Thursday 21 January 2010

Mr Forgetful

Does this ever happen to you?

Plastic Mancunian: Hi there – erm – erm –erm –erm How are you doing?

Annoyed Person: You’ve forgotten my name haven’t you?

This happens to me a lot. I’m introduced to somebody and then, when I meet them again sometime later, their face remains etched in my mind. Sadly, their name has long since departed into an unknown realm never to be seen again. And try as I might, I cannot retrieve it.

The look on my face gives the game away. I smile nervously and screw up my forehead so that it looks like a ploughed field as the cobwebbed cogs of my hopeless brain send in a query. It goes something like this.

Brain: For goodness sake, Memory; it can’t be THAT difficult. You only met this guy last week. Here’s a picture of his face. Now get me the name and get it quick. We’re on red alert here, and Face is letting us down again.

Memory: Who are you? Why are you giving me random faces?

Brain: Just get me the bloody name!!!

Memory: Oh – hang on. He looks like a “Bill”. His name must be Bill.

Brain: Are you sure?

Memory: Er Er Er Er --- Yes!!

Brain: OK Mouth, we have a response. The name is Bill.

Mouth: Hi there, Bill. How are you doing?

Eyes: He’s looking puzzled. He’s looking VERY puzzled. Oh no! He’s looking angry!

Brain: Ears – report.

Ears: This coming in – MY NAME IS NOT BILL!!

Brain: For the sake of my sanity please don’t tell me Memory is wrong AGAIN!

Face: RED ALERT!! RED ALERT!! I’m going into meltdown!!!

Memory: Can I have some chocolate?

Brain: Legs – just get us out of here at maximum warp. I give up!!!

Does a similar thing happen to you?

I used to pride myself on being a bit of a memory man. I could recall all sorts of trivial nonsense; telephone numbers, kings and queens, song lyrics – all sorts.

Some of it is etched in there somewhere but the mechanism for extracting it has become befuddled with age.

If I’m watching a quiz on TV I can sometimes amaze Mrs PM with my power of recollection; there have been occasions when watching shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” or “Eggheads” that I can dive into the abyss that is my memory and immediately grab a nugget of information from within that well of blackness.

Sadly, though there are embarrassing occasions when my brain threatens to shut down in disgust.

Why is that? And how can I improve my powers of recollection?

I’ve done a little research on this and discovered that my memory isn’t actually one vast database full of pockets of information. It would appear that I have two different kinds of memory; short term memory and long term memory.

Short term memory is a tiny limited space for storing bits of transient information, for example a phone number that you just looked up or a price in a shop. Clearly the capacity of this short term memory bank is limited.

Here is something that might just illustrate short term memory:

Long term memory on the other hand is a vast colossal data bank of knowledge that has been absorbed by your brain and deemed important enough to store. In my case, all that useless information I retrieve when watching quiz shows must therefore be stored in this huge reservoir.

The problem is that, sometimes, and more often as I get older, asking me to remember the name of a person that I met for the first time last week is like asking me to nail jelly to the wall.

And I hate it.

I’ve tried everything.

Once somebody told me that I should use my senses to remember somebody’s name. I almost got walloped when I said, “Ah – I remember you; you’re Mr Smellie!”

I’ve also tried repeating their names over and over in my head like an insane mantra; the problem with this approach is that the name supersedes all others, including my own, and I find myself saying “Hi – my name is Antonio Cabrera – er sorry, I mean Dave.”

Others have told me that alcohol doesn’t help. It’s been a while since I’ve been so drunk that my memory has dissipated into the void, but I can see what they mean.

In my youth, there were times, particularly at university, when I had a modicum of success with a woman at a party and then completely forgotten about it only to bump into her several days later at the student union. In the following barely remembered conversation I play the part of the goon and the poor creature plays the part of the victim:

The Victim: Hello Dave!

The Goon: Hi there erm – erm –erm –erm How are you doing?”

The Victim: You don’t remember me do you?

Brain: Oh no! Here we go again! Memory – don’t let me down! Name please! Here's an image from Eyes.

Memory: Sorry! I’m having a pint!

Brain: Stop living in that alcoholic haze and GET ME THE NAME! Mouth – you have to stall!

Mouth: Say “Of course I do”

The Goon: Of course I do.

The Victim: I was at the party two days ago. You remember? Phil’s party?

Memory: We went to a party?

Brain: Strewth! Just get me a name!!!

The Goon: Yes! Good party eh?

The Victim: Yes. So?

The Goon: So what?

Brain: MEMORY!! We’re dying here!!

The Victim: We were going to go for a date. Remember?

Brain: MEMORY!!! Get me that bloody name now! And do you remember the details of the date?

Memory: La La La! Boom Shakka Boom Shakka! La La La!

Hormones: A date? Does this mean we may get a shag?

Brain: SHUT UP HORMONES!!! And for the sake of all that is holy - do NOT say things like that to Penis. Memory! Just a name – just one little name!! Eyes – report directly to Mouth while I try to salvage this. Face – hold it together.

Face: Oh no! Purple alert!!

Eyes: Mouth – she’s a bit of a mutt.

Mouth: OK – I’ll sort it out!

The Victim: Well? Do you remember arranging a date?

The Goon: A date? With you? Ha ha ha! I must have been paralytic!!!!

Eyes: DANGER!!! She’s looking violent!!!

Face: Oh no! MELTDOWN!!

Penis: Did someone say "shag?"

Bollocks: Incoming!!!! AARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!

I think I’ve always been doomed in the memory area and probably will always be.

Oh well, c’est la vie – or, as whatsisname says – erm, erm, erm – oh, never mind!!!


Kath Lockett said...

I might not be able to have a conversation with a penis but I've recently suffered the indignity of my ten year old daughter telling me, "Mum you forget everything all the time - I am pretty sure that you'll get Alzheimers when you're a bit older."

River said...

Ha Ha, Boom Shakka Boom Shakka!!

I'm terrible with names too. At work it's not so bad since we all wear name tags, but everywhere else? If I don't see a person often enough after meeting them, the name just disappears into the memory banks, never to return. Years ago I met someone whose name is Joan. We didn't get together often, so for months I thought her name was Shirley. Nowadays, I swallow my pride and admit straight up that I've forgotten someone's name and ask them what it is. I just explain that I know the face but names go in one ear and out the other.

An Eerie Tapestry said...

There's a bit in Derren Brown's book Tricks of the Mind about some technique to remember the names of people you meet, though ironically I can't remember what it actually involved. I can usually remember names myself, but when in doubt, I tend to be like Trigger in Only Fools and Horses and just call them Dave; it usually works.

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

Don't you just love kids?




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I'm glad it's not just me. In fact, I KNOW it's not just me because Mrs PM is as bad. Her classic clanger came at work when she got two guys' names mixed up. One of them said "I'm leaving the company" and she went around telling everybody that the OTHER guy was leaving - which was news to him.

Imagine what a pair we make!




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Mark,

I actually have that book but haven't read it yet (I forgot!).

One of my favourite lines from "Only Fools and Horses" comes from Trigger:

"What are they calling the baby?"

Trigger: "They're calling it Rodney - after Dave!"




Wrae Ann said...

Ha-ha! Loved the article! ♥

When I'm in that situation (which is unfortunately quite often), I almost always do the same thing: act like I'm super-excited to see the person, insist we get together for coffee in the immediate future, and ask them to enter their phone number into my cell. Then as we're leaving, I'll give them a hug and say, "It was really great seeing you, Sierra!"

This works especially well if you can get them to text their own number with your phone "so they have your number." ;]

Maybe it's sneaky or lame, but it's been my only savior in numerous awkward situations!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Sounds like a great idea Wrae Ann,

I might give that a whirl.