It’s not easy for a young person to fully appreciate short-term memory loss. I know because I still have a dim recollection of being a young person.
I remember being really good at Concentration, where you place cards face down and match them into pairs. Used to beat my own mom at that, even as a preschooler, and that makes a kid feel neat. It is exactly the same skill required to be a stellar mail carrier. I could walk up to an unfamiliar sorting case and within an hour I had all the slots memorized. I could make that case my bitch.
Every now and then we’d get a new hire. Some old guy: like, in his fifties even. They’d be so slow. It was hard to watch. They’d stand there with a letter pointed at the case and not move. We used to call it the “Postal Wax Museum.” Poor old man! Kind of stupid, I guessed.
So here is a helpful visual depiction of Short-Term Memory Loss. Note the lump on the forehead. This was from taking a small item of trash to the trash can. In order to reach the trash can I have to duck under a vine maple branch. The depositing of the trash takes no more than two seconds, then I turn around and walk back. BAM.
Two seconds is too long to remember to duck under what you just ducked under two seconds ago.
Short-term memory loss is the real reason we lather, rinse, and repeat. It’s why the ends of our sentences go missing. It’s why we end up walking into a room and standing there for no reason. It’s why we don’t interrupt people in conversation as much as we used to. You thought we’d just gotten more considerate? Hell no. Our clever rejoinder sailed away.
Short-term memory loss is why you make an eggplant parmesan and when you’re all done eating it you find a big pile of parmesan on the counter. All grated and ready to go.
It’s why it seems like I’m looking right through you. I’m searching for a word, and your head is in the way.
Short-term memory loss, to take an example from someone so close to me she may in fact be me, is why you walk a half mile to the grocery store, bag up your produce, and discover you have left your money at home, walk back home, go inside, have to pee, pee, and return to the store, and still don’t have your money.
It’s complicated. I can recite my library card number, which has eighteen digits. But that’s only because I always forget to bring my library card.
Short-term memory loss is why I still don’t know the name of our neighbor but he’s known mine for twenty years and I can’t ask now, but I do remember it’s one of an old duo’s names, either Chad or Jeremy, or Jan or Dean, Hall, Oates, or possibly Starsky.
If I haven’t called you by name in twenty years, be kind. Figure out a way to work it into a conversation. Say “I cannot believe that I, Chad, of all people, lost my keys again!” In fact that one will earn you double points.
You think we’ve gone stupid, but it’s just short-term memory loss.
Although I will be damned if I can tell the difference.