Thursday, February 10, 2011

the way i was

As you know from my post earlier in the week, I just started reading Donald Miller's  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

He relates the following anecdote in his first chapter.

The saddest thing about life is you don’t remember half of it.  You don’t even remember half of half of it.  Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth.  I have this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers.  If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he’ll write it down.  The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories.  He’s the only guy I know who remembers his life.  He said he captures memories, because if he forgets them, it’s as though they didn’t happen; it’s as though he hadn’t lived the parts he doesn’t remember.

That paragraph struck me because I have been thinking along similar lines recently. 

We all know we are the sum of our experiences.  But what does that say about personal freedom when we can't even remember how we got where we are?  Almost as if we all are stuck in Alzheimer Cul-de-sac.

I started down this road on my trip back from Puerto Vallarta.  It is just a little less than two years ago that my brother, Jiggs, and I made the drive south.  On Highway 200.  The road from Puerto Vallarta to Melaque.

For whatever reason, I decided I would stop at the same Pemex stations we stopped at on that road trip.  And try to reconstruct what we did at each stop.

It seemed to be a simple exercise.  Delimited in time, place, and circumstances.  Certainly my memory could handle that task.

And, after a bit of thought, I realized we only stopped at one station.  That made it easier still.

The experiment almost crashed on takeoff.  I knew we stopped at only one station.  But I was not certain which.

And then I saw it.  Just north of  the village of José María Morelos.

Just seeing the station reminded me that we had first stopped at a Pemex a few miles north, but there was no grass for Jiggs.

That burst of memory reassured me.  Maybe I would remember what happened when we stopped.

I pulled in -- and nothing came.  I remember letting Jiggs out.  But I do not remember who was driving.  I do not remember where we parked.  Whether we bought gasoline.  Or snacks.  How long we stayed.  Whether it was hot or cool.

I simply could not recall.

And that was less than twenty-two months ago.  How much of our lives do we simply misplace?

I have no doubt, though, that I will remember that station in the future.  And for the worst reasons.

I needed to fill the gasoline tank.  For some reason, I pulled up on the wrong side of the pump.  The hoses in Mexico must be longer than those in The States because the attendants never have trouble getting to the tank.

But I will not do that again.  Out of habit, I have always checked the meter to be certain it is at zero.  In two years, I have never seen anything other than zero.

This time, the truck was between the meter and me.  Just as I stepped out to see the meter, the attendant clicked the trigger. 

"35 pesos" were already registered.

I asked the attendant to stop and showed him the meter.  He said he had put that amount in the truck.  We had a little exchange in my broken Spanish.

It wasn't until I started to leave that he shrugged.  And reset the meter.

It could have just been a misunderstanding.  So, I decided to stop in the Modelorama for a Coke Zero.  When I took it to the clerk, she told me it was "veinticinco pesos" (25 pesos).

"¿Veinticinco pesos?"  I repeated the amount to her.  She said, "Si."

I was aghast.  I have never paid more than ten pesos for a soft drink that size -- even at an Oxxo.

Back on the shelf it went.  She shrugged.

The bad thing about all this is what I will remember.  The memory of Gringo taxing will stay in my head.  But my fonder memories have already faded.

Maybe it has to do with what we choose to remember.  That we do not appreciate the good things as much as we resent the bad.

But I do know one thing, my overall memories of the trip with my brother and my dog are of a great time.

And having written about the more recent incident now gives me the freedom to toss it into the memory hole.  I will let Winston Smith tend it from now on.


teresa freeburn said...

funny how sometimes one little thing will trigger lots of memories, yet other things stay in that memory hole as you call it.

unfortunately, sometimes we remember the negatives even more than the positives because they often require more attention. like when i remember the name of the student who is constantly out of his seat and off task, but can't recall the name of the good little student who stays at his seat and does all his work with no reminders. so, you may not remember where you bought snacks and enjoyed them, but i bet you won't forget the times they tried to rip you off, even if you do want to put them in the memory hole.

have a great day!

Felipe Zapata said...

Might be helpful for many of your readers to point out that 25 pesos is about two bucks, and I'm assuming the Coke was the small, regular bottle. Way too much indeed.

Purplepatty said...

The more emotion attached, the more the memory sticks. Your first Pemex experience was probably an average ulitarian experience. But it's unlikely you'll forget your second experience with it's attempted rip-off.

Hardly seems like 22 months when you began your Mexican adventure . . .

Steve Cotton said...

This blog is stating to turn into my memory.

Steve Cotton said...

I once told my brother my memory was improving with age. I now remember things that never happened.

Charley said...

There seems to be a link with adrenalin levels in your brain/body at the time of an experience and whether or not the experience is remembered. More adrenalin equals more rememberance.