I just watched the classic movie The Shawshank Redemption the other night, which mentions the town of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Please just keep that in mind, we’ll come back to it a little later in the story.
So this is a bit of a testimony of humility and befuddlement. Short-term memory, or the active capacity for holding or grasping, but not manipulating, a small amount of information in mind in an “at the moment” recollect, yet a readily available state only for a short period of time.
For example, this “primary” memory tick can be used to remember a phone number that has just been recited or a last minute shopping item mentioned just as you exit the house; it’s just a fleeting spark in the brain pan, that can be easily extinguished from memory by outside distractions, attention deficit, or the inevitable development of dense mind fog.
For example my mom looking for her glasses throughout the house and the family car, only to finally figure out that she had them the entire time hidden in her 1970s-style Aqua Net-enhanced beehive hairdo.
Or my dad getting himself fumed that his one specific open end metric wrench needed in that very moment was not returned to its specific spot at the workbench, just to sit down in frustration to reveal the tool was readily hanging in his back pocket.
These incidents were hilarious to me as a bystanding teenager, but relentlessly tragic as age creeps its way into my intellect and somehow it crosses the brain’s wiring. And it’s sad yet oddly humorous how our short term memory tends to lapse in times of dire need, pop trivia recollect and, in most instances, people’s names — goodness gracious sakes alive, people’s first and last names!
There’s that one unforeseen moment where paths are ultimately crossed at the farmer’s market, a person approaches and greets me by my name, small talk ensues and says, “How ya been? Are your kids doing well?” while the whole frickin’ time I can’t put a name with the face, as I frantically thumb mentally through the Rolodex in my head.
I mean I know this person, we went to the same high school together, heck we attended the same social functions, but they’re like “Adam” to me. Now I’m trying to stall, to buy time awaiting my brain to synch-up with my mouth, now I’m mentally reciting the alphabet and trying to figure out just who they are.
“Their name starts with the letter ‘T’,” I say to myself in my head. “Terry? Ted? Tim? Theodore? Toblerone?!”
But now he begins to excuse himself from the conversation, then I think, “Tom?, holy cats, TOM!!! Good grief!”
I am fairly certain that I don’t suffer from any debilitating intellectual malady, I mean I can still manage the basic activities of daily living without as much as a mental hiccup in my life routines, it’s just these miniscule lapses in person, place and time that throws me into a quasi-Twilight Zone existence.
So the other day, I’m exiting a certain 40-acre brick-n-mortar superstore into the bright sunlight; to just stop in my tracks and to come to the sheer terror conclusion that hit me like a bag of hammers; where the heck did I park my car? And before you ask, I don’t have the luxury of that fancy car fob sound effect to find my way either, so I blindly serpentined around the full parking lot with my shopping cart (packed with groceries, mind you) only to find out that the vehicle in question was three rows down in the opposite direction.
To add insult to my lack of active grey matter, turned out that I had left my driver’s door open the entire time I was shopping.
On another occasion, I was paying for unleaded inside at a gas station, then crossing paths with an old friend in the parking lot (but this time, I remembered her name), and we conversed for a good 10 minutes or so before we went our separate ways and I just get back into my car and drive off. It didn’t occur to me until I was about five or more miles down the road that I totally forgot to actually gas up at the pump. Great mother of God, I’m losing my mind.
On the other hand, I can remember a secondary character actor or actress’s name in an obscure 1970s or 80s drive-in movie, but in the same breath cannot locate my flip phone anywhere, and the dang thing is in silent mode, so tearing apart the household in desperate search found nada, befuddled and perplexed, I go to the fridge for a cold drink, open the door to look inside and between the milk an Hi-C is my dang cell phone.
They say “A penny for your thoughts?”, it’s more like rattling coins in a tin can for me. So going back to the beginning of this story...Zihuatanejo, remember?...it’s a city in Mexico on the Pacific Ocean that Red, played by Morgan Freeman, needed to remember when told (once mind you) by his friend Andy, played by Tim Robbins, in the prison courtyard when his innocence of the crime he was convicted was revealed and blatantly ignored. Zihuatanejo, really?
Good Lord if that was me in that incredible feat of memory and recollect, I’d still be walking around aimlessly in that hay field with the big tree, just scratching my head!