Tag Archives: memory

Instinct Tested

Practice makes perfect.  And when you are out there doing something you’ve done a thousand times before, and done well, it comes to you instinctively.  Piece of cake!  But if someone says to you, “it’s a test.  Show me how you do it,” well, then it becomes somewhat harder.  It’s a mental thing.

Rather than proceed on muscle habit you have to think about every little detail.  First this, then that, unless this is happening.  Keep your eyes peeled at all times.  A thousand thoughts and actions just to accomplish one little task.  It’s a smooth motion on instinct, but a mathematical flow chart in a test.

After riding my scooter for nearly ten years I decided it might be a good idea to get a license for the thing.  You don’t have to have any special credentials to ride one of those little putt putt jobs, but mine is big enough that I need both a license plate, and a motorcycle drivers license.  I don’t just flaunt all the laws I encounter so I have had a motorcycle permit, on and off, over those ten years.  But they only last six months and then you have to go to the State Patrol office to renew it.  So there were times when I didn’t have a license.  Or a permit. Like any other law, you can ignore it, until you get caught.

So I made an appointment to take the road skills test.  The nearest location for taking this test was nearly forty miles away.  Should be a nice little ride I thought.  Google Maps gave me the route.  I had asked the planner to avoid highways.  My scooter is pretty big, but on an uphill climb it may slow to forty nine or fifty miles an hour.  And that’s a little nerve wracking when the cars behind you are approaching at sixty. But what the map planner called no highways just happened to include twenty miles on a federal highway that in places has up to six lanes!  I may have to wing this one.

The Driver’s Services web site says the test will include a safety inspection of the bike and then four riding skills tests.  A slalom course through cones, a U-turn, an emergency stop and an emergency hazard avoidance.    And don’t forget to bring your insurance papers, registration and license for review.

That all sounds really simple.  Any rider does those things all the time.  This is gonna be a snap.

They go on to advise you that you will be scored based on your speed during the test, distances covered to execute the maneuvers, whether you put your foot down for balance at any time or whether your bike stalls out.  And also if you understand and follow all of the instructions the tester gives you.  If you fail the test, you have to wait a few days to retake it.  Just the idea of scoring and failing and waiting makes me nervous.

Ok, so I’m reasonably intelligent, pretty skilled on my bike and confident. Then suddenly I wonder about any kind of rules testing.  My biggest concern was that they would ask me to use hand signals.  I only know two hand signals and neither is official. One is the biker fellowship wave. The other is pointing skyward with my middle finger.

At the test site I have to wait in line even though I have an appointment.  They tell me to move my bike into the line of other test victims.  There is another guy on a scooter who has just finished.  He tells me to just be careful on the slalom portion.  Keep it steady.  Good luck he says.

The tester comes outside and hollers out to anyone who’s listening. Meet me over there by the trailer she says.  There is some confusion as to who she is speaking to, but I finally figure out it’s me. Tension level rises.  Who wants to look like an idiot?

When I get to the meeting place she is nowhere to be seen.  Oh God, this is the following directions part of the test and I’m failing.  Where is she??!!  She has a beautiful spice island accent.  Maybe I misunderstood what she had said.

Here she comes, slowly walking across the parking lot toward me. I can tell she is talking but with my helmet on I can’t understand a word of what she’s saying.  Oh shit, more failing points.  Oh, she’s on her cell phone…

To break the ice I ask her if she rides.  She says something to the effect of hell no.  Never, and she won’t let her husband of kids ride either. She says she doesn’t even like giving the test!

She goes on to tell me that she had one applicant who somehow managed to fall off his bike, roll it over and have the gas cap come off thereby spewing gas all over the place.  She said she passed him on the exam.  So, as long as I don’t kill myself, or the tester, I should pass.

Without any safety inspection, she explains all the aspects of the test and says shell go over them again as we do each individual one. Do I have any questions?  Between the helmet and her accent, and being half deaf anyway, I indicate that I got it! Slalom test.  Six cones lined up spaced in ten foot intervals.  Looks simple.  But balancing and turning in that small space is harder than you might think.  Perfect score.  Part two is start here.  No, I mean start here with your bike pointing THIS way.  Damn.  Make a right turn inside these lines, ride over there, go between these two lines, make a U-turn and stop inside the box over there.  Simple.  Except that the lines I’m supposed to stay inside are only spaced about a tires width apart!!!  Like threading a needle wearing boxing gloves.  I lost two points on that one.  Touched the line somewhere.  Part three. Get moving straight ahead at about fifteen miles an hour.  When I yell stop, stop.  Easy. But the physics of it makes it a little less so.  By the time she yells stop, and I hear it and slam on the brakes, I’ve gone six inches past the line she was aiming for.  Minus one. And finally, at fifteen miles an hour ride to this line and then swerve right.  Now that one was easy.

She tells me to meet her inside.  I passed.  The woman at the counter who will take care of my paperwork tells me everyone gets nervous about the test.  Aw shucks I say, nothing to worry about.  And riding home, new license in my wallet, I don’t feel one bit different.  But now I know that I’m oh-ficial.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?


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Blue Spots

Thoughts and ideas come and go so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them.  So it’s important to always have something to write with nearby.  See something that gives you an idea?  Write it down.  Or have a fresh thought? Write it down.  Before you forget.

Ideas come to me all the time.  Sometimes I’m half asleep and tell myself I’ll write it down when I wake up.  Oh sure, I’ll remember.  Nope. That’s whey I have something to write with nearby all the time.

These days you don’t have to have a pen or pencil. No need for marker or crayon.  Use the smart phone.  Just talk to it and it will “write” down your thoughts.  Although I must admit that my smart phone isn’t always as smart as me.  It writes down some really weird sentences and ideas.  Things I never would have thought of.

I prefer to use pen and paper.  The biggest problem with that is that I’ll write on any old piece of paper.  And am endlessly searching for that note covered scrap.  The other of course is having that writing instrument at hand.

When I was in the Navy as a Supply Corps officer our motto was “Ready For Sea!”  Which was often modified to “born ready.”  And so I was.  Ready to write.  I never go anywhere without a pen, or two or three in my possession.  They are everywhere!

They get stationed in places like my trouser pockets, shirt pockets, stuck into the placket of a button up shirt, down the collar of a t-shirt or polo, and if I have a pocket with a flap, I’ll hook it to the flap.

My clothes unfortunately show signs of all these pens hanging off of me everywhere.  Ink stains from pens that leaked.  Or from shoving an uncovered pen into my pocket.  My jeans have several little dark spots on the outside of the front pockets.  And as I sit here typing, I’m looking at no less than a dozen blue spots of various sizes lining the lower seem of my chest pocket.  I prefer blue ink so the spots are always blue.  Except with my fountain pens.  I like brown ink with them, but never carry them in a pocket.

The ink stains won’t come out so I gave up worrying about them.  These clothes are just going to get more stains.  I can’t afford to toss some article of clothing just because it has an ink stain.  I look at it as a badge of honor.  Better than a pocket protector.

I do try to remember to cover my pens before they go into a pocket.  And to take them out of my pockets before my clothes go into the laundry.  That makes a real mess.  But I do sometimes fall asleep with a pen in my pocket and if I toss and turn just right I can create a fabulous design inside my pocket.  Or on the sheets.

I’ve tried tricks and games to make my memory better.  But the older I get, the more tricks my memory plays on me.  So I will always need to write things down.  One way or another.  So I’ll have to keep a pen handy, and hope that the ink only goes where I direct it.

That’s part of my story.  What’s your?

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New Traditions

Traditions formed around our celebration of the holidays take on a significance that defines the way we celebrate. And come to represent the holidays in and of themselves. Turkey at Thanksgiving. Lights at Christmas. Without them, there is no holiday. And any change to this routine can be devastating. In our minds.

Lights are how I define Christmas. Religious aspects aside, the lights mean more to me than anything at Christmas. Candles in the church. Lights on the tree. And lights on the house.

This year was different for me. I had moved into a new house, and had to redefine how I would use lights to decorate for Christmas. The new house has a different shape than the old. And different landscaping. All of which impacts the places I can put lights, and how they look.

It’s a work in progress, and next year I will add more. But for this year I settled for one hundred feet of colored lights, the big ones from the old days, strung out along the gutter of my ranch house. And three giant light up snowflakes in the picture window of the living room. Framing that window is a candy cane rope light. And a giant blow up Santa Clause waving from the garage. Lit inside with a single bulb. Without a light, the wreath hangs from the door knocker on the front door.

Around the back of the house there are three lit up blow mold toy soldiers, a blow mold Santa, and a Moravian star. Complete with a flaming tail made of icicle lights.

Inside there are two trees. One lit in white with formal decorations, and a second, larger one, brightly colored with hundreds of little lights. That tree is covered with decorations I’ve collected over the past thirty years, all with a rich meaning and significance. And, there is a lit up blow mold Santa. Not bad for the first year here.

Out of curiosity I drove by the old house to see what the new owners had done. Would it be as spectacular as I had done it in the past? More formal? Bigger and better? I had no idea. And when I drove by the house in the darkness of the late evening, I was amazed. Not a single light to be seen. No wreath. Nothing.

Inside I could see a Christmas tree. Located in the living area where I had always placed mine. But gone were the green and red rope lights wrapped around the columns of the front porch. Gone the wreath on the front  door. No Moravian star hanging on the porch, waiting to greet visitors. No strings of colored lights adorning the shrubbery lining the front of the house. And no lights strung out along the roof line. Not white. Not colored.

It was very disappointing. And as I thought about how I had decorated that house for the past nineteen years, since its very first Christmas as a newly built home, I thought for a moment that the house was calling to me. I miss you! Come back and decorated me!

Does the house take on the personality of its residents? Does it remember? Or mourn? I don’t know. It looked happier lit up. I do know that.

New traditions for me at my new house. And new traditions for my old house with new owners. Change. I go with the flow.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Light Switches

In the beginning, there was darkness. And in the night sky flashed a light that came to earth as fire. Early humans captured the fire, conquered it, and put it to work for them. This was the dawn of civilization.

With curious experimentation and investigation, trial and error, and dumb luck, humans found that they could make many things burn. And they created torches, candles, oil lamps, kerosene lamps and gas lights to light the night.

With another flash in the sky came the discovery of electricity. and a revolution began. Eventually the incandescent light bulb was created. The electrification of the world began. There were wires hanging everywhere and often a single bare bulb dangled at the end to light a room. With time, the wires were put into the walls and ceilings of buildings, or covered with conduit. Multiple bulbs served a single room. New types, sizes and shapes of bulbs were developed and the light moved outdoors.

Humans had turned night to day.

For every light, there has to be a switch. That thing that you flip to send the electricity from its source to the bulb. The thing that makes the connection to turn the light on. My father is an electrical engineer and he can tell you all about how the technical details work, but from me all you get is flip the switch and it works.

When I look at the walls in my home I see single switches, dual switches, triple switches and even quad switches. In other places I have seen rows and rows of switches all working something. With all these switches, I sometimes have a hard time figuring our what each one operates.

I’ve only lived in my current home for ten months so I’m still sort of experimenting with what the switches work. There are switches indoors that turn on lights outdoors. There are switches upstairs that turn on lights downstairs, and vice versa. And some lights have a switch here, and another there.   Some of the switches turn on lights I can’t see from the switch so they appear to do nothing.

So the other day, out of curiosity, I turned on all the switches. I noted the indoor lights, and then walked around the outside of the house to see what was on. I went back inside and flipped a few switches on and off and walked around the outside again and I think I have it pretty well figured out now. Except that some lights never came on regardless of switch flipping. Those must be burned out.

During the nineteen years I lived in my last house, I never did figure out all the switches. There was a triple switch at the bottom of the staircase . The switch in the middle didn’t seem to do anything. It was either there for feng shui purposes, or it was intended for later use if there was some upgrade in the house. I just don’t know.

Short of labeling every switch in the house, I’m going to have to rely on my trusty memory to figure out what each switch does. If nothing else, I can just flip them on and off until I get the light I want. Or invent something new.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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The Phone Number

What?  Disconnected? That’s impossible.  But there she was again, that nice lady on the other end of the line telling me that she was sorry, but the number I had dialed was no longer in service.

Other than my social security number, which I will not share with you, that phone number was better known to me than any other number in the world.  Yes, I know Pi to umpteen decimals, and all the basic integers.  And my birthday.  But this phone number….

I still remember the phone number from the house I grew up in.  Thirteen years.  And nearly forty years ago.  At least the last four digits.  1883.  That’s pretty good considering I don’t know my wife’s office number.  Or either of my kid’s cell numbers.  Or even my own work number half the time.  But this number….

For thirty-eight years this number represented home.  Not where I lived, but where my family was.  This was my parent’s phone number.  For 38 years.  And today it was shut down.  Forever.

I say forever but the phone company will probably give it to someone else.  I might call it one day to see if the new owners are deserving.  Like my parents.  For thirty-eight years I knew I could call this number and a person who cared about me would answer.  Someone who gave me everything.  Who would do anything for me.  And had repeatedly done so much.  It just rolls off my tongue, straight from my memory.  Without a second thought.  But now I don’t need it anymore.

My parents moved today.  They didn’t take the number with them.  Take that you nasty telemarketers!  They were downsizing.  Starting anew.  So they decided a new phone number was in order as well.  I hope they can remember it. 

I’ve got the new number plugged into my iPhone.  One of my contacts.  That way I won’t be tempted to call the old number.  By force of habit.  But I’ll probably never remember the new number.  Not like the old one.

New life for them.  New chapter for me too.  There will be plenty of memories associated with the new number I’m sure.  But it won’t be that number….

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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