riding the train

It was a terrifying train ride…

Perhaps you have a story that could begin with those words? What do you remember and how much have you forgotten?

In this case, the day had gone pleasantly enough. I rode Amtrak along the coast route up to meetings in Los Angeles and was returning in plenty of time to make dinner for my middle school son. But that was not to be.

The train rumbled along till it ground to an unscheduled halt somewhere between Orange County and Oceanside. This was not an anticipated pause and I checked my phone. A half hour later my battery was running low and there was still no explanation of why we were stopped. As my cell phone battery died a railway attendant announced that another train was stuck on the tracks with a minor mechanical problem. It was being repaired before we could get going again.

We waited and I knew there was no way I’d even make it home in time to help with my son’s homework. I knew but he didn’t.

Other than a vague mention that I’d be in L.A. for the day, no one was aware of where I was and worse, I had no way to contact them.

By now the passengers in my car were bonding over our shared delay and one of them offered their phone. It did me no good. I had no way to call home because I’d never memorized the number. I’d never needed to.

The world shifted with the realization of how dependent I’d become on technology.

So many of us rely heavily on our digital counterparts – our cell phones, laptops, iPads and online digital communities. It’s how we stay in touch and aside from a few passwords, our own phone numbers, many of us couldn’t remember contact info, addresses or other important numerical identifiers if we tried.

Author, Joshua Foer, has spoken about ‘Feats of Memory’ as a Ted Talk speaker. He said,

“Our lives are the sum of our memories. If you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.” ~ Joshua Foer

The art of journaling and now blogging, is helping many to hold onto their experiences, but we’ve lost the art of memory that was once a common practice. Foer explains that from the Romans to the Industrial Revolution , memory was a practiced and cultivated skill. Today we consider it innate or not and that prowess is subject to age, but we’re mistaken. There are ways, some very simple but accumulative, to improve memory far beyond what you might imagine – whether you have a talent for it or not.

I’m now committed to remember to remember and will start a daily practice to improve my fluctuating recall. It’s already fun imagining bizarre scenes as keys to remember. Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, is going to be my companion.

What a ride:

That terrifying train ride ended soon enough and without tragedy. After a two hour delay, I got to my car, plugged in the charger and called home. The rest of the night passed uneventfully. Today, I carry a piece of paper in my wallet with a few regrettably forgettable numbers. I’m not taking any chances of being stuck again without being able to connect.

There may be a day when it’s no longer feasible to wander the world, to travel by train, car or plane on a whim, and my freewheeling memories may be the best ride, the only ride, in a life restrained by health or age. I don’t want to miss a thing.

How about you? What will you remember?