My short term memory is getting shorter by the day. I’m spending more and more time searching for things I just set down. I started a wood project in my workshop — five pencils and two tape measures later I finally got it laid out.
I’m constantly forgetting names, always have and now at 60+ years of age they seem to be even harder to remember.
I’ve tried word associations to stimulate my memory, but that failed because I couldn’t remember the mnemonic word I chose to associate with the name. That just left me looking doubly braindead.
Even remembering the mnemonic word didn’t always help. I met a lady named Katrina and associated her with the hurricane that wiped out New Orleans in 2005. The next time I saw her my mental drop-down menu highlighted the word “hurricane”. So-far-so-good!
Unfortunately the first name that popped into my head was that of Hurricane Ruben Carter the middleweight boxer who was sent to prison on a murder charge in 1967. Franticly I scanned my memory for a second name. Isaac popped up, the name of the hurricane that hit Haiti while I was there in 2012. Drawing a blank on the final attempt to come up with her name I defaulted to my stock response, “Hey, how you doing?”
I found repeating a person’s name has sometimes helped. I met a guy named Bob, easy enough. I just kept telling myself over and over, “His name is Bob” but then realized while my mind was so preoccupied repeating his name I hadn’t heard another word Bob said in the five minutes he was telling me about himself.
Making matters worse, repeating the names of people of different ethnicities can be more of a challenge:
“Hi I don’t believe we met, my name is Gene.”
“Nice to meet you, my name is Abdourahmane.”
Who names their kid that? I just spent five minutes trying to remember the name Bob! I can’t even get my tongue around Abdourahmane — that’s just not fair.
My short term memory is quirky and unreliable but I can hardly put all the blame on it. Truth is, I’m not always paying attention when someone introduces themselves to me. During the course of our conversation I almost want to sheepishly say, “Can you repeat your name again? I wasn’t really listening.” They call that, “The next in line effect”. I’m so busy concentrating on what I’m going to say or do next that I pay little attention to what they’re saying. That sounds kind of self-absorbed doesn’t it?
There are a few other instances that have caused me even greater concern; for instance John, a guy at work. I always referred to him as “Captain Crunch” because he reminded me of the cartoon character on the cereal box. That wasn’t his nickname, I was the only one who called him that, and I called him that for over ten years because for the life of me I couldn’t remember his real name — John!
Even the names of people I have known for years have eluded me. While out shopping with my wife I ran into a guy I used to work with. Later she asked why I didn’t introduce her. I apologized and told her I couldn’t because I forgot his name. I hadn’t forgotten any thing else about him, just his name.
That got me thinking. After contemplating my dilemma for a good while I came to the conclusion that names are almost completely unavailing. They don’t tell me anything about the person I’ve met, nor do they give my brain anything to embrace. I’m better with factual information that connects me to the character of a person. That’s the good stuff, I can remember that!
Armed with that new revelation I attempted to assure ole “what’s her name” that my memory issues were nothing to worry about. I said, ”Honey, I remember the important things about people like a fascinating character or great laugh. It’s not so terrible that I can’t always remember their uninteresting titles.”
Being the good and loving wife she has always been she offered, “How’s that going to help you remember where you left your car keys?”