Forget You Not

HELP! I CAN’T REMEMBER MY PASSWORDS

By Neil Offen

Have you been forgetting things lately, like where your glasses are or the names of your children? The good news is there are ways to compensate. 

Repeat what you want to remember. Say it several times silently to yourself. Or say it aloud as long as you are not in a crowded elevator and trying to remember the results of your urinanalysis.

Write down things you need to remember. This can be a long list if you still care or a short list if you’re retired and really don’t give a damn. According to clinical trials of people who have been forbidden the use of emojis to express themselves, it’s best to actually write out by hand the things you want to remember. This is preferable to jotting down what you want to remember on your smartphone, and then trying to figure out if you put those notes in notes, reminders, utilities, emails, texts, files, tips, Facebook or in Google Maps under favorite places.

Develop mnemonic devices. A mnemonic device is a kind of mnemory aid. The term is derived from the ancient Greek, mnēmonikos, which means, if I’m recalling correctly, carburetor. Mnemonic devices are, essentially, shortcuts  —such as a rhyme, a saying or an acronym — that will, you hope, remind you of stuff .

Although you may not know the term, you probably have been using mnemonic devices for a long time. I have been using them since the seventh grade, which is why I can still tell you what the trigonometric functions are [*See footnote below if you really want to know even if you have absolutely no idea what “trigonometric” means].

Roy G. Biv, for example, is how some of us remember the colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and that other one. There are many others, including one for the Marine Corps Guidelines for Machine Gun Emplacement, in case that comes in handy.

My wife has been using mnemonic devices for years, particularly when leaving the house, to make sure she has all her stuff with her. Standing at the garage door, she recites a nonsense phrase she has created:

“Poor [phone] little [lunch] men [mask] play [pills] silly [sunglasses] dopey [drops, eye] kids’ [keys] games [glasses] before [bag, larger] Halloween [hearing aid],” before walking out the door, getting in the car and realizing she has forgotten to wear shoes.

Create to-do lists. I have one right on my desk now. Some of the items on it date to the late 20th century. All the others, of course, are old.

There is no greater joy than crossing out an item that has been on your to-do list, even if you just put it on your to-do list after you just did it, simply so you could have the joy of crossing it out.

Follow a daily routine. Each evening, before going to bed, put the stuff you will always need — your wallet or purse, your keys, phone, glasses, vaccination card, water bottle, newspaper clipping with the Major League baseball standings from June 1995 — in the same place. Each morning try to remember where that place is.  

*The mnemonic device for you trigonometry fans: Soak Your Toe. That is, SOH-CAH-TOA, which stands for Sine equals Opposite over Hypotenuse, Cosine equals Adjacent over Hypotenuse and Tangent equals Opposite Over Adjacent. If you’re not a seventh-grader and think you know what any of this means, submit your answer and you may win my seventh-grade trigonometry book, if I can recall where it is.


Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column appears twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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