Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On Poor Memory, and Wonderful People

Some people, despite how many acquaintances they have or how long it's been since they have last seen a friend, can easily recognize and remember people by merely seeing their face.

Others cannot remember anyone at all, even for brief periods of time. [It sucks talking to someone for five minutes, only to suddenly discover that they don't remember who you are and have no idea what you are talking about at all. It happens to me sometimes with 7-Eleven cashiers.]

I myself fall into a special category which is a mix of the two...heavy on the latter.

I remember people I am around all the time, but I sometimes encounter a face that I recognize and can't remember the person.

I've realized I have an inconvenient tenancy to remember people by events that I have experienced with the person rather than what the person looks like. It makes you forget people a lot.

Someone will say, "Wow! So nice to see you again!" I may recognize them, but even if I don't I usually stammer off some awkward response to try to hide the fact that for some reason, I don't remember who they are.

They'll say, "Oh, remember the time when we lived across the street from each other and the fire alarm went off in my building, and you came outside in your pajamas because you thought it was going off in your building?"

All of a sudden, I remember exactly who this person from my past is.

We weren't close, and we didn't see each other often, but instantly I recall all of the nuances of our past.

I remember her name, and the name of her dog, and that one time her dog got out and I caught it because he jumped up on me and knocked me down (I guess I just held on).

I remember the name of the fruit stand on the corner that we both would buy lemons from because they were only a dime a piece.

I remember how pissed off she would get because I put our trash and recycling on her side of the street for pickup (our side didn't have a sidewalk, and we were supposed to leave ours way around the corner. It was kind of inconvenient to wheel the barrels that far).

Once reminded of the event that connected us, I immediately recalled who she was and why I remembered her.

For me, just seeing a person sometimes gives me nothing more than recognition; I need to be able to connect to an event to actually remember them.

In the future, I estimate that we will all wear stylish hipster glasses (or less sucky glasses, if you prefer) which have the livelihood of our Smartphones manifesting before our very eyes.

All of your Smartphone glory will be implanted into your brain, and you will interact through the technologically-enhanced lenses impregnated in your glasses merely by thinking.

If you are walking on the street or something, the images you see could be displayed peripherally, but it's really a side note; people are so glued to their Smartphones already that they hardly have the ability to look up as they meander into a busy street between crosswalks while traffic is swerving around them.

With these sweet lenses of the future we could have the rest of the functioning world around us as a background to the idiotic virtual life we are so transfixed by; we could at least watch as a sedan plows into us through our translucent Facebook page.

If you have to actively stare at your Smartphone at all times regardless of the boisterous world around you, you don't have a chance without these sweet glasses. And this is about safety, right?

Anyway, once I have those glasses that pull up Facebook pictures of people just by looking at them, I will never again forget who a single person is. That is until I develop Alzheimer's, which is likely inevitable.

Until then, waxy readers...

Who are you, again?

1 comment:

  1. This post reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago, the thought of which always makes me smile. It went something (er, exactly) like this:

    Friend: Did I ever tell you who was on the plane with me when I flew back home to Napa from Boston? It popped into my head today.

    Me: Ezra Koenig?

    Friend: Okay, so I did tell you. His perfect boyish face flashed behind my eyes as soon as I woke up. It's strange that someone can mark a part of you without knowing.

    Me: I think you told me before you even got on the plane that you saw him. It is strange, but it's also kind of nice. It makes me feel more connected to people, thinking that I could have also left little marks without realizing.

    Anyway, I don't expect my non-perfect, non-boyish face to be flashing behind anyone's eyes when they wake up in the morning, nor do I expect everyone I've ever met or conversed with to remember me, but I've always found the way we store our impressions and memories of people to be fascinating. I often feel like I fall on the other end of the spectrum, though-- I recognize faces quickly, but mix up the memories connected to those faces; a reminder of a single experience doesn't necessarily string together all of our shared experiences. My recognition-sensation comes in the form of emotional memories... How I felt about the person during the course of our interactions, rather than what the specific content of the interactions was.

    When I run into these types of people, I'm always curious about their memories of me. How did I secure my spot in their working-memory of faces, and why is the memory not always mutual?

    I totally meant for this to just be a little story about the guy from Vampire Weekend, but I guess I got a little carried away... Whoops!