Ever felt like you’re drowning in a sea of one-time passwords while trying to make a simple online transaction? If you have, welcome to the club of those who believe OTPs should actually be dubbed OPTs — Overwhelmingly Persistent Texts. These little codes, meant to ensure security, often end up being the source of frustration and exasperation in our daily digital lives.

Picture this: you’re installing a food delivery app and what do you need to do? Enter an OTP, of course. Need to book a cab? Brace yourself for another round of OTP madness, even after the ride has concluded! What do they even need OTPs for after the trip has ended? To confirm that, yes, indeed, you have safely reached your destination. Perhaps cab drivers should receive separate tips just for the laborious task of inputting OTPs every single time — after all, sometimes it feels like a more complicated journey than the actual drive itself.

OTPs were supposed to make our lives easier, right? A transition from passwords and PINs to these supposedly foolproof codes was meant to streamline our online experiences. Of course, let’s not forget the CVV number on the back of our credit cards — the OG authentication method for online transactions. Back in the day, it was a simpler time. We’ve come quite far from those innocent days of typing in a three-digit code — now we’re drowning in a sea of six-digit madness, constantly poked by the stings of the SMS jellyfish.

The irony of it all lies in the name itself — One-time passwords. But let’s be real here. it’s never just one time! You receive multiple OTPs even if you have to make a single transaction. And if you’re a student making a bank transfer, the six digits of the OTP usually far exceed the amount being transferred, and sometimes, it is even more than the sum in your bank account.

And don’t even imagine the horror of living in a low-network area. Want to place an order on an e-commerce platform? Better step outside and make your phone reach for the stars for a strong signal because, without it, you’re out of luck. It’s like OTPs have become the gatekeepers of our digital desires, demanding tribute in the form of signal strength just to grant us access. Inevitably, in these circumstances, you have to click on the wretched ‘resend’ button on the screen to get another OTP. Now the real game starts — Guess the correct OTP — a game that is far more difficult than Jenga or UNO, as you eventually end up receiving many of them together in one go

Yes, the evolution from ATM PINs to CVV to OTPs has undoubtedly added an extra layer of security, but perhaps you don’t need it for everything. OTPs aren’t that widely used in Europe. The widespread usage of OTPs in India is emblematic of another problem — the deep mistrust in our culture when it comes to money. Our media promotes stories of scams that are widely consumed over WhatsApp and other channels, making us hypervigilant towards the ill-intent of others.

OTPs were meant to be our digital guardians, but instead, they’ve become that nagging, over-protective parent, constantly asking for confirmation on your digital whereabouts. So the next time you find yourself cursing at your phone screen while waiting for yet another OTP, just know that you’re not alone in this struggle against the tyranny of Overwhelmingly Persistent Texts.

(A-Z: This series of light hearted explorations on familiar objects from everyday life dear to the urban Indian middle class looks at how they shape our wants & desires and ultimately make us who we are as a people.)

(Hamsini Shivakumar is a Semiotician and founder of Leapfrog Strategy. Prabhjot Singh Gambhir is a senior research analyst at Leapfrog Strategy.)