My good friend Patty Spitler is the host of Pet Pals on WNDY-TV every Saturday morning. She asked me to join the show's fan website where I could view photos of dogs and cats and post digital shots of my own furry friends.
I logged into the Pet Pals sign-up page and after entering some preliminary data came face to face with a CAPTCHA. This is not a breed of dog like a Shar Pei, but both are equally shmushed together.
A CAPTCHA is the security feature that requires you to re-type a series of hard-to-read letters and numbers exactly as they appear on the screen before being issued a password or given permission to access a website. It ensures a real human being is taking advantage of the various promotional opportunities: without CAPTCHA, renegade software programs could amass a boatload of $10-off coupons to Bucca de Beppo, creating a scarcity of spicy meatballs right here in Indiana.
Apparently computer software programs can defeat a grand master in chess and beat the pants off the reigning Jeopardy champions, but they can't read really bad handwriting. Deciphering chicken scratch was never a problem for my elementary school teachers, but if my printing was as bad as CAPTCHA's when I was back in the fifth grade, I'd still be back in the fifth grade.
On the Pet Pals site I carefully hunted and pecked the curious series of letters into the box. Let's see: was that two V's in a row or was it a W? Was that KLo or Kb? I had no idea, so I took a wild guess. INCORRECT, the prompt berated me. Graciously, they offered me another chance.
I took out my reading glasses and peered onto the screen. I typed with only one finger to increase my accuracy. There were two words this time with a squiggly line through them. Some letters looked like caps and others didn't, but some you couldn't tell because they were back-to back with another figure. Some of the numbers appeared as if they were doing the tango together. Why was this so difficult? I just wanted Patty's fans to see Toby with his adorable St Patrick's Day hat on. I wasn't trying to join the CIA. I made another attempt.
INCORRECT repeated the prompt. Or was it InCorRecT?
I became so frustrated that I tried the audio CAPTCHA, intended for folks with vision issues, which clearly included me. In this version of CAPTCHA you hear a cacophony of indistinguishable sounds, much like in a crowded restaurant, then suddenly a recognizable word emerges like ORANGE, then more murmuring, then another, maybe BATHTUB, just as an example.
I enunciated each word I heard into my computer's microphone, not aware my wife was listening at the foot of the stairs:
Mary Ellen was frightened by my incoherent rant. She inched back up the steps without making a sound.
I finally got into the Pet Pals website and I also managed to convince my wife I had not totally lost my mind. How did I do that? Do I have to spell everything out for you?