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My post office box number? Next question

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POSTED January 2, 2014 12:36 a.m.

“Your post office box?”

I went blank.

“Your  post office box, sir?”

It was a simple question. It is among the verifications I give every three weeks when I donate platelets at the Delta Blood Bank in Modesto. It’s where I get my mail.

I couldn’t remember the numbers. So I took a stab. It was the wrong stab.

I joked about how everyone sends stuff by e-mail anymore. She went to the next question.

“Date of birth?”

I figured if I couldn’t get this one I was dead.

“Three, 31, 56.”

I nailed it as she went on to the next question about my cell number.

I just shrugged off the memory lapse until about five minutes later when a phlebotomist was going through the form again prior to sticking my finger tip for a blood sample to test my iron.

“Your post office box number?”

I was still stymied so I ventured a guess.

“Four, five, four , seven.”

“Right numbers but not the right order.”

That’s not what I wanted to hear.

Getting a bit embarrassed, I mentioned that I usually had a hard time remembering my street address because I don’t get mail delivered there but my post office box number was a breeze. I ventured another guess at it. I was still wrong. The breeze wasn’t blowing.  I got it on the third try. I wasn’t feeling very good about it. I managed to make a remark about old age.

“Don’t feel bad, we all do it.”

Actually, I did feel bad. And it had nothing to do with the fact that the lady was even older than I was.

I’ve always struggled to remember names. It wasn’t unusual for me to go on dates and go blank. That may not sound too bad but I’m talking about second, third, and fourth dates. It can be a bit awkward trying to steer conversation from a person’s first name or last. I could remember everything a lady wore, what she said to me, and other minute details but her name? It would take me weeks to hammer it into my memory.

I’ve even gone blank on the name of a cousin I was talking to on the phone. No big deal you say except for the fact he practically lived with us for three years.

My mom used to tell me not to worry that she had the same problem with names. Likewise, she could also remember the most smallest detail and practically anything else but when it came to names she always had a hard time remembering ever since she was a teen.

Mom while standing in line at my wedding reception kept introducing herself to folks who had never met her before as “Ron’s mom.” Close, but no cigar. Ron is my brother.

Of course, there is a study out there that blames part of this on smartphones.

Some university — it’s not that I can’t recall the name, I just didn’t catch it on the radio — concluded we were not working our memory as much because we store numbers in our cell phones. Instead of using our memory banks, we scan down our phone number list and tap the screen.

I’m the guy who goes for a 40-minute jog and five minutes into it something pops into my mind. And then two or three other things come up that are kind of important to remember. I then come up with some name association using the first letter of that I’m trying to remember — usually it has to do with a task or something I  need to do at work. Nine times out of ten I am able to jot down everything the second I step through the door.

I do my best thinking sometimes jogging. It’s the advantage of getting away from things for 40 minutes and not having music blasted into your ears while jogging.

I admit I’m not one of those persons that know my driver’s license or bank account numbers by heart. And I’m certainly not the type of guy who can rattle off pertinent numbers ranging from credit cards to membership numbers. Yet there are times I can literally keep track of playing cards.

None of this is news to me.  Once 30 years ago in Roseville a guy who offered Dale Carnegie  memory courses coaxed me into doing a first person story of the techniques they taught after an editor told him how I could remember small details and such but grappled with names. How did it go? After a couple of sessions he asked that I not do a story.

It is safe to say I do everything a bit different than most including how I store things in my memory.

There are times my phone is definitely a lot smarter than I am. Rest assured, though, there isn’t a software program out there that mimics my thought process.

That’s probably a good thing.

As for memorizing phone numbers, I think I’m going to try to do that again.

I think it is nuts that people go off on a hike armed only with a GPS or relying on Google Maps instead of topography maps when they have a difficult time establishing where north is and opt not to commit landmarks and such to memory because they are 100 percent sure technology will deliver for them when it goes to finding their way back.

There is such a thing as relying too much on technology.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or (209) 249-3519.

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