When a customer service representative asked for the best way to contact me recently, I immediately started giving her my childhood phone number. I haven’t thought about the phone number in more than 25 years. I’m not even sure it works anymore. And it came blurting out of my mouth in a rapid-fire response like I was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Like a fool, I had to quickly retrace my steps, giving the customer service representative my “updated” number. “Oh yea, I have a new cell number,” I said, failing to add that I’ve had at least two land lines and four different cell phone numbers since I regularly called that my home number.
The irony of the situation: I can remember a phone number to a phone that I haven’t picked-up in two decades, but I struggle to remember the 15-character work password that I created less than 24 hours ago or, even worse, where I put my car keys five minutes ago.
It doesn’t stop there.
Later the same day, I drove past the apartment where my wife and I lived when we first returned to Southeastern Pennsylvania from Northern Virginia. We called the apartment home for only a short time, but the street address and a slew of great memories, even the silly Halloween party we held each year (don’t ask), came rushing back to the present. By contrast, I cleaned out the cache to my laptop and had to re-enter a bunch of social media passwords, all created within the past six months, and I came up empty. I sat in front of the computer screen with a blank stare. I knew that I knew them, but couldn’t recall a single one.
The king of useless information
I’ve long been interested in how we process information. I have a friend who’s helping a relative struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a horrible, horrible disease and I would never want to make light of those challenges. They are very real and I have deep empathy for anyone going through them. I’m writing today more about the everyday lapses that we all face.
Like most people, I associate meaning to information. When the text, numbers, dates, addresses or other information mean something to me, then recall is easy. When they don’t mean anything or have a connection or are temporary like the placement of my keys, then memory gets very hard.
I can blurt out my son’s Middle School locker combination with no problem. Why? He was so worried that he was going to forget it and stand out from the crowd that I worked with him over-and-over to memorize the number until he had it down pat. I’m not sure how the combination will help him now that he’s in high school. But I still remember the combination if he ever needs it.
Getting into even more trouble
The list goes on.
Despite the male stereotype, I usually have no problem remembering my wedding anniversary. I remember the date weeks in advance.
Most years, I hold out the hope that my strong memory of our anniversary will earn me points and help get me back in my wife’s good graces. I’m usually digging myself out of one challenge or another because I can never remember the phone numbers for the countless doctors, dentists, schools and any number of offices that we have to call on a regular basis and my bad habit of pawning those jobs off to my wife gets me in trouble. “Oops, sorry honey.”
Oh the challenges of remembering everything. Of course, there could be another reason for my memory loss: I could just be losing my mind. And yes, if you must ask, I blame it on my kids.