Why am I here? I don’t mean on this earth–what’s my purpose in life–I already know the answer to that. No, what I want to know is why am I HERE–in this room–at this moment–why in the heck did I come in here?
A few moments ago some little thought flitted through my brain, causing it to send signals to my muscles, joints, tendons and bones to coordinate their efforts and hoist me out of that chair and carry me into this room–but why? I retrace my steps, thinking that will jog my memory (I even sit back in the chair where the thought originally formed)–nope, that doesn’t work. I scan the room, letting my eyes rest on individual objects, hoping for something to click. No. I close my eyes and attempt to visualize. Nothing.
It’s not just at home that this phenomenon takes place. At work my boss requests my presence at a meeting in an hour–got it. Student A stops me to report that Student B just said a bad word–okay, I’ll talk to him. Then Student C complains that somebody took his homework from his locker–okay, after the bell I’ll look on the security camera. Then Student D reports that Student E and Student F are fighting on the playground–priority–immediate action is required. Returning from the playground with E and F under tow, I am stopped by Teacher A who asks when the curriculum revisions are due–I’m not sure but I’ll find out and get back to you. Then Teacher B asks if I have extra notebooks in my office–no, but I’ll bring you some from the front office. Teacher C and Teacher D need substitutes for tomorrow–I’ll let the office know. Then, thank God, the bell rings for first hour to begin, and I breathe deeply as I sit down to finish writing discipline reports on E and F. I start to relax when the intercom buzzes, and a secretary reminds me that I’m missing a meeting. I spend the next two hours poring over budget requests; when the meeting finally ends I know I have other things to do, but what are they? Think, think, think …
As I’m leaving work at the end of the day, I remember I need to pick up a few items at the grocery store. I mentally compose a list as I’m making the two-minute drive: ketchup, Ding Dongs, toilet paper, bananas, crackers, and milk. Then I alphabetize the list to make it easier to remember–bananas, crackers, Ding Dongs, ketchup, milk and toilet paper–and repeat it several times, even memorizing the first letters–B, C, D, K, M, T. Six items. I’ve got it.
And then I walk through the automatic doors. Why am I here? Oh, yeah–six items. Bananas, crackers, Ding Dongs (I never forget the Ding Dongs) … ketchup ………milk. Was there something else? Was it six items or six words? I desperately attempt to retrieve a final item from short-term memory but finally convince myself that I must have been counting Ding Dongs twice. It isn’t until a couple hours later–under most unfortunate circumstances–that I remember the final item.
Yes, I know, making a list helps, and I do this whenever possible. But sometimes I don’t have a pen, sometimes I don’t have paper, and sometimes I can’t remember where I put my list.
This recent tendency to forget so much worries me–could this be the early onset of Alzheimer’s? But no, I google “Alzheimer’s + symptoms” and, after scouring webmd.com, mayoclinic.com, medicinenet.com (some of my favorite websites), and half a dozen other sites, I decide this forgetfulness is just an unfortunate reality of the “natural aging process.”
Maybe. It might also be that, like my cabinets and my closets, my brain has just accumulated too much clutter over the years, and there’s not enough space left to squeeze in new data. Surely I’m not the only one suffering such a plight.
So here’s a challenge for all my computer expert friends out there: Create a device that, when strapped to the head, will scan every bit of short-term and long-term memory and then generate an on-screen list that we can scroll through and “click and delete” all the irrelevant, unnecessary garbage that is taking up much-needed space. (Did you know a rat can last longer without water than a camel? Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it will digest itself. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is. The dot over the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle. A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate. Don’t tell my heart, my achy, breaky heart. Ann Coulter who?)
If you can create such a device to help me and millions of others send the garbage to the recycle bin, thereby freeing up memory space, you will become a multi-trillionaire and Bill Gates’ new best buddy. I realize it will take you a while to create, perfect, patent and market this device, but eventually I will be reading about your success in Forbes, Fortune, and Discovery, and I will be smiling at the pictures of you on the white sand beaches of your private island.
No need to thank me, though, or offer me any royalties. By that time I will have forgotten that the idea was mine to begin with.