Every day, the same confusion … and it’s only getting worse

Forgetfulness, or something more serious?! That’s what Santa Barbara, California, humor essayist Barbara Greenleaf wonders about in her new book, THIS OLD BODY: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life.” Barbara flatteringly says she got her start as a humorist on BoomerCafé.com. So when she asked if we’d like to run an excerpt from the book called “What am I doing here?”, how could we say no?!

When I ask, “What am I doing here?”, I don’t mean it in the existential sense of “What’s man’s purpose on earth?”. I mean it in the literal sense of “Why the hell did I walk into this room and what exactly am I supposed to be looking for?”

Albert Einstein

Deep thinkers have always pondered the big picture, but right now I would prefer help with the little picture, such as where I dropped my keys or what’s the name of the person who sat next to me at last night’s dinner party and what did I promise to email him? In other words, what can I do about the everyday memory lapses that are driving me crazy? In his book Moonwalking with Einstein, author Jonathan Foer tells us we are what we remember. If that’s the case, I’m shedding weight fast.

Foer also tells us that the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates warned against writing because it would “create forgetfulness in the learner’s soul.” He should only know. Between cell phones, tablets, and artificial intelligence, we now have so many technological crutches, we practically have to check with Siri or Alexa to remember our own name.

We Boomers blame memory loss on our age. Say I’m having a senior moment as you fumfer around for a word, and your pals chuckle knowingly. But when all you ordered at a café was a diet Coke and the young waiter has to return to your table to inquire if that Coke was diet or regular, you know our whole society’s in trouble.

Barbara Greenleaf at a book store signing.

Still, we soldier on. Some people use the Greeks’ original system in which you picture a house and put a thought in each room (which gave us the phrases “in the first place” and “in the second place.”) Others try to repeat a new acquaintance’s name or rhyme it with one of her attributes, such as Sweet Sue in a dress so blue.

Okay, that’s pretty easy, but what happens when you meet Walter, who has hair growing out of his ear like a forest? I can see rhyming stare and hair, but Walter? Not so much. Some people make up a nonsense sentence that includes everything on their to-do list. And when it comes to remembering numbers, others attach a thought to them. If a code is 4925, for example, they would think of a May-December romance in which the man is middle-aged and the girlfriend is a chick.

Let’s face it, though, these mnemonic devices are time-consuming, mentally exhausting, and only marginally effective because you’ve still got to remember them, which brings us back to my original dilemma.

Let’s concentrate, people! Lest we forget, I’m still wandering aimlessly around my bedroom. Am I here to take a nap, pull a scarf from the dresser, rub cream on my hands, or pick up the landline? It’s anybody’s guess.

So, let’s just keep this little incident between the two of us. I’m going to tiptoe backwards out of the room now and pretend it never happened… in the first place.

Copyright © 2019 Barbara Greenleaf. All rights reserved.


  1. I have an excellent shopping list app (Out-Of-Milk) that I enter stuff into, and invariably at the grocery store I forget to look at it before checkout…

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