I broke my own rule yesterday – I didn’t write down an idea as soon as it struck me.
Unless you’ve got an eidetic memory, you simply can’t remember every little thing that happens to you throughout the day. Sure I can remember the cheat codes to DOOM on PC from 20 years ago (my favorites were IDDQD and IDKFA) but for the life of me I can’t remember what the hell I was thinking about this afternoon. It’s a shame, too – it would have made for a great blog post.
That’s the worst part, too. Doesn’t it always seem like you can’t remember exactly what you thought of just a few hours ago, but you can certainly remember that it sounded like an amazing idea at the time. You would think that if it was that amazing you’d remember it easily, but the human brain is more than a bit of a bastard. It’s the same reason you get terrible songs stuck in your head for hours, or you end up recalling your most awkward, painful and humiliating moments in painstaking detail; you sometimes have no control over your memory.
For me, I often remember my life when I was at my most miserable. I was working 10-hour shifts at a call center for a major cable provider, and when I wasn’t laboriously walking a customer through how to reset their cable box I was getting yelled at for something beyond my control, like the fact that the technician the company sent to their house was an hour late. Of course, these customers would react like they had caught the technician fucking their elderly grandmother before shitting on their rug, so I had to calm them down enough to fix whatever problem they were having.
If I had only one or two calls like that in any given shift, I could have probably handled that job without having a nervous breakdown, but it was like that for hours and hours at a time. The worst was when the call center was busy; our little consoles had an indicator light that showed us how many callers were waiting in queue. If the light was off, that meant there was nobody waiting, but if it was green there could be anywhere from 1 to 100 people on the line, grinding their teeth and biding their time until it was their turn. Worse yet was when the light turned red – that meant there were more than 100 irate callers, stewing in their own juices while they listened to bad elevator music and a canned voice telling them “your call is important to us, so please stay on the line” for half an hour. Is it any wonder that they were practically rabid when they finally get to speak to a real person? Hell, I still flinch whenever the phone rings.
I remember, vividly, sitting there in my little cubicle, staring at my computer screen and cringing as some angry asshole screamed in my ear, only to glance down at my console and see that little red light burning like the devil’s flame, knowing full well that there was another bile-spewing bastard waiting to lace into you as soon as you finished that call. My particular employer’s policy was to finish each call in as little time as possible and then leap right into the next one, so if we took too long on any given call the Operations Desk would start sending little friendly reminders to you in the form of an annoying tone in your earpiece that only you could hear. So imagine the scene: you’ve got some lunatic screaming at you for fifteen minutes straight as you wait for their cable box to finish rebooting, you’ve got the Operations Desk’s “get the fuck off the call” chime sounding in your ear every thirty seconds, and you’ve got that evil red light shining steadily right on your console. A few minutes of that would drive anyone out of their minds, but I did it for 10 hours a day, 4 days a week, for nine months straight before I finally lost it and refused to go into work any more.
It was easily one of the most miserable times of my life, yet those memories come back – often unbidden – and those same feelings of dread, helplessness, and despair wash right over me. Not only that, but the more you try to push the memories out of your mind, the stronger they seem to become; before you know it you’re huddling, fully clothed, in the bathtub while stuffing handfuls of Xanax down your gullet and wondering if you can asphyxiate yourself with your shower curtain.
Even years later I still get flashes of that hellscape when I least expect it. It’s why I avoid talking on the phone unless I absolutely have to, or it’s someone I’ve known for years and I’m comfortable with. Yet for some reason I still can’t remember what the hell I had been thinking about last afternoon.
Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go hang myself in the bathroom.