When I was a kid I heard something that scared me. This was around the time the war in Viet Nam was winding down, so I must have been eight or nine. What I heard was that all the big nations in the world had doomsday bombs hidden away in case they should ever be overrun by a hostile nation. This concept boggled my mind. It was one thing to have thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at other countries. I could sort of understand that one. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. If you were walking home down an alley at night you were less likely to get jumped and robbed if you were carrying a baseball bat, than if you were empty handed.

Bullies love taking cheap shots. They seem to lose most of the wind from their sails if a prospective target is capable of fighting back. So we needed our missiles to keep the other guys with missiles from taking a cheap shot. That I understood. But the whole doomsday scenario was staggering.

The way that I heard it was that if the impossible did happen, if Russia, or China, or even Canada proved capable of conquering the U.S. of A., and actually set foot on our sacred soil, that all they would be getting was a nuclear wasteland.

For starters, the military had planted a string of hundreds of nuclear warheads a couple miles off shore, up and down the East and West coastline of the U.S.. Once triggered, they would create a thousand foot tidal wave that would wipe both coasts clean. While this was happening, dozens of specially constructed nuclear-tipped missiles would fire one mile straight up and then detonate, covering the country in a thick cloud or radioactivity. If the bad guys won, we sure the hell wouldn’t let them take us alive.

I used to spend sleepless nights wondering just how this whole doomsday procedure would be initiated. It would have to be some sort of automatic sensor or something that would detect that the country had fallen into enemy hands. It wouldn’t go off until it thought we were as good as dead, right?

But what if there was some sort of malfunction? Glitches happened all the time in movies like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe. What if the doomsday device lost a gear or blew a transistor and all of a sudden decided it was time to exterminate the United States?

Certainly the President would have a way to override the device. He would have to have a button to push to stop the madness.

It wouldn’t be just one button, though. One button would be too easy to press accidentally. No, it would have to be a series of buttons. Perhaps they needed to be pushed in a special sequence. Maybe even a coded sequence that changed from day to day. Or best of all, a password. People can forget coded number sequences, but passwords are easy to remember.

The President probably had to enter a special password to deactivate the device and avoid the destruction of the United States. He probably got to make up his own password, to make it easier to remember. Maybe the name of his first girlfriend, or the title of a favorite book.

If through some wild sequence of events, the likes of which only happen in Michael Bay movies, if I was suddenly deemed the only sane person left in the world to shut down the doomsday device, I know what my secret password would be. I would make it: LITTLEOLDLADYWHO?

I would never forget it.

Don’t be alarmed that I’m telling you what it is. It was my intention to. Because, if a wild series of events could fall in place making me the only person capable of deactivating the device, then it’s just as likely that a cracked piece of masonry would drop off the Washington monument and crack my skull open, just about the same time the device accidentally triggers itself. (Hey, don’t laugh. Stuff like that happens all the time.)

So, if (and I realize what a big ‘IF’ this is) I’m put in charge of stopping the device and if something should happen to me, anyone who has read this will be able to step up and save the United States.

Why LITTLEOLDLADYWHO? you ask? And why am I so certain that I’ll never forget it as a password? Well, when I was a very little kid, long before I’d heard of the whole doomsday possibility, I had convinced myself that I could yodel. I think I’d been watching the version of Heidi that starred Shirley Temple, and someone was yodeling at her. It sounded like a pretty fun thing to do, and didn’t seem to be too difficult so I gave it a go. What came out of my mouth was “Little Old Lady Who?” and I thought I was golden. I spent the day traveling the neighborhood entertaining everyone within earshot with my newfound ability.

And then finally that night someone told me the cold hard truth. It might have been one of my sisters. It smacked me in the face like a giant hand made of ice (because it stung so much). I didn’t know how to yodel. I only knew how to say Little Old Lady Who? The people I’d been singing it to all day must have thought I was an idiot. “What’s that fool boy think he’s doing?” “I don’t know, but I know one thing for sure he ain’t doing, and that’s yodeling!”

I was crushed. I guess I still am today. Years later I heard one of the Three Stooges do a bit where the punchline was Little Old Lady Who? I’d been watching the Stooges from the cradle, so I guess it was already planted in the back of my brain by the time I watched Heidi and began my short lived yodeling career.

So there you have the password to save the country, and the reason I’ll never forget it. Use this information wisely, please.

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