I’d been invited to a friend’s kickball party, and before the game a bunch of us were sitting around in the shade catching up and talking about random topics. One such subject was that of secret codes and safe words between friends and family in the event of an emergency. My friend said, “If I were being held at gunpoint and had to call my boyfriend, I’ve got a secret safe word I can insert into the conversation to let him know I’m in trouble.”
I laughed and then mimicked a conversation on my thumb-and-pinky phone, “Hey Nick, I’ve got to go to the store first and pick up some… WATERMELON.”
There was an awkward silence as my friend looked at me quizzically and a little taken aback. Finally she said, “Wait, how did you know that? I didn’t tell you that. Watermelon was my safe word. Now I’ve got to come up with a new one.”
Now if only I had said I was psychic before that: I could have really cashed in.
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 193. Take a look and leave your comments below.
I could not even begin to calculate the odds of this and I can’t explain my own reaction, either, but I will try. My first thought was, “That’s a guessable safe word.”
I think that when we try to think of passwords and safe words, we are trapped by the availability of words in our vocabulary. You want a word obscure enough that it wouldn’t normally be used in conversation, but one that can be worked into a conversation without too much trouble. “Watermelon” seems to me to be a good level of obscurity, but if the story omitted the safe word, then asked readers to predict what the word was, would I have guessed it? No way to tell, really.