It's funny what the memory considers worth saving and what it tosses away, or loads only in random access that disappears every night during sleep.
When I was a kid my dad was a postman. He had a "letter
case" in the basement that he practiced with when he was first taking
his test to be a carrier. It's a pigeonhole box with streets assigned to
each hole, and then the carrier or clerk would toss flash cards
simulating addressed letters into the proper boxes.
Virginia, this was in the dark ages before zip codes and total
automation, though there's still some hand sorting of the mail today I'm
In any case I was curious, and like most boys, I wanted
to be daddy when I grew up; so I asked him to show me what he was doing.
He showed me alright; he taught me the entire city, street by street.
Each of 48 numbered Avenues, each name of four alphabets were burned
into my brain over the course of perhaps a week of his practice, while
verbally calling out the names for my benefit. I admit I reburned those
names when I drove cab in my 20s, but it was less reinforcing the
memories than taking advantage of them.
A few years ago, as I drove to apply for a
job I thought about directions, then the city grid, and then for
my "bored with driving entertainment" I named every street from east to
west, from the Mississippi border through Minneapolis and two of its
suburbs until my rememberance ran into later development that didn't
exist way back then. I remembered them all save one; I was pretty happy
with myself. It's in the vicinity of 125 streets I named, not a small
When I reached my destination and received my application I
sat in the lobby and began to fill it out. The first line, as you might
imagine was for my name. So I printed it out...and left out a letter. I
left out a letter. Hello? I left a fucking letter out of my own name!
couldn't very well ask for another application, as if I'd gone outside
for a minute and a passing raccoon had ripped my old one from my paw,
assuming it to be a jar of peanut butter. And I could hardly tell the
truth. "Umm, miss? I seemed to have misspelled my name, could I have a
new sheet of paper?" Think about it. Ok, that's long enough.
had to fudge as carefully as I could, adding in the letter as if I'm
just a sloppy printer and not a blithering idiot. I'm not so sure it
worked, the receptionist and I had a pleasant relationtionship thereafter but I could be sure she didn't pass that application around so a good laugh could be had by all. She's a nice woman, but I could see her talking to coworkers about the brain dead guy who filled out an application one time that must have smoked so much pot
in his day he needs his name sewn into his underwear in case he takes
them off somewhere and walks away humming Yankee Doodle.
course a page later as I was listing my employers, I made another
massive blooper with the dates, and had to make fours into nines and
sixes into eights. I could just as well have drawn stick figures between
the lines with little blank spaces below as if I'd gotten bored with
trying to get a job and decided to play solitaire hangman instead.
dammit, I can remember every street from Mississippi River Boulevard to
Zane. Is this what it's like to be a rain man? I wonder if I can
remember the seat numbers of every concert ticket I've ever bought.
Obviously I have the space for those numbers in my little brain...CUZ I HAVE AN EMPTY SPOT WHERE MY NAME'S SPOSED TO BE!