Sometimes, in the store where I work, I get to close up. I count the tills, tally the sales, put together the deposit for the day, set security alarms, lock up and go home. I was trained in the process several times before doing it solo, and have probably worked at least one closing shift every week since September. This is all to say that I ought to be comfortable with the process by now, but last night, after counting the tills, tallying the sales, and putting together the deposit, I stood at the alarm, coat on, keys in my hand, completely mystified. I couldn’t remember my alarm code. Not only couldn’t I remember it, I couldn’t even approximate it. I knew it was probably four numbers and I ended up just pawing at the keypad like a drunken child (you know how drunk kids like to paw at keypads?).
Of all the old people problems to have at a young age, why am I cursed with forgetfulness? I’d settle for elderly hearing loss, or having to clear my throat for an hour, or wearing socks up to my knees, if I could trade those maladies for a sharper mind.
No one is allowed to close the store by him or herself, so I had two salespeople with me, shifting from foot to foot, standing with their coats and their bags, waiting to hear the familiar “alarm is activated” beep. Neither of them were ever given the code, so I had to go back to the office, route through a pile of my old notes (which I couldn’t find at first because I didn’t remember where I had put them). I finally found the code and wrote it on my hand because I didn’t trust myself to remember it in the time it took to walk from the back office to the front doors. I rode my bus home in silence, too upset at my alarm gaffe to listen to any music on the way, and also because I had forgotten my ipod in the office just moments earlier.
Dream: Improve my recall and sharpen my memory.
Goal: Achievable. There are dozens of programs out there aimed at helping people improve their minds by strengthening their memory. I know I’ve seen infomercials for them, but I can’t remember where or when. So all I have to do is determine my own methods and soon I’ll have nearly total recall.
First, it stands to reason that I could make room for more stuff in my brain by pushing out the other stuff. The trouble is, I don’t know how to push something out of my brain. As a sidebar that’s not really a sidebar, it really bothers me when people say, “I’ll never forget you.” How do you know what you will or won’t forget? Maybe if I stroked a piece of paper with my alarm code written on it and cooed softly, “I’ll never forget you”, then I would have remembered it. Doubtful. End of sidebar. Anyway, here’s what I’m going to actively stop thinking about in hopes of forgetting it.
· A tomato is a fruit. Who fuckin’ cares?
· Dr. Jon’s phone number. It’s programmed in my phone under “Dr. Jon’s phone number.”
· 1 800 588 2300 EMPIRE is the phone number for Empire Flooring in the United States.
· Fred Flinstone’s boss was Mr. Slate, George Jetson’s boss was Mr. Spacely.
· Michael Jackson will always be a pop-culture touchstone, but why save room for LaToya, Randy, Tito, or Jermaine? And why do I know that Jermaine Jackson’s son is named Jermajesty? Actually, I’m gonna save that one. Jermajesty has a cousin named Blanket. “Tito, why are there two ice cream bars in the fridge?” “Oh, those are for my nephews, Jermajesty and Blanket.”
· The store number at the Rogers Video I worked at was 514, the first Shoppers I was employed at was 0415, the second was 1026.
· To get from a job I don’t have anymore to an apartment I no longer live in, you take the 34 bus to Eglinton Station, take the Yonge Subway to St. Clair, then take streetcar 512 for 11 stops.
· The biggest pot I ever earned in a family bingo game was awarded when O-66 won me the game. I was eight years old.
· Destiny’s Child wants someone to pay their “automo-bills” and if you did, then maybe we could chill.
Secondly, if I want to forget all this garbage, I have to be more careful about my consumption. I watched all of The Golden Globe Awards on Sunday (well, that’s not true, I fast-forwarded through most of the acceptance speeches), but that’s three hours of information swirling around in my head. I know, for instance, that 12 Years A Slave is the movie I probably should see this year but will never see. Like The Master before it, or Les Miserables. I just can’t sit through a sweeping epic, but I can tell you actors from all of those movies and what awards they were nominated for. What if, instead of watching The Golden Globes, I read a newspaper or learned a new recipe? I could know about Syria now, or chicken pot pie.
When I really think about memories and aging, I think of my maternal grandmother, who lived close to us in her final years (as opposed to other grandparents who passed away in different parts of the country and live on in my memory as vital and healthy, rather than on the decline). Anyway, both because I think she knew she didn’t have much longer, and because she liked to drink, Grandma wasn’t especially guarded or private about her old-personhood. She complained bitterly of her weakened eyesight and dwindling hearing. She hated throwing away old dresses she’d never wear again, perhaps precisely because she knew she’d never wear them again. She would occasionally reminisce, then catch herself, and bring up something that happened recently, desperate I think, to avoid the anecdote stage that seems to befall every old person. Plus, by not dwelling too much on the past, she didn’t have to face the notion that there were things she couldn’t remember.
She was a crossword-puzzler, Sudoku master, and word-searcher. She was proud of the sharpness of her mind, as I ought to be as a much younger person. A patriotic American in spite of the fact that she lived in Canada for nearly sixty years, she’d quiz her clueless kin on American history. One of the last times I saw her, she challenged me to name the capital cities of all 50 states. I could barely name all 50 states, and struggled through capital cities as best as I could recall. Rather than be disappointed in my meagre efforts, she seemed happy to correct my misfires. Maybe you can’t train your brain to remember what you want, but if you appreciate the knowledge you do have, you get to enjoy it. “Las Vegas?” She’d laughed at me. “More than that in Nevada, James, and you’ve got 28 more to go. And if you think I’m helping you, well, you can forget it.”