Observations: Pacifiers, passwords and pandemics

"I spend half my life looking for things."

ADULT LIFE has many different stages, and they can be distinguished by the different objects one spends an inordinate amount of time searching for. (photo credit: Courtesy)
ADULT LIFE has many different stages, and they can be distinguished by the different objects one spends an inordinate amount of time searching for.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
My son Skippy, Mrs. Skippy and their two kids paid a pre-lockdown visit last week, affording The Wife and me an opportunity to see our oldest grandson for the second time after he received his first haircut on his third birthday.
Like their parents before them, Skippy and his wife decided not to cut their son’s golden locks for the first three years of his life. There are many lofty and beautiful explanations for the old kabbalistic custom of letting a boy’s hair grow wild until his third birthday, when it is then cut in a ceremony known as a chalaka or upsherin.
This ceremony marks a transition from babyhood to childhood, a physical passage from the wild and the unbridled to the tamed and controlled.
It also marks the moment when parents go from continuously searching high and wide for their son’s pacifier, to looking endlessly for his kippa. Because once the long locks are shorn, the pacifier is generally discarded and a kippa is donned.
ADULT LIFE has many different stages, and they can be distinguished by the different objects one spends an inordinate amount of time searching for.
Skippy, with small children, is at that stage where he spends hours looking for pacifiers. When he comes for visits, there is at least one tense moment when one of his kids wants his pacifier and my son scours the house looking for it – sweeping the floor, stripping the beds, crawling under the tables.
“Why didn’t you just bring an extra one?” is the parental question that always goes through my mind at moments like those, though I usually have the good sense not to ask it. And then, when the pacifier is finally located, it is as if the clouds part and the angels burst out in song.
Once the days of looking for the pacifier are over – generally after the upsherin – the days of looking for the kippa begin.
“Where’s his kippa” my daughter-in-law now says in a constant refrain. “Has anyone seen his kippa?” Then, like the hunt for the pacifier, the floor is scoured, the beds are stripped and every possible nook and cranny is checked in the chametz-like search for the elusive head covering.
And when it is found? Unadulterated joy.
While I am long past the stage of searching for pacifiers, I remain well ensconced in a constant search for keys, and wallets and phones; as well as for the ketchup in the refrigerator and the purple onion in the vegetable bin. I swear, I spend half my life looking for things.
Attempts to just have one bucket in one set location where I deposit everything I need before leaving the house never worked for me. Besides, that doesn’t solve the problem of the ketchup and the onion.
THIS SCOURGE of the search for items mislaid has only been exasperated in the computer age by the needs for passwords for everything you want to do online – which pretty much runs the gamut of all human activity.
In the early days of the computer age, I would use the same password for everything: email, bank, newspaper subscriptions, credit card statements. It was easy to remember, but also obviously risky.
Now I have a different password for every computer function, but am no longer able to come up with passwords that I’ll easily remember. I’ve only attended so many schools whose mascot I can use, or only have so many kids whose birthdays I can enter along with their initials.
The solution, of course, is an easy one: keep all the passcodes and passwords written down and secured in one safe location. But this goes back to the original problem: I’ll never remember where I put it.
Blessed with a good dose of self-awareness, I decided to write the codes down and also to obliquely put them on my phone with clues that will ensure that if the phone is ever lost or stolen, no one will be able to figure out the passwords. The only problem is that half the time I also can’t figure out the clues. I’ve outsmarted myself.
At the supermarket last week, the checkout lady – instituting a new checkout policy – asked for my credit card passcode.
“Right,” I said, and then began wracking my brain trying to remember what clue I would have used to store that particular number in my phone. But to no avail. The checkout woman told me to wait and called the manager to figure out what to do with my bill.
So I waited, unhappily. But my unhappiness was nothing compared to that of those standing behind me, glaring at me the same way I glare at others when they do something – like bag their groceries too slowly – and hold up the supermarket line.
I could imagine perfectly well what was going through their minds, because those same ugly thoughts pollute my mind whenever I land in a slow-moving supermarket line behind someone gumming up the works.
I wanted to appeal to my co-shoppers’ better angels and remind them that with a pandemic swirling around us, having to wait just another minute to pay for their groceries was not the end of the world.
I wanted to remind them that during the lockdown they undoubtedly gained a new appreciation for family and friends and the small stuff, and probably vowed not to let little annoyances get under their skin.
I wanted to remind them of all the time they had surely saved over the last few months – not having to commute to work, having spent less time socializing – so that a few more minutes in a supermarket line was not really all that bad.
I was looking for a way to pacify them, when the clerk, seeing my distress and having called the manager, said I could go ahead this one time and check out without the passcode.
At that moment, the crowd’s pacifier had been found, and I felt as if the clouds had parted and that the angels had all just burst out into joyous song.