Thursday, July 15, 2010

What use is a photographic memory?

I have an extremely good memory, almost photographic. Even more so than pictures - it is a full sensory 3D environment capturing motion, space and sound from a specific moment in time and the course of actions taken in that space. These 'virtual reality' replays are attached to the places they took place. I pass them every day wherever I am - little submovies available to play 'on demand'. I can almost see the pictures replay in the air of someone walking through the room, doing an action etc... like the 'ghost trails' shown in some movies. I can't say how other people experience memory, but from what I've heard this is not the usual form.

This memory system works for much more than my personal experiences. It is a benefit in the work I do. I can lay out in my memory and on paper every single item in the department at my store. If someone wants to find something, they just ask and I can lead them to it even from a phone on the other side of the store. I can map out the entire store from memory to general areas and categories of items within those departments (but not to the individual peg unless I'm there often.)

And that's not all. I can still do that for the other two stores I have worked at in the past - as they were when I left them... and to the peg in the departments I was stationed in. But, what use is that outside of a store? It can be very difficult at times to have this form of memory because the real world changes quickly, and the images are always 'last state'... it can lead to a false sense of knowing exactly where things are, and then having to track them down because they have been moved. Sometimes I have to sort through several images of the same place to find the current one... which can be irritating.

They call me a computer when it comes to ordering items NOT already in the store. I can quickly pinpoint pictures of products customers want to see in our order books down to the page. The biggest problem with this is that I can see the picture and the relative information but not the numbers I need to order the item. Numbers are not part of my memory system. They are gone nearly as soon as I hear them - unless I write them down and look at them, then recall that visual image of looking at the numbers soon after. The numbers fade away to blank spaces... but the image remains.

The larger the map the more information is due to be lost. However, I can map out cities and buildings where I've been - not to scale but all of the features and textures as they looked the last time I was there. I can still visit all of the museums I have been to in my head. Sometimes I do, in my dreams. When I remember it feels like I am standing and walking again in that place at that time, seeing the same things I saw then. Again, what use is that outside of drawing or giving directions to a newcomer? And for drawing I can never draw exactly what is in my head - it never comes out the same, so there is no great talent there to make realistic reproductions.

I wish I knew some other use for this skill... put it to use in a constructive way.

In the meantime, I try to avoid watching horror movies. What I see stays with me, and I only want to put in the things I don't mind remembering.

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