Thursday, July 30, 2009

Memories Are Made of This

by Guest Blogger Hank Phillippi Ryan

See? I remembered to write this blog. I did that by having my email system send me a reminder. Every day. I’d hit the reminder snooze, and forward it to the next day, and finally it arrived at today, and now I’m here.

Why not just make a list of things you need to do, my husband suggested? Then check them off as you do them.

A list? Are you kidding me? I already have lists, and I have lists of lists, and if I put one more thing on the lists, there’s about a fifty-fifty chance I’ll get to it. I do look at the lists, I do rely on the lists, and they do work.

But for some things? Forget about it. Some things I remember *my* way.

Jonathan and I constantly battle (in the most loving of ways of course) about my methods. He thinks they’re—unnecessarily complicated. I think they’re—effective.

For instance. We checked into our hotel one day recently and the room number was 626. (I’m notorious for forgetting hotel room numbers. I mean, it’s hilarious.) So I said—“Okay, 626. I’ll remember that because it’s on the 6th floor, and there are 2 of us on the sixth floor. Six two six.”

My husband said “Why don’t you just remember 626? Why do you make yourself remember all that extra stuff?

“Because I won’t remember 626 without context,” I said. “It has to make sense, or it’ll just evaporate with the rest of the things I’ve forgotten.”

When I first met Jonathan, I had to remember his phone number. 968-2523. Easy. As I explained to him: “We met in September (the ninth month) and you’re 68 years old, and your kids are 25 and 23.”

That was almost the end of our courtship. “But I‘m not 68,” he said. “I’m 56. And my kids aren’t 25 and 23, they’re 30 and 32.”

I knew that, of course. But I shook my head. “Reality doesn’t matter,” I replied. “It’s just how I’m going to remember the number.”

I can’t really describe the look on his face. “Wouldn’t it be easier to remember the number, instead of all that extra--and incorrect—stuff?”

Nope. I remember it *my* way.

ROY G. BIV, you know that right? The colors of the rainbow. Every good boy deserves favor: (all together now) the notes on the G clef. My very elegant mother just served us nine pizzas. The planets. (Okay, that’s including Pluto. Sue me. ) It works, right?

PRIME TIME is the first of the Charlie McNally Mysteries, then FACE TIME, then AIR TIME. Reverse alphabetical order. When DRIVE TIME comes out in February, I’ll have to think of something new. Does PFAD mean anything? Pretty fine and dandy. Okay, now I’ll remember.

There are other methods besides acronyms. If I need to remember to take the dry cleaning in, I think: When I touch the back door, I’ll remember to get the laundry. This method is definitely successful. The downside is if I go out the front door--then it doesn’t work. The other downside is that EVERY time I go out the back door, I think: dry cleaning. I used to wonder about the old “tie a string around your finger” thing. Now, I get it.

But I think we can all make our own ways to remember things. If it works, it works.
Do you have any memory tricks? Tell us! (If you remember them…)

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first mysteries, PRIME TIME (which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and FACE TIME (Book Sense Notable Book), were best-sellers. They were both just re-issued from MIRA Books, and are in bookstores now. The next in the series are AIR TIME (MIRA Sept. 2009) (Sue Grafton says: "Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. This is first-class entertainment.") and DRIVE TIME (MIRA February 2010.) Her website is


Gina said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Hank.
I"m not good with mnemonics -- mind like a steel sieve. I'd never remember all that extra stuff. I usually just write something down then lose the paper it's written on. I've been a mush-brain all my life, so it's fun in a sick sort of way to watch my contemporaries catching up with me. Welcome to my world!:-)
I do use a few tricks to remember important things. For example, I never close a house or car door unless I have the key in my hand. When I park, I attach an invisible string from my car to the back of my head. That way, I can always find the car by following the string. [Amazingly, this works.]

Annette said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Hank! Great post.

My computer reminds me of appointments and bills that are due. I keep a legal pad on my desk with each day's to-do list on the left and extra stuff I need to do on the right. I cross things off as I go and whatever is leftover gets transferred to the next page.

I don't think I could remember all that extra stuff. I absolutely HAVE to write it down. Like Gina, I often lose the paper. Oh, well. But I suffer with TBS. Teflon Brain Syndrome. Nothing sticks. So if it isn't written down, it's gone.

Joyce Tremel said...

I never had a problem remembering things until I hit--well, that certain age. Now my brain is like mush. For example, my husband asked me the other day what came in the mail. I had to think for more than a few seconds, then remembered that I'd gone out to get the mail, noticed that the flowers needed to be watered and promptly forgot all about the mail. It was still in the mailbox.

I remember dumb things. I'm really good at trivia that no one needs to know. For appointments and everything else, I use a software program called Time & Chaos. Appropriate name, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Hank, I have lost a bottle of prescription meds. I can't reorder for 3 months. I need those pills! Where did I put the bottle? Where, oh, where?? Can you remember for me?

Nancy Martin

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Welcome Hank.

Hotel rooms. Anybody who travels a lot fusses over this one. Me? When I was traveling through China, I quickly realized that I may have a need to get in a cab and get back to my hotel which normally had both a "Western Name" and a "Chinese Name" which when pronounced sounded completely different. I began carrying a card from the hotel with the name in English and Chinese, so I could hop in a cab and point to the name on the card. I also put the Room Number on the back so I remember. Again, while I could verbalize Chinese numbers, I couldn't read them.

That habit stays with me today. I ALWAYS carry the card key in the paper jacket with the room number written on it. There MAY have been a time or two coming from a bar that my method came in handy.

PatRemick said...

All those numbers would just confuse me. I think I need to walk around with a big post-it note on my shirt.....
My husband, however, considers me his personal computer. I'll never forget (LOL) the time he asked me, "Do I like to eat this?" And when my husband and sons forget where they put things --I use the Roseann Barr line -- my uterus is NOT a homing device...
The greatest memory device in my life has been the lightswitch cover with key hooks near the door to the garage. I think I've preserved years now I'm not always searching the house for my car keys...
Great post, Hank! Don't forget :) to come visit us again at WorkingStiffs...

Jenna said...

Hiya, Hank! Thanks for visiting. Fun post!

I don't usually have a problem remembering things, although I notice things getting fuzzier now that I'm getting older. I remember silly stuff, though. How much the restaurant bill was the day I met DH 24 years ago. ($7.75) My room number when my son was born ten years ago. (332). Phone numbers of girlfriends I haven't called for 20+ years. I don't know their current numbers without looking them up, but I have their parents' numbers drilled into my brain.

Gina - LOL. Love the invisible string!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Oh, I once worried that my mind was like a computer hard drive. A comletely full one. And for every word of Chinese I learned, I deleted an English word to make room for it.

So when my wife tells me that if I'd just listen to her, I might just learn something, I decided that I don't want to delete anything valuable and choose not to learn anything new. Instead I smile, nod my head and exercise my God given talent for tuning out the world.

Sophie Littlefield said...

I totally and completely get your memorizing system, Hank - how scary is that? I think we must have gone to the same class in a past life :)

Gina said...

Nancy -
Trust me. This always works. While looking for a lost object, ust keep repeating:

Dear Saint Anthony
Please come around
Something is lost
And can't be found.

You will find the object.

Patg said...

Hey Hank,
Thanks for the advise, but honestly only two huge calenders showing one month at a time with large day boxes--one next to my computer, the other at a desk in my kitchen--will ever keep me notified of anything!
During my senior moments, I don't remember to look at them.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Hank! Welcome to Working Stiffs. Nice to have you here in my neck of the woods.

Okay, here goes:

Tell us four things about you that no one knows. Only three can be true. We'll guess which one is false!

Ripped right off of Hank's wonderful Jungle Red blog. I've always thought these were fun. You up to it, Hank?

Paula Matter

queenofmean said...

Hank, I do the same thing with numbers. The last time we stayed at a hotel it was room 217 (we're on the 2nd floor & my son is 17).
I have never been good at remembering things. Everything gets written down (& I have lost what I've written down) I use MS Outlook Calendar & Tasks to remind me. I set up as many automatic bill payments as I can. Oh, and my phone has an alarm so I can set it when I'm out & about. I just have to hope I can remember why I set it.
I love your idea about the string, Gina. I'll have to try that one.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OH! I missed my blog day! I can't believe it--I was crazed at my day job (TV reporter) and got a big assignment--and poof, my time went away.
Oh, so so bummed! And now I'm laughing--I FORGOT!! I think that's what my English teacher told us was called irony...

I'm posting this comment in the newer blog, too.

Sigh. Trying to laugh..

Vicki Lane said...

Hank, I totally love that you forgot! It's like the time I wrote a post about wannabe writers whose blog posts are full of grammatical and spelling errors -- and managed to make two errors in my post.

PEWSLAG is the acronym for the Seven Deadly Sins -- as I recall from a class on Milton's Paradise Lost. Now there's some useful info.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Vicki--I love PEWSLAG. And had never heard it before. Thanks! And it's so interstnig that it works, don't you think? Because it's nonsense, but much easier than remembering the seven actual words.
Brains are funny.

Anyone else have acronyms?

Vicki Lane said...

Oh -- I have another that my husband learned in the Marines school for aviation electronics -- the memnomic for the color spectrum in correct order is Bad boys rape our young girls but Violet gives willingly. It runs from black and brown through the colors and to gray and white. Not PC but unforgettable.

Sheila Connolly said...

What day is this? Oh, right, Sunday. I have visions of myself covered with sticky notes with things like "eat breakfast!" on them.

The weird part, though, is that it's inconsistent. My daughter will ask where her something-or-other is, and I will say, try the third drawer on the left in the desk in the living room, in the front. And it's there.

Mind like Swiss cheese, eh?

Beth said...

I am just like you! I need clues to remember things--especially for numbers, important dates, and even clues for how to spell certain words.

Maybe most crime/mystery/suspense writers are like that. I totally get the 626 for your hotel room.

I'm also glad you talked about the fact that your novels were published in reverse alphabetical order because I could never remember which one to buy first. Now, I'll remember.

For our wedding date, my husband and I chose a date that we'd both always remember (with a twinkle in our eyes). June 9 (6/9) Now I'm sure you can all figure that one out! ha

John said...

The only thing that helps me to remember is leaving a trail of sticky notes. Or placing things in front of the door so that I literally have to walk over them before leaving. Or putting the burden on my wife and saying, "Don't forget to remind me..." (That one's my favorite!)


Sofie Kelly said...

Hank, I laughed myself silly when I read how you link laundry and the back door--I do that too. Since both of us do it I think that takes it out of the realm of weird habit and makes it a great memory tool. At least that's going to be my story.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, you all are wonderful. And there are so many good tricks! If I can just remember then.

Sheila, truly--I often ask what day it is. What is that so diffilt sometimes? But I totally agree..some very difficult (but random) things are embedded forever.

Beth, thanks so all of us will remember your wedding anniversary...

John, yup, I put stuff in front o the door, too. Then my husband moves it. Ah, I'll say--I forgot the stuff for the post office! And I put it in front of the door so I'd remember! Oh, Jonathan says, I wondered why it was in the way.

ANd Gina, I'm still thinking about the string thing. REally? I've got to try it

(My word verification thing is "morpho." WHich is kind of a cool word. Name for a mixed-breed dog? Or a fantasy creature that changes shape?)

Joyce Tremel said...

Hank, thanks for being with us--even a couple of days late! We don't usually get this much traffic on the weekends. It was nice!

Be sure to come back again. You're welcome here anytime!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thank you..I'd love to come back and visit! Lots of wonderful people here...thank you for inviting me.

Kaye George said...

Hank, you made me laugh! I do those things, too, but I don't always remember the method. I'm better off with paper reminders.

In the car I sometimes throw something on the floor, like my purse, to remind me of an errand.

Wilfred, I'm happy to finally know why DH doesn't listen. Makes sense now, his head's too full.

BTW, I can easily tell what day it is by which pill compartments are empty. Unless I forget and take pills twice in one day. Oh dear, did I?

Can't wait for the next book!!!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Kaye:

Thanks! Yes, good plan--if you put somethig out of place, then you think--why its the apple inthe mdidle of the floor? And then you remembe--oh yeah. I'm supposed to call my mother.

Or whatever.

It doesn't even have to make sense, which is kind of intersting, don't you think?

Becke Davis said...

Oh please, don't talk to me about forgetting things. I'm the QUEEN of forgetting things. I write myself notes, then forget where I put the notes. It's amazing I still manage to meet deadlines.