On hot summer nights, some years back, when the craving for something sweet and cold couldn’t be pushed aside any longer I’d raid my wallet for a spare dollar, coins that added up to $2 or $3. With this bit of cash stuffed into my back jeans pocket I’d walk to the nearby pay by the ounce soft serve frozen yogurt shop. Carefully shorting the giant sized paper cup and bypassing all the heavy topping options for airy sprinkles I’d always manage to weigh in under the cash on hand.
Besides, I told myself, I don’t need to eat all that.
To everyone else it seemed those cups were frozen yogurt challenges. High swirling cake batter or salted caramel, drizzle pouring on chocolate syrup, spooning chopped tropical fruit it’d all go in with only the paper rim saying stop.
Leaving, in my grubby torn jeans and t-shirt thrown on just for this 90 degree night walk, savoring small plastic spoonfuls I felt uniquely me. From the financial worries and compulsive saving causing me to practice this challenging self-restraint, to the lonesome walk past all the groups of giggling college girls and parents with young kids my identity was mine alone.
Every time I wake up to a news report about another security breach, every email telling me to reset a password to an account I neither remember nor remembered about, every foreign charge on a credit card statement, every new credit card number notifying me about a merchant reporting an information theft, every phone call from an unknown number, every piece of mail thanking me for signing up for a service I never requested makes those little bits of me more worth holding on to because they seem to be disappearing. More times than I care to count the bits of me that are considered more important than a frozen yogurt habit have become a free for all for the gluttonous.
And they’re protected.
Try to find out what merchant couldn’t keep the credit card information they were entrusted with and you’ll be told that’s confidential. Try to find out the email address a thief used to set up an account with recurring purchases on your credit card and you’ll be told that’s confidential to the owner of the email address.
And I’ll never know — not unless it’s a part of something really big like the Targets and Amazons and Ebays and…sigh.
My personal information has been stolen so many times from so many companies I wonder that it can even be of value anymore. I’m not reckless either. Paranoid and fiercely protective of my credit and online identity, I try to make sure that this can’t every happen, but somewhere along the line we all have failed. All I can assume is that little to nothing has been done to ensure that this can’t happen. Every account that asks for more and more information to ensure privacy feels less secure because all it takes is one breach for a thief to get everything. The other day I had a conversation with a company who attempted to sell me their product after I called up to report that I never purchased it. That was after they tried to convince me that I must have signed up. Yup, they were concerned. Though it was the only time I ever got a company to give me details from the false account created under my name. I can’t even consider not having a consumer identity — you can’t reserve a hotel room in advance, buy a house, rent an apartment and more without one.
Someday all our reliance on identity will be forced to change because no one will have the identity they are anymore. Whether the victim or the thief everyone will appear as someone else. Or, so it seems today.
Perhaps in all our attempts to give someone a stronger identity — to prevent any easy theft — a Shakespearean mix up — we’ve created the temptation — the giant sized paper cup waiting to be filled with every buffet topping. Passwords, names, addresses, phone number, social security numbers, license plates, pay just a few cents extra for one more swirl, an extra drizzle, another spoonful.