Living Matters: Selective memory has affinity for phone numbers

The husband wondered if the bank was still open, so decided to give them a call. He reached for his laptop to look up the number.

“There’s no need to do that,” I said. I recited all 10 digits, area code included.

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“Can you believe I knew that?” I said.

The husband nodded.

“I can believe it,” he said. “But, of course, we’ve been through this before.”

The this of which my husband speaks is my ability to recall telephone numbers. It’s the oddest thing. It’s not like I try to commit them to memory. But that’s where they happen to stay.

I am, in some respects, a telephone book with hair.

“OK,” the husband has said occasionally. “Let’s do the phone number thing.”

The “phone number thing” is what oddballs like us do when the power goes off and TV is dead and the house is in darkness and we are completely and utterly bored.

It goes like this.

The husband will say something, and I will respond with the number.

The accountant, he will say. The dentist. The elementary school. The Chinese takeout place.

In practically every instance: bingo, bango, yes, siree.

Weird — at the same time, more than a tad frustrating.

After all, it’s not like I want my memory bank to be fully loaded with a zillion phone numbers. It’s not like there are competitions out there where I might vie for the title of Phone Number Queen, emerge victorious and be handed a cheque for several million dollars.

Frankly, I’d rather my memory bank was loaded with other things instead. Like the recipe for my mother’s lasagne, which I’m compelled to consult quite often.

Like the schedule for the ferry service to Nanaimo, which I never can quite recall.

Like the name of that red-haired woman whose child was in our youngest son’s Grade 2 class. (Heck, why is it that I constantly turn down the supermarket cereal aisle, only to be met by someone with whom I’ve drawn a mental blank? Talk about awkward.)  

Heck, I would happily forget the number of my favourite Italian restaurant if I could remember the name of the maitre d’.

But unfortunately, memory doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, I don’t get to pick and choose what I forget and what I remember. The memory powers that be — whatever they are — are responsible for that, and have decided, in my case, that I’ll be lousy with names, but good with phone numbers, even ones I don’t use any more.

Oh, well. It is what it is, I guess. Don’t ask me when the ferries run. But I can give you the number to call.

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