Perhaps, it happened because in hitting on an idea for a new screenplay, my creative mind had come alive, pushing aside everyday details.
On Monday, after working out, while spinning the dial on my lock, I could no longer remember the combination. When I had stopped at 27, I knew that wasn’t the second number, but had forgotten just what was. I kept trying different numbers, “knowing” the first number was 9, the second something in the high 20s and the third in the high 30s. I tried to turn my thoughts away from it, wondering that maybe by thinking too hard, I was preventing myself from recovering the number. I went back on the elliptical trainer for more cardio. i tried again. I couldn’t open it. Realizing that locks weren’t too expensive and needing to get on with my day, I asked the gym management to break it open for me.
Walking back to my car, with the burden of opening my locker behind me, the three numbers in this post’s title came to me. I knew that was the combination. I tried them on the broken lock, the little piece remaining popped right out.
Somehow when ‘transposing” the 7 from the final number into the second digit of the second (number), I caused myself to forget the combination pushed the actual combination out of my mind (for a moment).
The whole experience made me wonder (yet again) at how our memory works–how we can remember perfectly one day fifteen years ago, yet forget a whole week just six months ago. I occasionally get e-mails form people who have chanced upon this blog and write me, having remembered me from college, law school or perhaps from the time I spent in DC. Most I remember, but I have drawn blanks on a few. In at least two of those cases, I remembered the guys when they reminded me how we met–naming the person who introduced us–or identifying a gathering which we both attended.
About two years ago, a friend took me to a party and I started talking to someone I was certain I had met somewhere before. He chatted with me as if he knew me, introduced me as “Dan” to his boyfriend, proving that he did indeed know me. Only when he introduced himself to another guy who joined our conversation did I remember who he was. I remembered the first time we met, even the name of the guy he had been dating (not his then-boyfriend) and recalled other get-togethers we had both attended, all just by learning his name.
Every now and again, I’ll watch a movie I had seen as a child–or even as young adult. And i’ll remember very little, if anything. (For example, when I recently saw Bedknobs & Broomsticks, I could only remember the flying bed, a nice old lady and an animated tiger.) But, two months ago, when I popped Clint Eastwood‘s The Eiger Sanction into my DVD player, I could remember whole sceenes, lines of dialogue, character names. It was bizarre. And I hadn’t seen the movie since my Dad took me to see it with my older brother when I was just a lad. I hadn’t watched the movie in thirty years and yet so much of it came back to me.
Before this stewardess named Vonetta McGhee introduced herself to Eastwood’s Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, I knew her character’s name was Jemima and she would become his love interest. It was weird. Why did I remember this of all movies and not so many others I had seen, even a handful I had seen multiple times?
After The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released, I re-read the Narnia books which I had loved as a child, I could only remember the beginning of the first, the book which inspired that aformentioned film.
I do believe there is a significance in the images we retain, but sometimes we can’t quite figure out what it is. Still, it is bizarre that while I had never had problem recalling the combination to that lock. On Monday, couldn’t call it to mind until the pressure to do so was off.