Don't be alarmed, little episodes like this are common. They don't represent the onset of senility or the early stages of dementia. They are normal brain spasms that can happen to anyone. In any case, these lost moments of bewilderment might be annoying to you but they really piss me off. You see, I have developed an image for having a great memory.
Down through the years, I have amazed my family, friends and acquaintances with this talent. Because of it, I have been honored with several nicknames. RBOY has dubbed me, "Instant Recall Edelblum." RW coined the moniker, "The Incredible Edelsteen" and "The Argument Ender"was presented to me by M "The Refrigerator" P. And let's not forget my original memory-driven nickname which goes back so far, even I can't recall who first called me, "The Storehouse of Useless Information."
My uber memory never rests. Recently, I even impressed myself by pulling the names of three forgotten people out of thin air. The first happened when I saw a man walking by at my job. Without hesitation, I called out his name. We exchanged pleasantries and old times. He then said, "I haven't been here in five years, how did you remember my name?" I told him the truth, "In this racket, its easy to remember the very good and the very bad...and you my friend, are very good."
Last week, another man came by and when we caught eye-contact, we shared an immediate, mutual regard. In a short time, I had a clear picture of who he was. I didn't remember his name but remembered his wife's name. After I recounted some details from our shared history, he told me that he hasn't seen me since his family moved to Arizona, seven years ago. I used that statement as a foot in the door to refer to his wife by her first name and ask if she was there. It's funny because when he brought her by, I wouldn't have recognized her in a million years.
A few days ago, a third man came to my roulette game. I was looking right at him and he didn't look familiar. So I stuck to the standard casino greeting during a buy-in. I said, "What can I get for you?" "Five dollar chips." "Yes sir, two hundred in nickels. Good luck." "Thanks." "Would you like to be rated?" "Nah."
Something about the way he said, "Nah," struck me. Every chance I got, I studied his face. But I was getting nothing. When he lost and bought in again, I concentrated on his voice. I wondered, was he a player I hadn't seen for a while, a relative of my son's friends, a long lost student or a someone from the neighborhood? I went forward with the notion that he was a long-lost coworker and engaged him in a more personal conversation. In no time, I had my answer because I recognized his voice.
I asked, "Does your last name start with an M?" He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Yes." Does your last name have four letters?" He said, "Yes." I said, "You're Chris, you used to come here a lot..." Before I could finish my sentence he said, "I haven't been here for ten years."
He appreciated that I remembered him, his hometown and one of our old conversations, (the Cowtown Rodeo). Geez, maybe I could have made a better living as a memory expert. Of course, somebody who does that like The Amazing Kreskin, rely on parlor tricks but are still highly regarded as entertainers.GEORGE KRESGE WAS BORN IN MONTCLAIR NEW JERSEY ON JANUARY 12, 1935. FOR PROFESSIONAL REASONS, HE LEGALLY CHANGED HIS NAME TO THE AMAZING KRESKIN, (T. A. KRESKIN IN CASINOS). BILLED AS A MENTALIST, THE HEIGHT OF HIS NOTORIETY WAS IN THE 1970's WHEN HE HAD HIS OWN TV SHOW AND APPEARED ON JOHNNY CARSON 61 TIMES.
Regardless of Kreskin's schtick, he made me laugh all three times he spoke to me in the casino. Every time he was walking fast past my table. I waved and said, "Hi Mr. K." With a big smile and a shrug he always said, "I can't remember where I parked?"
What if I was to tell you that there is something similar to a photographic memory called hyperthymesia. And unlike Kreskin, this phenomena is no gimmick. It's an ability for people to have nearly total recall to the significant moments in their lives...as well as tons of trivialities. Hyperthymesia is more widely referred to as, superior autobiographical memory and has only recently gained clinical acceptance.
Last Sunday, the TV show, "60 MINUTES, " did a fascinating expose on hyperthymesia.
"60 MINUTES," HAS BEEN A STALWART TV NEWS MAGAZINE ON CBS SINCE 1968. DURING THAT TIME IT HAS EARNED 75+ EMMYS AND TODAY, IS AS POPULAR AS EVER.
The show's producers found six individuals who fit the superior autobiographical memory criteria. These people were subjected to a battery of memory tests. These tests included specifics about random dates, categorizing events from the same date but from different years and even included what was worn, eaten, said, etc. One of the subjects was actress, author Marilu Henner.MARILU HENNER WAS BORN, MARY LUCY DENISE PUDLOWSKI, IN CHICAGO, ON APRIL 6, 1952. SHE IS BEST KNOWN FOR PLAYING ELAINE NARDO ON THE TV SIT-COM, "TAXI," FROM 1978-1982.
The 60 Minutes segment on Henner included her stating names, dates and complete dialogs of obscure TV commercials she appeared in. She also was asked to describe her thought process to mentally organize her memory data. She finished by taking a camera crew into her bedroom closet. She then rattled off the date she bought shoes and the date she first wore them.
Another subject was a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. He was asked to identify the last two times his team lost to the Redskins. After he succeeded, he was then asked to recall the score of their previous eighteen meetings...which he did within seconds. He even accurately recalled a 1979 player injury from a CBS broadcast. The network had archive footage of that game and ran it for the home viewers as he strolled down Memory Lane describing the most minute details.
This is a small sample of what these folks can do. To fully appreciate this talent/affliction you really need to see this piece for yourself. All I can say is, I came away convinced that they were not frauds. Even a scientist acting as an independent arbiter believed that when the subjects told him something that they were 99% right. He then hesitated and said, "No 100% right."
So if you were ever astounded by my memory or truly amazed by Kreskin, you'll be completely blown-away by this "60 Minutes" episode. Beyond the entertainment factor, researchers hope that perhaps someday, the roles will be reversed and those who don't have superior autobiographical memory will be considered the freaks of nature. On a grander scale, their true goal will be to discover a way to unlock this brain potential, to minimize or perhaps eliminate Alzheimer's Disease.
The next time you go to the grocery store for five items be sure to make a list, because you'll probably forget at least one thing if you don't write it down. Then when you get home, click on the two links below to check-out, "60 MINUTES," the "ENDLESS MEMORY," segment from December 19, 2010.
Please note that there are 2 parts, each about 14 minutes.
Just in case you already forgot, you can also find it on YOUTUBE.