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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Forget About It


Once you reach a certain age, or in my case, before you reach a certain age, your brain starts to get lazy. I don’t think there has been one time in the last fifteen years where this hasn’t happened: I have a list of things to do and places to go. If I’m lucky, I don’t get out of the driveway before I realize I’ve forgotten something necessary for the completion of the task(s).

I can spend a long time planning this chore outing. I’ll write down the destination and then what I need to buy, swap, borrow, return, or other verb that I have to do at those destinations. My brain works well as I prepare. But once I open the door, all is lost. I enter a black hole.

Usually I forget the list itself. As I said, on a good day, I’ll remember it before I leave the driveway. On bad days, I won’t remember it until I’m on the other side of town and it’s too late. So I’ll try to re-create the list, with only moderate success. Usually there’s a store I’ll forget to go to, or something I won’t remember that I need to get.

And even if I do remember the list, things are still not safe. Let’s say the first thing on the list is “Return books to library.” And I’ll drive to the library, chatting away with Other Bill, and we’ll get to the library and realize that even though our intentions were good and we had the list, we neglected to bring the library books with us. So we’ll go home and get the books, drive back to the library, and then I’ll discover I forgot to bring my library card to renew one of the books.

Our boxer, Bungee, is so used to us forgetting things. She doesn’t ever expect us to be gone very long. When we arrive back, she’ll be in her lounge chair, reading Architectural Digest, smoking a Virginia Slims, and sipping a cosmopolitan. When we come in, she’ll look up over her reading half-glasses as if to say, “Forget something?” And then she’ll hand us the library card, or the list, or the outgoing mail.

Sadly, we often return more than once. There are sometimes two or three returns, say, to get stamps for the mail that we forgot but now have, and then again to go online to look up the ZIP code for one of the bills that is inevitably delinquent, because we have tried unsuccessfully five or six times in the last month to get it out of the house.

The dog just looks up from her magazine of elegantly furnished rooms that she would love to chew up and irreparably scratch and dent. Stylish magazines that display exquisite furnishings are porn for dogs, and she is addicted. I’m just waiting for her to be looking over my shoulder to steal my computer login password. Then she’ll start ordering it. I can tell already she’s not satisfied with just chewing up the magazine. Especially after the third cosmo.

I will drive to the gym to do some lap swimming, only to realize I have a towel, but no swim suit. I’ll get to Walmart knowing there are 3 things on the forgotten list that I wanted but can only remember two. And of course, when I get home and read the list, it is the most important thing I needed, like a fuse for the oven so we can eat. I will go to the propane place to get my can for my outdoor grill filled and realize I have not brought the empty can. And the can is empty, because I forgot and left the grill on all night.

And then there are gift cards. We have taken movie gift cards to the multiplex, only to realize that they are redeemable at some other theater franchise. And we knew that in advance. I will pick up the gift card to the Macaroni Grill, and we will drive right over to Applebee’s, where we eat exactly $21 worth of food, tax included, only to end up paying for it ourselves. I have had a $10 gift card that I have been trying to remember to bring along for three years now. It’s probably expired.

Since gas shot up sky high, and even after it came back down, I have been holding back to do all chores at one time instead of making separate trips. I map out the trip in my head so I can drive the fewest possible miles on the most direct route. I’ll first go to the farthest place away and work my way back. You’d think with that kind of attention to detail, I would be able to accomplish something except drive past these destinations, after realizing that it takes a wallet to accomplish the tasks that were meant to be performed there. That piece of leather is back at home, where Bungee has removed all the credit cards and is making copies of both sides. And she’ll hand me the wallet when the door pops open and just smile that Forget this? smile.

I recently went on a two-day trip to the other side of the state to see a play. I put all my dress-up clothes on one hanger, which I left on the doorknob of the computer room. When we got to Tampa, I had to shop for clothes. On the previous visit to Tampa to attend a funeral, I forgot my belt. We were late and had to rush to K-Mart and get one so I wouldn’t walk down the aisle of the chapel looking like Snoop Dogg.

Forgetfulness can really do a number on me. Where I work, I need an electronic proximity card to get into the building and again for the elevator, and again to get to my office. I keep my card on a retractable leash clipped to my belt (or on the waist of my pants when I forget the belt.) When they put the new system in place, it wasn’t long before I managed to leave the card at home. Where I work there is one person who can create a duplicate card. Naturally, he wasn’t there the day I needed one. I got into the building by following in a co-worker. But I had to be escorted by a sergeant to get up to my office. And once I was in my office, I was trapped. I could go to the bathroom, fortunately, but I couldn’t go to the kitchen to get my iced tea or put my lunch (which I remembered (that day)) in the fridge. But anytime I wanted to go downstairs, I had to find someone who had the right card to get me back up to my office. It got to be annoying and embarrassing, so I just went home sick. Since then, against the rules, I always keep the proxy card in the side pocket of my car door, despite their being general orders that forbid that. Maybe a terrorist will enter my building sometime because of me, but I’m willing to take the risk.

What’s sad is that my doctor says this is all normal behavior. It’s not pre-Alzheimer’s or Aspberger’s syndrome or mental retardation. Frankly, I’d rather it be one of those so I didn’t have to call it what it is: Age Related something-ness. It starts with an F. Oh yeah: Age Related Forgetfulness.

Or ARF, as my dog calls it.

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