Posted by: Footler PJ28 MAY 2009
While in a busy restaurant recently I carried out a little research on your behalf. It was no trouble at all, I assure you. The subject of my study was the waitress taking drinks orders. What caught my eye (honestly!) and intrigued me was her ability to remember complicated lists.
She did not appear to write anything down but, as far as I could see, collected the necessary drinks from a barman and delivered each one direct to its customer.
I asked her how she managed to remember what was ordered and who ordered what. She told me that sometimes there was something about the customer that reminded her about the drink. Sometimes she went by where the customer was sitting or she made up a rhyme or a mnemonic for the whole order. I suggested it would be easier just to write it down but she thought her way was more fun.
Then I began to think about how we simply do not bother to remember things nowadays. We use repositionable notes, electronic diaries, reference books, even search engines. There is, we say, just too much to remember. Yet, writing things down on paper, let alone on computer discs, is a relatively recent habit.
How was life remembered long before people could write? In many ancient cultures every piece of information came in the form of legends, songs or poems. It used to be thought that memory was linked to emotion.
The Greek philosophers thought emotion and thought were centred in the heart. Hence we learn by heart. Do we have to care passionately about something in order to remember it? It might help: the waitress certainly loved her job.
Our ancestors used a variety of methods to remember information. They used rhythm, repetition, rhyme, onomatopoeia, mnemonics and even alliteration. It is said that inserting a chorus into a poem or a song reinforced the memory as well as giving the speaker the chance to remember what comes next.
As someone who spends many a moment staring blankly at a shelf or into a drawer wondering what I was looking for, I thought I might try one of these methods. So let me see, this next prescription calls for bendroflumethiazide, simvastatin and atenolol.
Now concentrate, Footler. That would be B, S and A, then. BSA? My father’s old motor cycle of course! Easy! I think I am getting the hang of this job now.