Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Forgetfulness is a sign of... uh...

Forgetfulness can supposedly become a problem with advancing age. I rationalize that this is not a failing I am prone to, rather I have decades of memories stored in my cranium and it is simply getting full. Still, being a Skeptic, I recognize that the brain is quite fallible so I try not to commit unnecessary information to memory; particularly things that don't require a long term memory commitment such as the shopping list or my wife's cell phone number.

So I jot down the list of things I need at the grocery store as they come to mind or notice we have run out of that item. One might assume that this is a fairly efficient strategy; and it would be except that I continually arrive at the grocery store absent the list which I have inconveniently left at home.

On this one one occasion I jotted a couple of needed items on a post-it note and stuck it onto the kitchen cabinet. A bit later I another item came to mind which I thus added that to the list.

Later that day I was out running other errands and found myself in the vicinity of the store, so I thought I would just pop in and obtain the three needed items. Of course my short grocery list was still at home stuck to the kitchen cabinet. But no matter, I recalled there were only three items on the list; I should have no problem procuring the needed goods.

I quickly recalled two of the items: "coffee filters" and "coffee" which I grabbed from the shelves. But my memory of the third item was slightly fuzzy. Ah, my cell phone - I tried to call Nancy at home to ask her glance at the list and identify the third item for me... instead: voicemail.

Okay, I thought, I'll just cruise up and down the grocery aisles which will hopefully prompt my memory regarding the missing third item. I wander up one aisle and down the other - No such luck. The third item on the list is now totally alluding me. All attempts to logic out the missing item are to no avail. By now I am getting very frustrated and somewhat angry.

Resigning myself to failure, I pay for my TWO items and drive directly home - I now have no other mission in life - I HAVE to see what third item on the list is so damn obscure that I can't remember what hell it is!!!

I barge into the house, storm into the kitchen, ripping the post-it note from the cabinet. The three items on the list read:

22 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Ah, the old repeated-item-on-a-list problem! I have done that myself, although never on a list with only three items. When you do it on list with only two items it's time for the retirement home.

Elisabeth said...

I know that frustration Robert. The structure of the memory interferes with our practical needs.

What happens to me though, once I've left my well, written list behind, I go off and buy a number of things not on my list. The loaded shelves jog my memory for items I already possess.

Home again I find ten tins of tuna, three jars of Vegemite, and multiple rolls of toilet paper and pasta, bought just in case I have forgotten them.

Memory and what we do with it seems to be all the rage at the moment. Thanks Robert.

TechnoBabe said...

This is so funny. We do this so often. We think we are being so clever by having post its on the frig. One is for hardware store. One for grocery store. One for pharmacy. And we just jot down things as they are needed. But half the time we are at the store without the list. So when we get home I cross off the things I remembered and we still have a list of items we need to get the next time. I love your list of three items and I can relate to how frustrated your got.

The Mother said...

Oh, I have the grocery list thing DOWN:

We keep a white board on the back frig. Everybody writes what they need on the board.

I take a pic with my phone before I leave the house.

(Then I spend the whole time ON the phone with the kids, clarifying orders. "Shampoo" just doesn't seem to cut it.)

On the memory issue:

I have so much stuff going on in my head at any given time that there is no way I can remember everything.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it, damn the torpedos.

Mandy said...

That's just funny.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas I'm ready for the retirement home now... I hear they bring you your meals so you don't forget to eat.

Elisabeth I do that as well, believe I am out of something then purchase it, only to find I have plenty of the item upon my return home. I bought three boxes of what I thought was granola only to discover it was oatmeal - I never eat oatmeal. [sigh]

TechnoBabe I have whole spiral notepads that I have misplaced, then I get another one out and end up being more confused regarding which of the three or four notepads the needed information is on. It doesn't help

Dr. Mom Yours is such an elegant solution to the problem. My fear is that while in the store I would accidentally delete the picture.

Mandy I see the humor in it as well... but only AFTER the fact.

Rain said...

That sounds very familiar... too familiar. I never used to do grocery lists but now try to make one if I don't forget what I need before I get it done. I blame it also on information overload and attempt to limit new info from coming in which is, of course, nearly impossible in our day and age.

secret agent woman said...

I lose grocery lists all the time, so now I use the notepad function on my iPhone - I keep several running lists on it, in fact.

Penny said...

That's just so funny! And funny because we can identify with it. At least you didn't forget to remember anything really important.

Anonymous said...

Usually, once I have written something down, I tend to remember it.
I did hear a news story recently which discussed how the brain is designed to forget. It allows us to only remember the things that we need. For instance, you don't need to remember every face in a crowd who passed you today, or every car which drove past you on the freeway. Of course, the problem is that the lists are now in the category of the cars on the freeway rather than the category of necessary information. I am amazed at how little we know of the brain and its functionning even with all of our technology and scientific research.
It can't be our age!

alwaysinthebackrow

Charlie said...

I declare your memory fit as a fiddle: one can never have too many coffee filters or too much toilet paper.

I do like the idea of the phone notepad, though--I'll pass that on to Mrs. I Always Leave The Shopping Lists On The Kitchen Table.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain Indeed, Information Overload is a problem as well as the plethora of choices. A great book on the subject is "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz; it discusses the stress and frustration of having too many things from which to choose.

SecretAgent I started to do the notepad on my new i-phone but found one-fingered typing rather slow - then I somehow accidentally deleted the note [sigh].

Penny I have almost missed some important appointments. I use the calendar in my cell phone to beep an hour ahead of an appointment... that function has saved my butt many a time.

BackRow You are quite correct, the brain at a sub-conscious level automatically
sorts and categorizes information for relevance. If you remembered every bit of data coming into your brain you would literally not be able to function.

Charlie I forget coupons and the bottle return credits as well. Those I wrap around my credit card in my wallet so I don't go through the checkout line forgetting them. Still I manage to remember something when I am half-way to the store in the car.

Mary Witzl said...

I've done this, though horribly, I can't remember when. What I do almost every day now is go into a room for some specific reason which I promptly forget, then stand there mulling over what it could possibly be. Some of the thought processes I go through in order to attempt retrieval are pretty bizarre, but I almost always remember whatever it is.
And if I don't, I just buy toilet paper. You always need toilet paper, and it doesn't go off.

Entre Nous said...

Memories are stored via the crevasses in our brain matter. Mine are full. I find it helpful to disgard umimportant things to make more room. Alas it doesn't always work and my brain acts like a mall most of the time, not all of the stores are open, all the time.....

Robert the Skeptic said...

Mary I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who does this. I can't tell you how many times I have found myself standing in the garage puzzling over why it is I was compelled to go out there!?!? I have to retrace my steps to recall.

Entre Nous I am not sure how to make room in my brain, it is filled with stuff that is stuck in there like cement; like the scientific names of mammals I learned in college or the complicated lyrics of John Hartford songs I learned in the 70's. The other day I recalled and sang the ENTIRE Jerry Reed song "Amos Moses" for my grandkids. Where does something like THAT reside in the brain??!!

The Idiot Speaketh said...

That has happened to me.....NUMEROUS times.....not that I will admit it....

Entre Nous said...

The Answer: Long-Term Memory.

Which is I remember ridiculous things like the (what I now realize was a really dumb) dancing doll my Dad gave me for Christmas one year. And REALLY old people (not spring chickens like us....) remember the turkey they burned for Thanksgiving in 1928, but not where they misplaced their shoes.

Cement. Which reminds me of a fact I learned in psych YEARS ago (I just love insignificant facts that never crawl out of the cement and go away). The Prof. told us in reference to Test Anxiety - You have to be in the same state you were in when you LEARNED the info, hence the brain activity, highly agitated due to anxiety, cannot reach the file cabinet the info is in, that you remember the minute you walk out of class. *sigh*

Which explains why everytime I am lost with a car under my butt, I continue to get lost EVERYTIME I must return to that original destination.

Pathetic, am I !!!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Idiot ... I think you just did!

Entre Nous You know going back to the original starting point is not a bad strategy when lost; that is a "known" point of reference. Quite logical, good thinking!!

Orhan Kahn said...

Oh my lol.

Maybe you just need a good system reboot. I'm thinking a bottle of vodka and some mushrooms. You'll be fine in no time.

GutsyWriter said...

I've done that a few times to reinforce the item, of course. BTW, are you in your new house? That could explain the lack of memory. Why haven't you blogged about it, or am I the one forgetting this time?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Orhan My patented Mango Cosmo is my drug of choice - it doesn't help me remember, it just alleviates the anxiety that over what I forgot.

Gusty Yes, in process of transitioning to the new house. We both have been working ourselves to a nub getting one ready for market and the other ready for move in. Just finished running couduit (under the house) for the spa.

I have lots of harrowing house-moving tales which I am certain will render nicely into future blogging material.

Jerry said...

I like what Anonymous said: 'The brain is designed to forget'. That is my excuse from now on...if I can remember it.