My alarm rings at 4AM. I stumble out of bed and head towards the bathroom. I open the dorm room door and light showers in from the hallway. The hallway, being surrounded by doors on two sides and stairwells on the other two, has no real natural light and consequently looks the same at all times of day. Even the early morning. As my bleary, tired eyes try hard to adjust to the bright lights, I amble down the hall towards the bathroom.

My RA leans against her door, staring at the wall in front of her. “Hi,” she says. “Hi,” I reply, too sleepy to wonder why she is staring at a wall at 4AM. As I head back from the bathroom, I notice she’s still there. My eyes, slightly more clear now, see some sort of black-and-white painting on the wall. She explains it’s for her art class. I tell her I have to go home.

I get dressed and go downstairs. My bike is wet from the overnight rains. I really should put it in my room, but I don’t want to miss the bus. After more than enough time has passed to put the bike in my room, the bus arrives and I hop on. I then realize I’ve forgotten the airplane charger for my laptop in the room. Oh well. I take the bus to the train, the train to the monorail, the monorail to the shuttle, the shuttle to the terminal, the terminal to the plane, where I squeeze into the middle of one of those five-person 747 rows.

A man in a uniform comes by. “Are you sure that your seat is 34D?” he asks. I think so. It’s not the kind of thing you screw up, right? I remember saying it out loud just a moment ago and seeing it on the computer. But he wants the ticket stub as proof. I look in my pockets, the seat pocket, my seat, my backpack, my jacket. From my little outpost in the middle of five seats I’ve made a mess of things, torn everything apart. I finally get out of the row to tear through my luggage. No luck. Finally, the guy decides to look up my name on the computer.

He says I can stay in my seat but indicates my actual seat was 36C. I can’t imagine making such a mistake. And honestly, what are the chances of making up the one empty seat on the plane? I think he’s wrong. (Weeks later, I find the ticket stub at the bottom of my backpack. It says 36C.)

I think back to my last plane trip. I recognized an older woman but couldn’t place her, but she recognized me. “Aaron!” she cried, ‘It’s Joan Krabnick [a psuedonym]. I saw you in the magazine.’ ‘Good to see you again,’ I replied. My seat is right behind her. She looks so familiar… When I get settled I call my Mom. I tell her I’ve gotten on the plane and I’m fine and so on. Mrs. Krabnick turns around to resume conversation but sees I’m on the phone and turns back.

‘Guess who’s here?’ I ask rhertorically. ‘Joan Krabnick!’ ‘Oh!’ my mom replies, not getting the hint. ‘That’s nice.’ ‘Who is she?’ I whisper. She doesn’t hear me. I try a little louder. Still no luck. I try a little louder. ‘Oh, she’s John Krabnick’s mom,’ she finally replies. This doesn’t help. ‘Uh huh,’ I reply. She again doesn’t get the hint. I finally give up, and Mrs. Krabnick never looks at me again. To this day, she looks so familiar, though, I just can’t place her.

My past is going like this. Whole portions of my life have withered away in my memory, becoming the most skeletal structures — faces, usually without names, and a few bits of scenery. I remember there are huge things that absorbed my life for periods, but I do not remember what they were about. I remember becoming the expert in certain technical fields, but I do not retain any of my expert knowledge. I’m only eighteen and I’ve already forgotten my childhood. I sit back and close my eyes.

“Hello!” says the lady to my left. She does development for Starbucks. Development? You know, scoping out new locations. I ask her if Starbucks really needs many more new locations. I tell her that in my hometown we literally have three in the span of one block. ‘Well, you know how people love their coffee,’ she explains. ‘So we try to make it as convenient for them as possible.’ She changes the subject.

How is it at school? It’s weird, I say. I don’t really feel as if I’m from there, but I don’t belong at home either since I don’t plan on ever going back to live there. ‘Don’t tell your parents that,’ she says.

On the other side are two cute African-American kids and their mother. The kids ask my name and I make the mistake of telling them. For the rest of the plane ride, they refuse to stop shouting “Aaron”. It’s disconcerting. I’m too shy to ask their names but their mom uses them so I pick them up and shout them back. It doesn’t help. They keep shouting my name whether I respond or ignore them. I try to look away but they keep going: “Aaron! Aaron! Aaron!” It’s disconcerting.

The airplane gets in several hours late. My brother Ben waits with my Mom and the door to the airport. Ben has used the time to repeatedly dial the tollfree call-in number for the Air America radio network on the payphones. Amazingly, he got through, so he sits on hold for several hours waiting for a chance to tell his tale to the host. We can’t exactly leave without him so I wait too.

Later, the whole family goes out to see The Incredibles.

posted January 28, 2005 01:59 AM (Education) (2 comments) #


Stanford: Day 64
Stanford: Day 65
Quick Takes
Stanford: Day 66
Stanford: Day 67
Home: Day 1
Home: Day 2
Home: Day 3
Keeping Up with the Rosses
Stanford: Monday, November 29
Stanford: Tuesday, November 30


Whole portions of my life have withered away in my memory, becoming the most skeletal structures — faces, usually without names, and a few bits of scenery. I remember there are huge things that absorbed my life for periods, but I do not remember what they were about.

Now, that I can relate to, although I am ok with faces, I have a problem with names. I usually do something significant (for my personal life) every couple of years, and the closest I can place memories is always “before X” and “after X”, where X always is the last significant thing I did. I look at the positive side of it: It helps to reevaluate things, and see things “with new eyes”. And often times for things that are important all it takes is a little trigger, like a scent or a piece of paper, a picture etc.. Orange Marmelade for me is “permanently” linked to the first couple weeks of my exchange-year experience which was many years ago. I don’t only remember the time as usual, but I recall how I “felt” and somehow the way I though back then, it is really totally different that just “remembering” things. Anyway I rambling along. But maybe you want to experiment with the idea of connecting scents with memories…

A quick googling turned this out:

posted by Sencer at January 28, 2005 06:07 AM #

LOL @ memories becoming only skeletal structures. I experienced pretty much exactly the same thing somewhere in the middle of high school. When I got really busy my mind seemed to decide that I didn’t really need all the past detail and so neatly compartmentalised for me in some random filing system it had selected.

Since moving to the UK, I occasionally realise the extent to which this has happened to my entire life pre-18. All those 18 years in South Africa seem extremely distant .. I remember odd details and the rest is as you describe — skeletal.

It has its uses though — I imagine when you need to be expert in those technical fields again, you’ll find it incredibly fast to get back up to speed. For now your brain is just busy protecting you from all the detail held in your memory…

posted by Meri at January 28, 2005 11:41 PM #

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