Thursday, November 19, 2015

"No Thanks for the Memory"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I am so technologically challenged that my granddaughter, Chloe, who isn’t even 3 years old, is more advanced than I am. I know this because she can use an iPad. I don’t have an iPad, or an iPod, or even an iWatch, although I do have an iPhone and, according to my dentist, iTeeth.

Still, my constant battle with technology wouldn’t be so bad if I could remember the approximately 147 different passwords I need to perform all the tasks crucial to survival in the modern world, such as responding to those generous people in foreign lands who have notified me that I could inherit huge sums of money if I will send them my personal information, which unfortunately I can’t access because I don’t know the password.

For help and guidance, I recently spoke with Joe Guzzello, the manager of editorial systems in my office, where his technological expertise, positive attitude and deadpan humor have saved many computer-crazed employees including yours truly from jumping out windows that don’t even open.

“People are always asking me what their password is,” Joe said sympathetically. “And I always tell them, ‘How do I know? It’s your password.’ The problem is that there are so many passwords that you can’t remember them all.”

“How many passwords do you have?” I asked.

“Well over a hundred,” Joe responded. “I have them in my phone.”

“What if you lose your phone?” I wondered.

“I have a spreadsheet,” Joe said.

“What if you can’t find the spreadsheet?” I inquired.

“Then I’d be in the same boat as everybody else,” said Joe.

“You’d probably need a password to start the boat,” I suggested.

“The thing to remember,” Joe said, “is KISS.”

“I kiss my wife all the time,” I replied, “and it still doesn’t help me remember all my passwords.”

Joe shook his head and said, “KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

“I’ll have to remember that,” I noted, “because when it comes to remembering passwords, I’m really stupid.”

Joe explained that choosing, for example, the name of a pet, or one of your children, or your favorite sports team, and adding a number representing, say, your birthday, will make the password easier to remember.

“But we’re always told not to use the same password for everything, so you have to come up with different ones for your home computer or the one at work or doing your banking,” I complained. “Then, when you have to change one of them, you can’t use any of the previous dozen.”

“That’s where keeping it simple helps,” Joe said. “Some people think their passwords have to be 25 characters long. That’s wrong. Just tweak the ones you have.”

Nonetheless, he acknowledged, keeping it simple can be pretty complicated.

“It was a lot different when I was growing up,” said Joe, who’s 55. “Back then, all I had to remember was my locker combination.”

No such luck for his daughters, who are 18 and 15.

“In school, there aren’t many textbooks anymore, so the kids have to do most of their work on iPads,” Joe said.

“And they need passwords,” I said.

“Right,” said Joe.

“What are they supposed to tell the teacher if they lose their work: ‘The dog ate my iPad’?” I asked.

“They can ask me,” Joe said. “I have all their user names and passwords.”

“User names are other things you have to remember,” I noted. “So are PIN numbers. They’re as bad as passwords.”

“And when people can’t remember them, I get called,” said Joe, adding with a sigh: “It’s not easy being me.”

Joe, who’s also a volunteer firefighter and a happily married man whose wife, he admitted, isn’t too tech savvy, smiled and said, “Modern technology can be a beautiful thing, but it can also drive you crazy.”

“I was already crazy,” I said. “And I still can’t remember all my passwords.”

“Just keep it simple,” Joe repeated.

“I have the perfect solution,” I said. “I’ll come up with a password with the name ‘Joe’ in it. And if I forget what it is, I’ll know just who to call.”

Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"All Pumped Up"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I am not much of a couch potato, not only because my wife won’t let me eat potatoes on the couch while watching TV, but because I prefer to drink beer in the lounge chair.

But I am definitely a pump potato. That’s because I am hooked on a channel called Gas Station TV.

I discovered it recently when I went to the gas station and was transfixed by the TVs in the new pumps.

“If I could fit my lounge chair in the car, I’d drive it over here so I could sit in Lane 1 and watch TV all day,” I told Bree, the nice young man at the register.

“There’s only one channel,” he said, “but there’s a lot on it.”

“I know,” I replied. “I just watched the weather forecast it’s supposed to rain and I saw a car commercial, which was appropriate. The last time I was here, I watched the entertainment news and the sports update. A guy waiting to get to the pump must have thought I was taking too long because he honked his horn at me.”

The next time I needed gas, I took my own Nielsen ratings by polling viewers.

“I actually do watch TV while I’m pumping gas,” said Mike. “I like the weather, even though I’m outside and I already know what it’s doing.”

“Do you watch TV at home?” I asked.

“Not much,” Mike said. “But I like comedies. ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is my favorite.”

“If a sitcom was on TV at the gas station, would you watch it?” I inquired.

“It might take a while,” Mike said, “but my car has a big tank, so maybe I could see the whole show.”

Melanie said she watches the weather.

“I like the news, too,” she added. “It’s nice to know what’s going on in the world. I just saw a report on gas prices.”

This piqued my interest so much that I decided to talk with Violet Ivezaj, vice president of business operations for Gas Station TV, which is headquartered in Detroit. I thought of driving there from my home on Long Island, New York, but I would have used too much gas, so I called her.

“You could have watched a lot of TV on the way out,” said Violet, adding that Gas Station TV started in 2006 at five gas stations in Texas and is now in more than 3,000 stations across the country.

When I told Violet about my ratings poll, she said, “I’m glad people like us. We offer a lot of programming, like ESPN, AccuWeather, CNN and Bloomberg. We’re driven to make pumping gas a good experience.”

“Driven?” I replied. “Nice one.”

“Thank you,” Violet said. “We want to have a positive impact.”

“I don’t think I’d use the word ‘impact’ when talking about cars,” I noted.

“Oops,” she said. “Let me put it this way: Millions of people are all pumped up over us.”

“They must be tankful for Gas Station TV,” I offered.

“Tankful?” Violet replied. “Nice one.”

“Thank you,” I said, adding that I have noticed that GSTV also has advertising for the products sold at gas stations, such as snacks and soda.

“We not only want to be entertaining and informative,” Violet said, “but we want customers to buy merchandise from our clients.”

“Have you ever been on Gas Station TV?” I asked.

“Not yet,” said Violet. “My husband and children think I should be.”

“Maybe you should get an agent,” I suggested.

“You could be on,” Violet said.

“That’s a great idea,” I responded. “If Gas Station TV starts a talk show, I could be the host. I can just imagine the promo: ‘Watch Jerry and get gas.’”

Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima