COMMENTARY: Security question surpasses expectations

Tom Stafford
Tom Stafford

I’ve decided to launch a new career in cyber security.

It was a talent and a skill set I thought I lacked until about two weeks ago.

Just then, our checking account was hemorrhaging like public confidence in the Trump-Pelosi administration, and my dear wife asked me to get online and find out how much was in my business account.

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I didn’t make the cut for the small business category and was put into the very small business category, one promoted with a brochure that features a lemonade stand on the front and smiling children whose baby teeth have migrated under their pillows.

So, I went to the online banking website, looked for the lemonade stand icon and double-clicked.

The usual followed. I punched in my user name, the password, and up came my pride-and-joy — a security question I decided long ago would stump even the top Russian hacker, Ivan Ben Spyin’onyou, the same one who takes bare-chested trail rides with Vladimir Putin.

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Q. What was the last name of your fourth grade teacher?

The very sight of the question confirmed just how wisely I’d chosen the question.

Immediately, I asked myself, “Just who was my fourth-grade teacher?”

In an effort to crack the code, I climbed up the grades.

I remembered my nursery school teacher, Mrs. Womatt, and my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bowsher - the latter because she deprived me of colored construction paper during art time because, although I told her my correct address, she had the wrong one entered in her grade book.

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I had Mrs. Elliott, Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Hill in first, second and third grades.

Fifth and sixth grades were a little trickier. Against all odds, Miss Sheehan somehow became Mrs. Deardorff over the Christmas break of fifth grade, adding another name to my list. And my sixth grade teacher, Miss Weiss (rhymes with Miss), was a friend of my Mom’s, which meant I felt slightly uneasy when she dropped by our house.

My seventh- and eighth-grade homeroom teachers were Mrs. Brown and Miss Curtin, whom I remember having tears in her eyes when we arrived the morning after Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated in Los Angeles.

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My fourth-grade teacher was the only one in the group I didn’t remember.

I even remembered Mrs. Epstein, the fourth-grade teacher in the classroom next door, who wept with my teacher the Friday afternoon President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

Still, my own teacher’s name remained as elusive to me as shots fired from the grassy knoll.

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As I told my ridiculous story to others, some shared ridiculous stories of their own, while others said they had stories, too, but couldn’t recall them at the moment.

For about 10 days, I tried to jar my memory by striking the side of my head with the hammers and mallets on display at Lowe’s, Menards and Home Depot, an effort that only yielded ticklish flakes of earwax.

Then came my day of redemption.

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As I got to the bottom of the stairs on the main floor of our house - and before I had a chance to think - my wife said, “Dad, what was your fourth-grade teacher’s name?”

And there it was.

I can’t tell you the answer, of course.

I’m now in the field of cyber security.

Social security comes next.