PIN and Teller

If online banking's so easy, why do they make it so hard?

I took a little tiny baby step toward modernity the other day. I signed up for online banking.

I know, I know. You did that back in 1992, didn’t you? I thought about doing it then, too, but decided against it. I’m not fond of change.

This embarrasses my children. I like embarrassing my children. I enjoy going into the Verizon store (though I’m still sort of unclear on why the phone company needs a store) and going up to the counter with my broken cell phone and having some bright young thing inquire pertly, “And what kind of phone did you want to upgrade to?” and saying, “Actually, I want one that’s just like this broken one,” while my son and daughter roll their eyes. Don’t I want GPS on my phone? Don’t I want the Internet? Apps? No, really, I don’t. I want to be able to make phone calls when I have to (though not in elevators, because only assholes talk on their phones in elevators, holding all those present hostage to their inane conversations), and I want to be able to take the occasional photo of a particularly nice hydrangea when I come across one. That’s all I want. But I digress.

You’d think, with everybody shouting at me all the time about how easy online banking is, it would be easy to sign up. It’s not. I went online and tried to sign up, but I needed a PIN, and I don’t have one. I don’t have a PIN because I don’t have a debit card. (Again: I know!) The sign-up page online said, “Don’t have a PIN? Call 1-800-WHATEVER.” So I called. And I got one of those infuriating phone menus in which no option offered has any relevance whatsoever to what you’re trying to do, and you hang there in telephone limbo, listening carefully to all the goddamned options, and then listen to them all AGAIN, praying maybe you missed something the first time around, until FINALLY, after 40 minutes of listening to a canned voice say sympathetically, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you. Please try again,” a human comes on the line, and by that time you’re so steamed that you nearly bite the head off poor Sharona or Aaron or Kaitlyn, and you almost understand why the company prefers to have you just punch in numbers. Whew.

So you explain to Sharona or Aaron or Kaitlyn, after you’ve vented a little, that you don’t have a PIN because you don’t have a debit card, and Sharona or Aaron or Kaitlyn tsk-tsks about the fact you don’t have a debit card, and then says, “No problem, though. We’ll send you a PIN in the mail. It will get to you in about a week.”

And you’re stymied, simply stymied, because how can it take them a WEEK to send you a PIN when this is supposed to be all about the magical speed and efficiency of online banking? I could get in my car and DRIVE to the bank approximately 1,289,000 times in a freaking week.

But as my old Lithuanian grandfather used to say, “Whatcha gonna do?” So I wait a week, and my PIN finally comes, and I hurry to the computer to use it to sign up for online banking, but before I can, I have to—no!—pick a password.

Picking a password is stressful for me. I know the password I want to use—the same one I’ve been using for the past 20 years when I have to pick a password. But that password is too easy, too hackable, I keep getting warned. My password is supposed to be a jillion characters long and contain both letters and numbers and CAPITAL LETTERS and lowercase letters and after all that, I’m supposed to change it every few months so those creepster hackers don’t come after me and ruin my life. But I know I’m never going to regularly change my password, and since I’m not, I figure I might as well go with that good old password I’ve been remembering for two decades. And I do. But I feel guilty about it all the same.

After that, I get to choose from among a sheaf of bizarre “security questions” that are incredibly obscure and totally intrusive. What was the name of the hospital in which I was born? (Like I was reading signs then?) What’s my favorite movie? (I could waste several hours internally debating that one.) What was the name of my first pet? (Do guppies count?) Who was my best friend in second grade? (What the hell was her name?) Who’s your favorite nephew? How about “Why is that any of your damned business?” What if one of my un-favorite nephews hacks into my account and finds out he’s not my favorite? Are you going to be around, online bank, to back me up then?

Oh, and there’s also a little “security picture” that I’m supposed to write a caption for that I’ll remember the next time around, because don’t I LOOK like a clever caption writer? In my case, if anybody, including either of my not-favorite-nephews, should ever want to know, it’s a picture of a cabin in the snow. And my caption for it is FUCK ONLINE BANKING. I’m pretty sure I won’t have a lot of trouble remembering it.