Unraveling the secret code
Oct. 18, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

I worry about myself sometimes. I wonder if I am starting to lose my marbles.

For the past several days, I have been trying to unravel a mystery of my own creation, and it is starting to get to me.

It started out simply enough, but it is becoming a bit of an obsession. It began when I noticed a cryptic sort of a note that I wrote to myself.

I sometimes hear people complaining that they can’t read notes they have written, because they can’t read their own handwriting. Frustrating though that must be, this is perhaps even more annoying.

The message that is vexing me is carefully written on a half-sheet of standard notebook paper. It consists of two lines. On the first is a single letter. On the second is a combination of letters and numbers. I am convinced this is a password to something, but I haven’t the slightest idea what that might be.

I am sure that when I wrote the note, I thought it would be obvious to me what it meant.

Unfortunately, it appears that this may have been a trifle optimistic.

My first thought was that the single letter on the first line must refer to the name of a company. I have gone through a mental list of companies with which I do business, especially online, and it doesn’t seem to fit.

I can’t quite recall when I wrote the note. I found it on top of a bookcase where I had temporarily placed a few books and a notebook, waiting to be shelved properly. The mystery note may have been tucked into one of them, in which case it could have been weeks, or even months ago when I wrote it.

When I first noticed the note, it raised a mild curiosity. The more I think about it, though, the more it bugs me.

It is rather like the experience of finding a stray key in a drawer or on a key ring, and not knowing which lock it fits.

This has happened to me in the past, and I have ended up trying the key in every lock I could find, only to discover weeks later that there was a simple explanation, such as a friend gave me the key so I could feed her cat when she was out of town, and, after the initial duty was done, she told me to keep the key in case my services should be needed again in the future.

I am sure that the mystery of the secret password will have a similarly simple explanation, but until I solve it, it is going to drive me mad.

I can’t say for certain that I am encountering perplexing puzzles like this more often as the years go by, but they do seem to irritate me more.

I am by no means over the hill (although I have noticed the air getting thinner, which suggests that we may have passed the foothills and reached the steeper slopes). However, it does seem that when I put things in a safe place, it is taking me longer to retrieve them these days, because I can’t always remember where that safe place was.

Sometimes, I put things in places that are safe, even from me.

A few explanations present themselves.

First, it is possible that, as I speculated above, I am beginning to lose my marbles.

I don’t like to think that is the case, though. Frankly, I need all of the brain power I have left. In order to preserve that limited mental capacity, I have even moderated my activities somewhat, and I am not killing off brain cells nearly as quickly as I did in my younger days.

A second possibility is that the logic I am using when I write a note to myself or put something away for safekeeping is just as sound as it ever was.

It may be that I have simply accumulated so much knowledge that it just takes longer for my brain to recover the data when it is needed.

For example, it could be rather like asking a busy bookstore owner where to find a specific volume. It is not that she doesn’t know where it is, but she may have to think about it longer, because of all of the other things that are cluttering up her mind.

The third possibility, and one that seems more likely as time goes by, is that the evil enchanters are trying to make me think I am losing my marbles by playing little tricks on me.

There are days when I am convinced that someone has been in my office shuffling my papers while I was out. This would account for the fact that it takes me 10 minutes to find a document I just had in my hand.

I believe the evil enchanters also like to hide things to make it seem like I have misplaced them. The fact is, I am looking for things where I put them, but I can’t find them because they have been moved when I wasn’t looking.

I think I like this last explanation the best.

I am not over the hill, nor am I losing my marbles, I am just a victim of sorcery and the machinations of evil enchanters.

I still want to know what that note with the secret code means, though.

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