Thursday, January 7, 2016

The perils of being indecisive

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which the heroes must, as the gnarly old bridgekeeper puts it, "Answer me these questions three," before they may be permitted to cross a certain gorge.

The questions are, for the most part, absurdly easy: "What is your name?" "What is your quest?" and "What is your favorite color?" Which is why it's funny when one of the heroes changes his mind about his favorite color mid-answer, and consequently gets tossed unceremoniously into the abyss by an invisible hand.

Funny to anyone but me. Were I to be the one crossing the misty chasm in that film, and assuming I were not asked a question about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow (the answer is to confuse the asker with more questions!), I would be the one to utter the dreaded "I don't know that!" and thusly meet my demise.

I am deathly indecisive about my favorite color. It has changed 6 times over the course of my life—currently it's usually green, but even that can vary depending on my mood and the context.

When you get right down to it, I'm dangerously unopinionated about pretty much everything—which is a cause of great anxiety when it comes to me and the Internet. I won't even begin to talk about my struggles to complete online personality tests (which I adore in spite of my fickle personality traits); I will jump right into a matter of much greater import: login credentials.
When websites ask you to create a couple of security questions in case you forget your password, I am often at a loss, because all the questions want to know your favorites. What is your favorite book? Don't have one. What is your favorite movie? Don't have one. What is the name of your best friend? Well, that, like my favorite color, has changed at least 6 times over the course of my life, too. What if it changes again between now and the next time I have to answer this question?

There is only one thing permanent in this life, and that is the past. When I am allowed to write my own custom question, I use the past shamelessly. I frequently refer to one of the many nicknames of my childhood pets, because – even though I'm linking you right to a post about them (surely security at its worst), there are so many more that no one (except maybe my brother) could possibly guess the correct answer!

So maybe, if websites were to start writing security questions like, "What was your favorite color the week that you started college?" (The answer is lavender), then I could feel secure in my security question. But until then, the best answer I can usually manage is "I don't know that!"