Opinion: Homeland security

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

I was watching an episode of “House of Cards” one afternoon and suddenly the TV’s sound went off. I pushed every button on the remote. Nothing worked. It was time to get out the manual. Every troubleshooting guide begins with the assumption that some people are totally clueless.

1. Does your house have power?

2. Is your unit plugged in?

3. Is the switch in the ON position?

4. Are you taking all your meds?

Those are the only four things I can effectively troubleshoot. After that I skip right to the 800 number. I am convinced that people who answer these calls are just the Turkey Hotline folks who have nothing to do the other 51 weeks of the year. I called our cable company and, incredibly, got a live representative very quickly.

“This is Dennis. May I help you, sir?”

I explained the problem I was having. To help me, he required my PIN number, but I couldn’t remember where I had written it down.

“In that case, I have to ask you a security question you provided us. Who is your favorite movie actor?”

Oh, no. Was that really the security question I had given them? I was drawing a blank. “How about Johnny Depp?”

“Not the right answer. Sorry.”

“No sorrier than I am. That was way before I saw him as Tonto in ‘The Lone Ranger.’” Look, Dennis, could you ask me my wife’s maiden name, instead? How about my favorite superhero? Where was I when Kennedy was shot? Come on, work with me here.”

I wondered if it was possible that it was Mary Ellen who had signed up for cable and answered the security question. I asked Dennis to hold while I called Mary Ellen on my cell phone.

My wife was in an important meeting, but I was desperate. “Could you interrupt her?” I pleaded with the receptionist. “I have an urgent question. Please ask her who her favorite actor is.”

Apparently, Mary Ellen did not believe that I would bother her at work for something that stupid. “That can’t possibly be my husband on the phone,” she told the secretary. “Just to be sure, ask him the name of his first pet. Make sure he says Slowpoke.”

Well, I blew that question, too, because I answered Bosco, who was my first dog. I forgot about that silly turtle I got when I was 4.

Thankfully, I finally remembered that I had written the PIN number on a piece of paper and taped it to the back of the TV. The cable company then did some kind of a reset and sure enough, the audio was back. But it was driving me crazy that I could not remember who my favorite actor was, so I asked Dennis to tell me who I had picked.

“Oh, I can’t tell you that, sir. That would be a breach of security.”

“Wait a second, you’re not allowed to tell me who my favorite actor is? That’s crazy.”

“Well, I suppose I can, but first I need to ask you a few security questions…”