“Password Incorrect” is a collection of humorous and satirical short stories by Nick Name, translated by Anna Etmańska. The collection delves into the absurdities and eccentricities of modern life, particularly through the lens of technology and digital culture. The stories are infused with wit, irony, and a playful critique of contemporary society’s obsession with gadgets, social media, and the ever-changing digital landscape.

Comprehensive Plot Summary

In a world where technology reigns supreme, Peter Maria Kędzierzyna of the Tschekan coat-of-arms stands as a symbol of this digital age. A high-ranking manager in a prominent software company, Peter’s life revolves around his newest acquisition, a 25th-generation cell phone from Siemens-BenQ-Nokia-LG ABC 123. This device, a marvel of technological advancement, becomes his most prized possession as he painstakingly inputs every conceivable detail of his life into it. From passwords to personal preferences, the phone holds his entire identity. Yet, in a twist of fate, a minor scratch on the phone leads him to a crisis of identity and ultimately to a journey to Nepal, where he loses not only the phone but also his memory. The last sighting of Peter is of him wandering around a park, repeating over and over an assortment of five-letter words, unable to recall his own name or where he lived.

On Christmas Eve, Sławek Przekośniak receives a mysterious SMS with an enigmatic message. Intrigued and inspired, he, along with his friend Czesiek Ciąg, decides to create an innovative online service that allows users to send unique, randomly generated SMS greetings. Their service, www.bestbestbest.pl, becomes an overnight sensation, propelling them to fame and fortune. The quirky greetings, like “Merry goat’s egg skull stink,” capture the public’s imagination. However, the partnership sours when Sławek, in a moment of machiavellian inspiration, fires Czesiek through an ambiguously worded SMS. Despite the internal turmoil, the service’s success places Sławek among the wealthiest individuals in Poland.

Christopher Warm, affectionately known as “Office Desk,” leads a sedentary life dominated by his work as a programmer. One fateful day, while writing a program for managing office desk space, he finds himself inexplicably fused to his chair. This bizarre condition complicates his life in unimaginable ways. His girlfriend, Julia, leaves him, unable to cope with the presence of the chair in their relationship. Christopher’s struggle to adapt to his new reality becomes a metaphor for the isolation and absurdity that technology can bring. Despite seeking various medical and unconventional treatments, the chair remains a permanent part of him, altering his daily existence and his interactions with the world.

Professor Sławomir Suwak, an eccentric inventor, prides himself on creating gadgets for personal use. His latest invention, the “mini-anti-aggressor,” aims to curb psychomotor aggression. The device, worn on the right wrist, releases substances promoting good mood and relaxation. However, its bulky size and the need for rare imported substances make it impractical. Suwak’s demonstration to potential investors from McPhilips corporation is met with skepticism and disappointment. Despite the professor’s good spirits, thanks to his device, the invention fails to gain commercial success, reflecting the often harsh realities faced by innovators.

In the bustling capital city, a new educational institution called the “Part-Time Evening Elementary School” opens its doors. This school caters to children of wealthy parents who spend their days engrossed in computer games. Designed to align with their nocturnal gaming schedules, the school offers classes in various gaming platforms, ensuring students excel in their virtual pursuits. Despite initial popularity and an innovative curriculum, the school eventually closes due to the rapid evolution of gaming technology and trends. This short-lived venture underscores the transient nature of such enterprises in the fast-paced digital age.

Benedykt Ossoliński, experiencing a midlife crisis, begins to regress to a child-like state. Once a respected head of a charitable foundation, he starts displaying behaviors reminiscent of his childhood. His skin smoothens, his hair thickens, and he becomes shorter and thinner, eventually resembling a teenager. His relationships suffer as his fiancée leaves him, unable to cope with his transformation. His parents, delighted by this regression, indulge his every whim, turning their adult son into the child they longed for. Benedykt’s journey back to infancy, culminating in his disappearance into an embryonic state, serves as a poignant commentary on the pressures of adulthood and the longing for simpler times.

Two scientists, bored during a hiatus at the New Contagious Diseases Research Centre, invent a new game: micro-hockey. Using bacilli as pucks and pincettes as sticks, they play under the microscope. The game quickly gains popularity, attracting colleagues and even car mechanics from the garage next door. As the game spreads, it evolves into an underground sport, with enthusiasts forming a “black league” where players and spectators forego protective masks. The introduction of a deadly virus as the puck adds a dark twist, transforming micro-hockey into a dangerous and extreme sport. The World Microhockey Federation tries to regulate it, but the allure of the risk ensures its continued underground popularity.

At the Institute for the Development of Organic Motherhood, a groundbreaking method of increasing fetal IQ is discovered. This technique involves switching embryos between two mothers, creating a stimulating environment for the unborn child. Despite opposition from various groups, the procedure becomes highly popular, with parents eager to ensure their children’s intellectual superiority. However, as these highly intelligent children grow up, society faces an unexpected problem: a lack of people willing to perform mundane tasks. This realization leads to a decline in the demand for the procedure, highlighting the unforeseen consequences of such drastic interventions.

Waldemar Szary, a food technician, wakes up with a massive hangover and is tasked with creating a new dairy product for a visiting French delegation. Struggling through his hangover, he inadvertently creates a kefir-based yogurt with a unique flavor combination. To his surprise, the product is well-received, marking a rare success in an otherwise miserable day. Szary’s story reflects the often unpredictable nature of creativity and success, especially under pressure.

Jolanta Moczydłowska, a former model dissatisfied with her appearance, becomes obsessed with her nose. She undergoes numerous surgeries at the renowned La Berg Clinic, constantly changing the shape of her nose to keep up with the latest trends. Despite the praise from her social circle, Jolanta’s obsession leads to a breakdown when her latest nose falls off during a social event. Her journey highlights the pressures of beauty standards and the often destructive pursuit of physical perfection.

Through these tales, “Password Incorrect” paints a vivid picture of a world where technology, vanity, and absurdity collide, offering a satirical yet poignant reflection on contemporary life.

Main Characters

  • Peter Maria Kędzierzyna: A high-ranking manager whose life revolves around his new cell phone, leading to an identity crisis and memory loss.
  • Sławek Przekośniak: An entrepreneur who creates a unique SMS greeting service, achieving wealth and fame.
  • Christopher Warm: Known as “Office Desk,” he fuses with his chair, affecting his work and personal life.
  • Professor Sławomir Suwak: An inventor whose “mini-anti-aggressor” device fails to gain popularity.
  • Benedykt Ossoliński: A man regressing to a child-like state during his midlife crisis.
  • Various unnamed scientists: Creators of “Micro-hockey,” a game using bacilli as pucks.

Themes and Motifs

  • Absurdity of Modern Life: The stories highlight the ridiculous aspects of contemporary society’s obsession with technology and digital culture.
  • Identity and Memory: Characters struggle with their sense of self in a world dominated by digital devices.
  • Innovation and Failure: The fickle nature of success in the tech world and the challenges faced by inventors.
  • Regression and Maturity: The pressures of adulthood leading to a desire to return to simpler times.
  • Creativity in Mundanity: Human ingenuity and creativity emerging even in the most mundane circumstances.

Writing Style and Tone

Nick Name employs a satirical and humorous tone throughout the collection, using wit and irony to critique contemporary society. The writing style is playful and engaging, with a keen eye for the absurdities of modern life. The narratives are filled with clever observations and exaggerated scenarios, making the stories both entertaining and thought-provoking. The use of humor serves to highlight the ridiculousness of the situations while also offering a deeper commentary on the impact of technology on human behavior and relationships.

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Categories: Book Summary