Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What if Balzac rode the Amtrak?

As you may have inferred from my previous post, I am a commuter.  Yes, I am that office slave you see in the morning speed walking to Penn Station so as to not spill my coffee from my eco-friendly travel mug.  And, yes, that was me standing at the bus stop in the rain staring up the street hoping the bus will actually show up. 

Commuting by public transit rocks. 

I mean that seriously.   I will take commuting by train/bus any day over driving. The stories I encounter daily are beyond real and make the tedious trip entertaining.

Where else can one hear the conversational hat trick that follows:

Overheard #1 on the MARC train, southbound just outside BWI Airport Station 
Man on cell phone: "so for dinner tonight we are having pickled tongue and heart. That'll get you going. The tongue is dense, while the heart is soft and rich. Quite a combination."
 Overheard #2 on the MARC train, northbound just outside Odenton, MD
Middle-Aged Woman #1: ....so, she is tall and thin.  And, the husband, is short and a little homely looking.
Middle-Aged Woman #2: Do they live in your neighborhood?
MAW #1: I think so.  At least, they are always exercise walking on my street.  I think they live in the house with all the gopher holes in the yard.  I think she's an anorexic.
MAW #2: That's my brother's wife.
 Overheard #3 on the Baltimore MTA Bus, northbound on Charles St.
Young Man: The jobs is sh*t right now.  Ain't no one I know whose gettin' work.
Older Man: I know that's right.
Young Man: I've had like, two three different jobs in the last two years.  That's why I've been dealing drugs.  I've been dealing since I was 16 and that sh*t is consistent.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Golden memories can turn the night into day.

A good friend of mine is studying for her MLA at Johns Hopkins.  This semester she is taking a course about memory (the title of which, ironically, escapes my memory) and how individual memories are shaped by senses than by cognitive process.  Essentially, you are going to remember an event not because the event happened but because you can recall a smell or sound from the event.  Cool, and way more intellectual than I prefer to get on this blog.  Don't worry, there is a point to this tale.

I have been giving this theory some consideration lately.  See, I have plenty of time to do so as I commute by train at least an hour a day between Baltimore and DC.  If memories are formed by senses more than by thought, what can I trust of my collected memories? Childhood is a faint blur to me now, but I do remember the smell of the leaves the morning after a rain as I walked to school.  I also remember the pain I felt when my brother and I used to test one another's mettle by giving each other indian burns and waiting for the other to yelp.  

Yet, childhood is more than these simple memories.  I am the character I am today because I have memories of friendships and experiences, both good and bad, that influence my mental process.  But these memories are not connected with a sound, touch, or smell - at least, that I can trace.  So are they true memories or something I've created over time to justify my emotions?  Okay, I know, I promised a point.  

A few weeks ago, I was stranded at Union Station - waiting on a train to eventually take me where I needed to go.  In an effort to occupy myself rather than sit in the waiting room watching the Amtrak Customer Courtesy video one more time, I went window shopping.  Well, after I ate Taco Bell.

So, there I was in Claire's boutique (don't ask) with a gaggle of tweenies running about the store.  Keeping away from these girls was not an option as the space is not large and it is crammed wall to wall with so many brightly colored accessories. SO MANY.

After a few minutes I decided it was time to move on and precisely as I turned toward the entrance/exit the girls discovered the most amazing thing ever:

Tweenie #1: OMG, you guys, we should all get tiaras....to remember.
Tweenies #2-6: OMG YOU ARE SO RIGHT! (in unison and in high C)

I've decided, I think there is something to this sensory memory stuff.  I TOTALLY would remember things better wearing a tiara.