Drawing a blank is becoming an art form

Drawing a blank is becoming an art form by Bob Karolevitz When you draw a blank on the name of somebody you should know, you begin to wonder if you are losing your marbles.

You can see the person plain as day in your mind's eye, but you can't recall a simple thing like his or her name.

So you start going down the alphabet and back again, hoping that the letters will somehow reveal the missing label. I've been from A to Z so often that I say them in my sleep. Believe me, it's woefully frustrating when that technique doesn't work.

Next you try the Indonesian thing you learned from a friend. You clap your hands on the side of your head as though jostling will stir up your memory.

That doesn't work either!

You probably pray a little bit, too. Then � Eureka � out of the blue comes the lost sobriquet. How it happens, nobody knows.

I think there's an excuse for the momentary memory loss, though. When you get a little older, your head is crammed full of all sorts of trivia, so to make room for current facts, an automatic reshuffling takes place.

Lots of seldom-used stuff goes into a memory bank in your cerebellum � or some other part of your brain � sort of like storing it in a computer. That includes old telephone numbers, addresses long unused, miscellaneous events which are mostly forgettable and, of course, names.

Politicians are good at remembering the latter, for that, after all, is how they get re-elected. Me? I even have trouble with my wife what's-her-name!

Recalling names is easy, they tell me. When you're introduced to somebody, just associate their name with something familiar: like belly for Kelly or handle for Crandall. But what do you do with Ugofsky or Muqtada al-Sadr?

I guess I'll just stick with the alphabet.

Recently several of us went through a name search of a guy we all were acquainted with. For hours we tried everything. One of our foursome thought the name started with S. (She was right, but she didn't know what came after that.)

Her husband was sure it began with M, but that's as far as he got. Then finally � out of the blue � the name Scott appeared. Instantly we all knew it was right, but we had no idea how that easy-to-remember cognomen emerged from the storage bin.

It sure eased our minds a lot, though!

It turns out that that's a mental phenomenon which happens to most of us occasionally. For some reason we can't remember a name which is as familiar as the nose on your face. Why is that?

I suppose that's just one more thing I'll have to live with, but it rankles me. It's not that I've got cobwebs in my head; it's just that I don't know what to do about it, and the alphabet routine can get mighty tiresome.

There are lots of jokes on the subject, of course. The "absent-minded professor" is a case in point. However, there's nothing funny about mental illness or the vagaries of old age, although I don't think either of them is my problem. Yet!

I just can't remember names, that's all.

Oh well, if that's all that's bothering me, then I don't have a thing to worry about � except that Phyllis is calling me her "absent-minded professor" more often these days.

© 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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