the turf. That's the beauty of it—that's the gift of the Magi, the Christmas miracle. Life is what you make it or make of it. Within you, without you.
I have a friend who, when confronted by another's less-than-perfect condition (weakness), usually counters with cutting sarcasm. I'm sure that if he reads this, he'll make fun of my complaints and my complaining. It's okay, I know his heart; we both listen to Tim Buckley. I'll think of him when I edit, do a word count, go to email my editor, write a brief note, attach the article, and push the "send" button.
I'll stop counting the ways that I dwell on paying attention to annoying minor insignificant details in my life and focus on counting the blessings that I have with the people around me who have my username and pass code. It's simply: "Where y'at Phil!"