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Fading Memory Has Good Company

September 16, 2002|JIM SHEA | HARTFORD COURANT

I don't get annoyed anymore when I can't remember where I put the car keys.

This is because I usually have more important matters on my mind. Like where I put the car.

No, the old memory isn't what it used to be.

There was a time when I could remember names, faces, details, batting orders, volumes of useless facts.

Now, I can't remember a loaf of bread.

I think the reason that Memory Lane has become, if not a dead end, a cul-de-sac, can be attributed to the information glut, sensory overload, and just the general hardening up of stuff that comes with age.

An early indication that your memory is, shall we say, in recline--aside from misplacing things like the last 10 years--is a sudden and mysterious fondness for memory humor.

In fact, I believe there may be a direct relationship between how amusing you find a memory joke, and the number of blanks your synapses are firing.

For example:

Among the list of phone options at a doctor's office:

If you have short-term memory loss, press 1.

If you have short-term memory loss, press 1.

If you have short-term memory loss, press 1.

Let me just say that the first time I heard this one, stuff came out of my nose.

What makes a shaky memory easier to deal with is that a lot of people seem to also be sailing aboard the good ship tabula rasa.

Memory fade is becoming so common that half the time people don't even try anymore. Instead, we communicate via a kind of shared, fill-in-the-blanks mental telepathy.

All too typical conversation:

"So, I was downtown yesterday and I'm walking near ... what's the name of that street, you know the one next to the thing where we had that what-cha-ma-call-it to eat that time ... "

"Yeah, I know where you mean."

"And who do I bump into but the blond from the health club that has the uneven butt lipo."

"Sure, the one's who's married to that Bob somebody-or-other, you know his last name."

"Oh, I can see his face Bob ... Bob ... the guy that's related to my mother."

"Right, your brother."

If the downside of insufficient memory is incomplete communication, the upside is that it allows you to get away with a lot of things.

How many times have you heard this?

"I'd ask you to do it, but I know you won't remember."


Jim Shea is a columnist for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune company.

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