Small Town Hackers

On a warm, starry night last week, my co-worker, “E” (yes, The Cute One) knocked on the back door of the store at just before 12am. Actually, it would be more accurate to say she kicked on the back door. Because when I opened it up I discovered she was holding a computer hard drive in her arms.

“Hey Kel,” she said, placing it gently on the ground just outside the door.


Behind her, a guy we’ll call “N” was lugging a monitor, with a keyboard and mouse balancing precariously on top. “N” is a regular customer and former employee of our beloved store. He is a most unusual guy, in the best sense of the word. He’s rather tall, with mutton-chop side burns and long, curly hair that he wears in a pony tail underneath a leather newsboy cap. He’s the kind of guy who knows a lot about everything. We’ve spent hours conversing on topics ranging from Nietzsche to evolution to Star Wars. In fact, he once walked into the store wearing a Stormtrooper mask, complete with voice distorter. I knew it was him right away, though. How many Stormtroopers do you know with a ponytail?

But I digress.

“E” plugged the hard drive into the recepticle nearest the door, out of the security camera’s view (to prevent both of us from losing our jobs). Then she set up the monitor, keyboard, and mouse on some milk and soda crates and fired up the works. While we waited for the thing to get going, she explained the situation. A guy she knows gave her a computer that once belonged to his teenage son. It was infected with over 200 viruses, and she wanted to get rid of them. The only problem was that the administrator’s username was password protected, and even though she could log onto the computer itself, she couldn’t actually do anything (other than play pinball and open a few music and picture files) without it.

“If you were a sixteen-year-old boy,” she asked, “what would your password be?”

I gave her a plethora of suggestions, none of which are printable here. Well, I suppose I could print ’em, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ve never been a sixteen-year-old boy, but I know how their minds work, and I’m sure you do, too.

“We tried all of those,” she grumbled.

You may have noticed something by now. I didn’t actually ask “E” why it was she had brought the computer to the store to do this bit of hackery instead of to her home, or to the home of a friend. The truth is it didn’t occur to me to ask. When you’ve worked enough graveyard shifts, nothing seems odd anymore. Compared to pantsless ladies and Stormtrooper disguises, sitting around a computer in the middle of a parking lot at midnight seemed almost normal.

It was “N”‘s turn to pipe up. “According to the movie Hackers, the four most commonly used passwords are love, sex, secret, and God.”

“Really?” I asked. “Secret?”

He nodded. It made my own various passwords seem like pure genius. “E” tried them all, to no avail.

“N” suggested we look through the music file to see what we could find out about the computer’s former owner. She pulled it up. It was labeled with his first and last name.

“Hey!” N said. “I know this kid! Try [year Kid will graduate from high school.]”

Voila! Instant access. There were cheers all around. We celebrated by playing a few games of pinball. Then they left. And when I got home several hours later, the first thing I did was to change all of the passwords on my computer.

Nobody’s safe in a small town.


Speaking of unsafe small towns, things are heating up in fictional New Mills, Maine. Yep…chapters 30 & 31 of Waiting For Spring are up at Readers and Writers Blog. Check it out along with chapters 6 & 7 of Ann M. Pino’s Steal Tomorrow and a short poem called “Beneath the Apple Tree” by Laura Elliott.

3 thoughts on “Small Town Hackers

  1. I always make my password something weird.

    Anyway…you aren’t kidding about weirdos on third shift. I once had these two very hot hippie/drifter type guys come in. Flirted with me all night and tried to get me to leave with them. Obviously I’m not that stupid, but…it was flattering to be asked.

  2. Mrs Keller – thank you for replying to my email last week and for allowing anonymous comments again for my sake, so I can say publicly what I’ve already told you in private. a friend of mine lent her copy of your novel to me about two weeks ago with a warning: “it looks like a long book but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re reading it.” she also told me I wouldn’t be the same after I finished it. she was right on both counts. I haven’t been this moved by a book in many, many years. tess is our generation’s isadora wing. well done.

  3. Zoe…I have a soft spot for hippie drifters. I wish I got more of them in the store.

    “Anonymous”…if there’s such a thing as being too kind, you’re being it. Fear of Flying is one of my all time favorite books, and I’m left staggered and humbled by your comparison…but very grateful. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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