Trusting Memory…a Low-Percentage Bet

Memory: A faculty for the repository and retrieval of data in the human brain that often provides comic entertainment for the heavenly theater.


Trusting memory, at your age? The percentages are better by trusting a roll of the dice at a casino crap shoot than relying on memory to remember names.

It happens often. You’re talking with a friend and see another friend in the distance, heading your way. But what’s his name? An introduction might be in order. But maybe not, if you’re lucky.

There’s time, maybe a distant wave and he’ll walk on by, save you the embarrassment of not remembering his name. But it’s not your lucky day. He approaches closer. Anxiety swells. The name, the name?

Your mind locks up, goes blank. Its lights blink on and off. Your tongue’s glued to the roof of your mouth. Seconds pass in slow motion while you try to recall the name. It won’t come and the muted presence is ominous. The heavenly theater begins to laugh.

Too late for delays. In warp speed you ‘rack your brain’ for the name. The internal rolodex spins at the speed of light. No time to run the alphabet, A, B, C.  The name, the name, what is it?

The heavenly theater is on the edge of its seats, enjoying your dilemma. ‘Racking’ was a grim medieval torture device whereby one is strapped to a frame, their bodily limbs stretched apart slowly in a public spectacle. Your brain is screaming now, the name, the name. It doesn’t come. The rack tightens. The theater roars with laughter.

Time seems to stop. The memory gods are having fun with your brain’s dice today.

Too late now for defensive maneuvers. The friend stands there, waiting. Conversation stops. It’s your move. You trusted your memory, and it’s failed you miserably today. Snake eyes.

You fidget, shuffle your feet and blurt out the utterly stupid and only face-saving quip you know: “Hi, y’all know one another, right?” Whereupon you vaporize while they introduce themselves. The curtain goes down on the heavenly matinee.

But you fooled nobody. They know. They’ve been here themselves. It’s a human condition. Trusting memory is leaning on a weak reed. It’s as fugitive as a convict on the loose and desperately fickle. You’d sooner trust in the stars than to rely on retrieval of instantaneous data from this unpredictable depot of duplicity.

We have workarounds to avoid the total collapse of mental function. Forget calling the doc for a pill. He has no pill to give you. Besides, he might even suggest you abandon some remaining joys of life…wine, martinis, cheeseburgers.

But a faulty memory can sometimes be a person’s best friend. Think about it. It provides a universal excuse for forgetting. Forgetting can eliminate many problems, for example:

“Did you remember to pick up the cleaning?” she asks.

“I forgot.” End of discussion.  Perfect excuse. Procrastinate.

Most of us have figured out ways and means for remembering. My car steering wheel is a mobile bulletin board. I need gas, I write “Gas” on a note and affix it to the steering wheel. Same with needing cash, “Bank.”  Need “Pills?” Not perfect, but effective.

For all things important we have Siri, Google, Amazon and Universal Brain apps to remind us…birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, things we buy, music we listen to, everything. But not names. Is there a solution?


If not remembering names is a universal curse, then is there a universal cure? Yes. Name tags. Be the first to start a trend, and the heavenly theater will have to find another fool to laugh at.

Now who do you say you are? I forget.


Bud Hearn

July 22, 2022