By Christopher Cudworth
My brother has been using our 2000 Chevy Impala for a few months and he likes the car, so we got together last night to talk about transferring the title and taking over the insurance. He walked up to the door and dangled a set of keys in front of him.
“Have you been looking for these?”
They were keys to the Toyota Matrix my daughter drives. The set with key fobs and all the gadgets that make the doors work and such. I lost those keys about 3 or 4 years ago.
“Where did you find them?” I asked.
“They were wedged down between the seats,” he replied. “I was cleaning the car and found them way down underneath the seat bed.”
The Impala has a long, wide front seat with a flip-down center console. Apparently years ago I dropped those keys on the seat while riding with my wife and they disappeared down below. Out of sight. But not out of mind.
“How can you lose an entire set of keys like that?” she demanded to know. “They’re expensive to replace.”
She was right. Those key fobs are expensive. And I’d lost another set of keys earlier that year. Two sets in a year? That’s a problem.
The issue of lost keys became a symbol for my other memory challenges and sometimes spaciness. It really irritated her.
Of course part of the problem was preoccupation with some pretty serious matters. We were dealing with all sorts of medical bills and issues related to her cancer treatments. I was really good at solving billing problems and finding ways to get things paid even when the money was short. So my attention was on those issues, as it should be.
Things like where I set the keys down escaped me though.
Truth be told, my mind has always had a propensity for preoccupation. I’m a creative guy and am always thinking of some idea for a new painting, an article or a blog, like this. And in school my dreamy brain did not always hew to the algebraic sequence of classroom affinities, shall we say. If I only had a brain…
On a recent visit with a college buddy he recalled an event that I had long forgotten. “We were running the distance medley relay indoors,” he chuckled, “and you came sprinting around on what you thought was the last lap and wanted to hand off the baton. I said ‘no no you have one more lap’! I’ve never seen someone so freaked out in my life. That final lap must have really hurt.”
And back in high school I struggled at times with course tours in cross country. We’d jog the course with a member of the opposing team and were then supposed to remember the entire 3-mile layout? Not likely at times. Many of those courses had repeat loops and changed the second time around. Against a team from Naperville Central I had built a 200 meter lead on my rival Rick Hodapp and had the race in the bag when we came around for the second loop on the North Central College campus. I turned right onto the track (which was cinders then…it is all weather now…) and began my sprint toward the finish line around the track and up a short hill to the finish.
But to my horror and anger upon reaching the backstretch, Hodapp was going straight on the near straightaway! The course did not loop around the track the second time through. I lost the meet by three or four yards because that course map had slipped my mind.
Of course it would have made sense to have had someone directing runners at that spot in the race. So much of life is like that though. You’re just supposed to “know” these things and “remember” obtuse crap that in the heat of competition or under stress no one can effectively recall. That’s one of the tarsnakes of existence. People aren’t very forgiving of forgetfulness as a rule. They see it as irresponsibility. When in fact people who are forgetful are simply trying to do more with the time they have. That means some things are bound to get lost along the way.
Think of “absent-minded” professors. They wander across campus dreaming up the next big idea they are about to publish and literally get lost on the way to class. Is that such a horrible thing? Doesn’t the world need to consider the value of big ideas against the tiny tragedy of missing out with minor events? Or losing a set of keys…
I know, I know. It’s irritating to deal with forgetful people.
Time for better thinking
So I work like a madman to organize things. Set my cycling stuff out the night before so that the morning of a ride is not a panic trying to find black arm warmers in drawers filled with other black gear.
On race day in particular it pays to be organized and not leave your thinking to chance. Triathletes need to put their cycling shoes and running shoes where they can find them and get them on easily in transition.
And there’s one of the real keys to understanding how the human mind works. It’s those periods of transition that bring us all down. We can be pretty good in our general habits but when asked to transition from one activity to the other, or when getting ready to go to work in the morning, successfully making the transition to getting on our way is key to having a better day. One without forgetting or losing things.
Assume the position
I’m working at it. I really am. It’s been hard in some ways taking over all the things my wife used to do around the house that I now do. All the dishes and grocery shopping and paying bills. I helped with that when she was alive but now it’s all my own.
Plus I’m caregiver to my father and pay all his bills and supervise his medical needs as well. Then there’s walking and feeding the dog and starting my own business at 3C Creative Content. Pretty much the balls of my feet are worn out from pivoting so much this year.
But I have not lost any keys.
I did finally find my dress orthotics after missing them for three weeks. They were stuck in a pair of shoes where we store the toilet paper in a hallway closet. I’d set the shoes in there absentmindedly while stocking the toilet paper in the master bathroom. So my priorities were in the right place. Just my followup was missing. The closet was dark. The shoes were hidden. But I did find them eventually.
I knew I would. Eventually. Even those car keys came home to roost. Eventually.
The business of life
That actually teaches me a lot about how my mind really works. And doesn’t. One can’t afford to be casual in your thinking when things disappear like that. Sooner or later you can forget something important like an appointment business engagements or something important on the social calendar. Oops. Honey I’ll be there soon…
We all forget things. Helmets on the way to a ride. Tying our shoelaces twice. Sports puts pressure on the forgetful. We have to compensate or pay the price.
I once locked the keys in the car five minutes before a race. My racing flats were inside, so we had to jimmy open a window with a borrowed coat hanger. My warmup for that half marathon turned out to be a sprint to the line from the parking lot with 30 seconds left before the start. But I finished 7th overall. So no harm done, right?
Perhaps one of the keys to understanding our sometimes forgetful minds is to forgive some of this stuff if the results turn out alright. Even if they don’t, it’s wise to forgive and then take measures to prevent (other, real losses) from occurring. We run and ride with all that in mind. Except the parts we forget.