After planning and then implementing yet another evening conference yesterday, I could hear my own fuses blowing today. Socialising, and especially “being professional,” depletes a certain reserve in my brain, and the day after I tend to be cranky, headachy, and distracted. But going shopping today really showed me the extent to which my associative, chronological and memory-based brain functions have been utterly flattened and scorched under the pained overheating thumps of my sociable functions yesterday, leaving behind a warped, purely analytical shell of a human being.
I was waiting to pay in a local small shop, and idly watching the shopkeeper trying and failing to total up a fairly complicated bill on a calculator. Like some kind of savant, unable to resist counting the matches as they fell, I kept beating him to the total; only, in my head: each time I would do the calculation faster than before. Eventually, he satisfied himself that he’d got the right amount (I can confidently state that he had) and he asked me for my credit card so I could pay the requisite, four-digit total.
Could I remember my own requisite, four-digit pin at this point? Could I, once I’d remembered correctly that there was a repeat number in it, dislodge the incorrect repeated number from my mind while I fumbled with the keypad? Could I buggery.
Luckily, after the usual embarrassing rigmarole of failure, the machine defaulted to accepting a signature, but three more attempts at a cash machine later and I had to give up. I felt like I had managed to invent a convoluted memory-wiping procedure, a way of utterly forgetting a fact that had become so well remembered that it was practically muscle memory, and unwittingly tried it out on myself first.
That’s the most charitable version of events I can think of, anyway. But once I’d hung up on the staff at the bank, who I’m sure hears of this sort of small-scale dimness all the time, I did start to grow pensive. My inner eye stared fixedly at the blank crater where the number had once proudly stood like a totem, guarding my route into the city of late capitalism. Is this where it starts, I wondered? With a misremembered number here, a forgotten event or date there? And if not, then is this what getting old – really old – is going to feel like anyway?
At that moment there was, I have to admit, a dread chill in my heart. But I take solace from the fact that, come tomorrow morning, I’ll have forgotten all about it.