Information Seeps In---

And Leaks Out


by Kathy Coogan


I heard one day this winter that snow was on the ground in forty-nine states. Heard is a generic verb here, since information streams in from so many sources that I can’t recall whether I heard it, read it or saw it. Information is like osmosis, seeping in through my ears or my eyes, with no effort from me. But my mind is a cranky organ which like a spoiled child often rejects stuff it needs in favor of what it wants. Correct spelling of Britney Spears—got it. Lyrics to Ahab the Arab, the Sheik of the Burning Sands--let me sing a few bars. The Lieutenant Governor of Ohio — ummm, just let me google that.

I want to store data, remember stuff, but just when I think, “Eureka! I know that,” I see the intellectual tidbit fading away like Humphrey Bogart in foggy Casablanca (confession: I just typed Casanova proving my point to myself if no one else). You know the really smart player on Jeopardy that loses because s/he can’t punch the stupid buzzer in time? That’s me. I know this stuff. It’s just the retrieval that’s the problem.

I know when this memory loss started globally. With cell phones. Yep, cell phones. No, not from the brain-cell destroying electrical charges and waves emitted from the ever-present headset pressed up against our noggins. No, not that. It’s much simpler. We used to store hundreds of phone numbers in our ample little brains. That little exercise kept our minds nimble. No more. Can you recite even your own number? Quick, tell me your cell, home and office number. And your husband’s and mother’s. Hah! Can’t do it, can you? Don’t have to. They’re all there at the tip of your finger instead of the tip of your tongue, where they used to be.

Exhibit A of this theory is my 91 year old mother who has never owned a cell phone and can still remember all the phones numbers of all her six children and dozen grandchildren proving that necessity is the mother of invention. Exhibit B is my 21 year old nephew who doesn't know his own cell phone number because it is stored in his phone not in his brain!

Another theory of why I can’t remember stuff: Laziness is a habit. My mind knows that in a nano-second, Wikipedia can tell me the name of the poet who rejected capital letters (e.e. cummings) so my mind rebels against remembering, spouting off to me, “You think you’re so smart? Google it, smarty-pants!” If I am impressed by an article by Charles Krauthammer and want to share its thesis with my husband, do I have to memorize its nuggets? No indeedy. I can make it a Favorite and click on it any old time, at the dinner table or in the car.

Of course I entirely reject the notion that, as a baby-boomer on the very, very young end of the curve, my memory issue is age-related. Fiddlesticks, I say, using the F-word of my generation. Which reminds me that Florida was the only state apparently without snow.

Another Baby Boomer Speaks

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