Total Recall and My Cold Tea

Find the keys!

A few weeks ago, there was a buzz in the news about someone new who had recently been diagnosed with Total Recall. Eidetic Memory, they call it. People have been claiming it throughout history, but only recently have there been any tests to determine whether or not they’re just really good fakes.

I swear I heard on the radio the other day that only three living people have been “diagnosed” with this condition, but I can’t actually find any proof of that, so maybe I’m making it up. I did, however, find an article in the Chicago Tribune that gives a pretty excellent report on the horrors of having total autobiographical recall (Hyperthymesia), vis a vis a woman named Jill Price who suffers from just such a condition. Sums it up way better than I could (without plagiarizing).

Total recall. What a terrible idea, and not even all that useful. Maybe I’ll change my mind when the world is perfect again, but even so – who wants to remember an eternity of clipping toenails or cleaning out the fridge? Blah.

But this has made me wonder: would total recall prevent Lost Key Syndrome?

This morning I got up from my desk and walked downstairs to see if a fax had come in for me yet. On the way, I got delayed by a coworker who had a question, which resulted in a trip back up to my desk to get her some information. Then I remembered I was still looking for a fax, went back downstairs and saw the mailman coming in the front door. Hooray, mail! I thought. I was thumbing through it when I remembered I’d come downstairs for something else, but what? Ah! I must have wanted my morning tea. So I prepare the tea, go back upstairs and realize I still don’t have my fax. I go downstairs, realize I left the mail sitting in the kitchen, fetch that, and go back upstairs. Still no fax. I finally get my fax, by which time my tea is cold.

Y’know. Lost Key Syndrome. Do people with brilliant memories do this too, or is it controlled by some deeper, less useful part of the brain? Like a short circuit to prevent us from being overly productive with our days or our lives?

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6 thoughts on “Total Recall and My Cold Tea

  1. Great post! 🙂

    Ah, Lost Key Syndrome. Y’know, I reckon those crazy-memory folk would still get it. If you’ve ever read Terry Pratchett, it’s like an omniscope – a magic mirror that can see everywhere – the problem of which being that *everywhere* is a pretty big place, and it’s nigh-on impossible to get one focused on anything useful.

    So if you’ve got a brainfull of everything you’ve done since the year dot, it might be tricky to remember things in a practical order. I mean, there’s a whole layer of meta-memory there to keep you going, like remembering to remember something, in which state I exist every day until noon.

  2. Delighted to know that’s not only me!

    On a similar note, one of my very favorite things is being able to track down a memory. Left those stupid keys somewhere, but where? Last I remember having them was at the grocery story. Well, I know they can’t still be there, because somehow I made it home in my car. If I had them in the car, could they still be out there? No, because now I remember trying to juggle them with my arms full of groceries. Maybe they fell into a grocery bag? No because I unloaded all of those. Oh yeah, and while I was doing that I stuck them on top of the sugar pot and thought to myself: “Don’t put those there, you’ll completely forget you did.”

    Like winning a prize!

    Thanks for the nice comment. 🙂

  3. I spent 15 minutes this morning trying to remember the word “Vegemite.” Everyone knew what I was talking about when I said “that super nasty stuff they eat over in the UK” but the word wouldn’t come to me. I was stuck on “marmoset” instead. I think I was getting it crossed with “marmalade,” another questionable condiment popular over the pond. But the “ah ha!” moment is always delightful (except when it comes in the middle of the night and you’ve forgotten again by the time you wake up).

  4. I’m reading Jill Price’s book right now. She claims she has never lost her keys, and considering how vividly she remembers everything I’m inclined to believe her.

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