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I want to change the Gas Company account so that it is in my name (it's currently in my husband's name); then I can set up an online bill payment arrangement instead of writing a check each month.

So I call customer service. I have the account number, his birthdate, my birthdate, his SSN, my SSN, his mother's maiden name, mine, blah, blah, blah.

But I don't have the password he used to set it up and he, of course, has forgotten it. I tried a couple of the regular ones he uses, to no avail.

I asked for a supervisor. I explain my situation, giving her all the information all over again (don't these customer service people ever write anything down?), and she says...

wait for it...

how do I know you're his wife? As if it mattered. I say, I can fax you our marriage certificate (which I just received after a major hassle with another agency).

Her reply: how do I know it's authentic?

I say, how do you know any of what I've said is authentic, and furthermore, how do I know *you* really exist?

(As you can tell, at this point, I'm really peeved.)

Maybe you're just my worst nightmare, I fume.

To sum up, she said if someone has forgotten the password, they have to call in person. I snarked back by saying, so I just need to find a man and give him the data, and have him call you? How would you know he was really my husband? Do you want me to fax you our wedding picture and put him on video cam when he calls so you can compare face and photo? (By now, steam is coming out of my ears.)

She said she could not help me unless my husband spoke to her directly. Have a nice day.

In a more rational mode, I thought to myself this security stuff makes a nice epistemological conundrum: In most real life scenarios, it is not possible to have an exhaustive understanding of an information domain, so we have to live with the fact that our knowledge is always partial and situational. How does any agency or person know for sure you are who you say you are and that you're telling the truth?

Meanwhile, I still have to pay the damn gas bill by check.

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