Why Lists May Not Be Helping You Remember


By Vicki Hughes    Posted July 2, 2013

I’m growing ever more concerned about all the things I’m expected to remember. I have lists for home, lists for work, lists for family members, several calendars to coordinate, and I’m supposed to remember the last time the dogs had their flea medicine. I have all sorts of note features in my iPhone. This provides a false sense of security, as if putting it in there is an ironclad guarantee that I will magically put the reminder on the right day, or that my phone will actually be fully charged, with the ringer “on” when the alert finally comes through. This is all wishful thinking, and should not be trusted.

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon regarding certain very important items on my grocery list. Some of them are memory resistant. These are not random, weird things like foie gras or clotted cream. I’m talking about very important stuff we actually need, things like deodorant, or laundry detergent, or Tonic water. Even when plainly written on my list, some of these items somehow elude capture. I can’t explain it, but it’s as if, while I am looking at the list, the primary item becomes written in invisible ink, but only until I return home, when it will suddenly re-appear.

I’ve identified part of the problem as the large amount of brain bandwidth that I’m expected to allocate to log-ins and passwords. I especially love it when I am required to create a password with a capital letter, a symbol, a number, a gang sign, the molecular structure of sand and my favorite color when I was twelve. Oh. And for proper security, NEVER write it down. Ever. Yeah. Right. You know who remembers passwords like that? Cyborgs. That’s who.

People are known to cry out over the ignorance of today’s youth about history. I’d just like to say, I personally forgive young people for not knowing more about history. There’s a lot more history now than there used to be. The history of the Internet alone could be a college level dissertation. I think we could all calm down over the youth of America being a little fuzzy on eighteenth century tariffs and who the greatest railroad barons were. Let alone ancient history. Holy crap. Do you want these kids to remember Caesar’s last words, or develop you an app to help you find your phone when you shut it in the bathroom drawer with your toothpaste?

Do you remember that Steely Dan song, “Hey Nineteen?” The guy at the bar is bitter because the sweet young thing he’s chatting up doesn’t know who Aretha Franklin is. First of all, it’s her loss. Second of all, stop being the creepy old guy at the college bar. Let’s not forget, it’s far more depressing that she is unaware that a coffee can be made at home for under five dollars, or that he’s got boxer shorts that have more real-life experience than she does.

When you reach a certain age, there’s a fun game you get to play with people in your same general age bracket. While listening to the music of your youth, you get to play, “Name That Band!” Here’s how we play at our house.

“Who is that, 38 Special?”

“No, it’s 10cc.”

“Yeah, I knew it had a number in it.”

The music plays on…

“Is that Bread?”

“No, it’s Cream.”

“Ehh. I knew it was something edible.”

We continue to chill out to Pandora.

“That’s The Animals, right?”

“Nope. The Zombies.”

“Shit! I knew it was something plural.”

Suddenly one of us jumps up with a fist pump.

“That HAS to be The Animals.”

“It’s The Turtles.”

“Turtles are technically animals.”

We continue like this until one of us says, “I don’t want to play this game anymore,” or until we need more wine.

Because I make my living in the hospitality field, I count it a blessing that I’m good at remembering names. I know lots of people who are not, but I have a feeling they are the ones who manage to get home with all the items they wrote on their grocery list. Really, I don’t think it would be fair for any one person to be good at both. Someone like that shouldn’t be trusted…Cyborgs.

© 2013 Vicki Hughes

5 thoughts on “Why Lists May Not Be Helping You Remember

  1. Momma

    Thank you . I feel so much better! I am glad I’m limited in the necessary need of passwords unlike you and today’s generation. I still sometimes revert to the ancient pencil and paper for grocery lists but that allows me to simply draw a line through it rather than the time consuming clicking the reverse erase button on my iPhone which so often races uncontrollably back taking three other items from the list with it. At least I return home with the Tide, dogfood and Coors lite :0). Music from my youth is also easier to remember because they were names of human beings not animals or insects. However, I don’t have your gift for recalling people’s names so I just select “Favorites from the 50’s and 60’s “. Ain’t life grand :0).

    1. admin Post author

      Oh! I hate it when I erase things accidentally, and then there’s NO HOPE of remembering what they were…until you get home!

  2. Sarena

    Lists, never trust a list it’s never correct and if you pack and number 18 moving tubs with your most treasured items (who has 18 tubs of treasured items? ME) and oh so carefully make a list in your iPad “notes” app you will open that app only to find the note has been launched into ????? Never to be found and your husband will say “didn’t you write it on the box too?” Like ah DUH NO! That’s why I have an iPad !!! He will then shake his, I don’t even text head and look at you like your missing some vital clue about how to live life as he cranks up Elvis and says “now you do know who this is don’t you?”

  3. Scott Carson Ausburn

    List don’t help much when you get to the store only to discover that the list is still on the kitchen counter,then you try to remember what you wrote down.Well anyways it not like we have to take the horse and cart to town to go to a store nowadays.I wish i could add more RAM to my brain like i did to my computer then i could be a Cyborg and remember all those bands names ; )

  4. Amy

    I am in the same boat. But holy hell I have two children under age 5. I either get distracted, the list disappears or someone throws a tantrum & I never get it done.


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