Memory Things That Really Worked

by Chris McGinty of

Before I married my second
ex-wife, I attended a work function for her job with her. There I met a man
whose name I don’t remember, but I was assured by my eventually second failed
marriage partner, and a couple of her co-workers whose names I also don’t
remember, that this guy would probably remember my name, because he always
remembered everybody’s names. I never had a reason to run into this guy again,
but I have this fantasy that I’ll run into him one day and he’ll say, “Hey
Chris.” I’ll presume that he’s just making an educated guess based on the fact
that I was born in the 70s that my name is Chris, but then he’ll mention my
second ex-wife by name, and say that she introduced me to him at a work party
back in 1999. To that I’ll respond, “That was her name, wasn’t it?” What can I
say? I’m not good with names.

I once met a guy at a local show.
He told me his name, and I shook his hand and told him he sort of looked like
Dr. Drew. He didn’t know who Dr. Drew was, so I whipped out my phone and showed
him a picture. He agreed that he did sort of look like Dr. Drew. He seemed like
a nice guy, and I’d like to meet him again someday. When I do though, I will
think his name is Drew.
I read once that the short term
memory can only hold about seven items, so if I ever went to the store the
moment that the list exceeded seven items, I would make a list. And it’s funny,
because while I’m not particularly good at remembering names, I seem to
remember a lot of trivia, especially music trivia. I believe this to be a combination
of how I learn and how I teach the trivia. That doesn’t really work the same
with people’s names.
The thing is that I can remember
stuff forever, and I mean forever, as long as there’s a sort of narrative
attached. I had a high school friend, and I told her how I would remember her
birthday. This was before Facebook was around to keep track for us. You see,
her best friend at the time was named Amy, Amy is an anagram of May, and there
are three letters in May; so therefore, what’s her face’s birthday was on May
3. I’m kidding. I remember her name. I just forgot to add her birth year into
my narrative, so I don’t know how old she is now.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t
really work every time. For some reason, I’ve never met anyone born on
September 9 with a best friend named Tres Pembe. Well, if I did, I didn’t
remember Tres’s name. Besides, even if you were lucky enough for that to
happen, eventually all your memory methods would start to blur together and it
wouldn’t help.
Another instance is an example of
me remembering something that I really shouldn’t have remembered as long as I
have. I went on a trip with a friend of mine, and while we were on this trip we
met a couple of young ladies. He was interested in keeping in touch with one of
them, but nobody had a pen to write down her number. This was before smart
phones saved us from having to retain any memories. I asked her number and made
up a narrative. The area code was the regular area code, so that wasn’t a
problem. The prefix was 231, because it would be 123 except that phone numbers
can’t start with 1, so it starts with 2. The rest was 2719, because Kurdt
Cobain died at the age of 27, and according to the Paul Hardcastle song the
average age in Vietnam
was 19. That narrative has caused me to remember a phone number for over two
decades of a girl that my friend was into for maybe two months.
By the way, this doesn’t always
work. I recently started working at Domino’s Pizza, and I met one of the
drivers. He said his name was Curtis. I said that I might have a chance of
remembering that, because it was one of the most common things that people
mishear me saying when I say my name is Chris. This tripped me up when I saw
him the next time and said “Hi Craig,” which is the other name that people will
mishear when I say my name is Chris.
All I can really say in terms of
memory tricks is to keep it simple, and do your best to avoid anything that
might confuse you later. Also, if you’re going to memorize a phone number, it’s
probably better if it’s someone you’re interested in. Good times, Drew…
whatever your actual name was.
What’s his face is a blogger who
isn’t really very good at remembering names. He also resets passwords an awful
lot because he just can’t remember that it’s password231.

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