Monday, March 17, 2008

Humor Me: Spring cleaning for the brain

By MATT WIXON
The Dallas Morning News


The other day I walked into the kitchen to get something, and when I got there, I had forgotten what I was looking for. I stood there for a minute but still had no idea. Nothing came to me.

But here’s something I could remember:

The mechanical advantage of a simple machine is equal to that factor by which the machine multiplies the effort force.

I remember that -- word for word -- from science class in elementary school. I also remember that we had pictures of the simple machines, such as a lever, pulley and inclined plane, posted in the classroom. The picture of a wheel-and-axle was next to the poster that was in nearly every 1980s classroom, the one with the dinosaurs smoking cigarettes and the message, “the real reason dinosaurs became extinct.”

I remember all that from two decades ago. And now, in 30 seconds, I can lose my purpose for walking into the kitchen. Hard to explain.

Or maybe not.

Our brains are kind of like computers, right? And when your computer is running slow, what do the technological gurus tell you to do?

Well, they tell you to turn your computer off and then back on. After all, that’s the universal I.T. quick fix. But if that fails, the tech experts often recommend deleting unneeded programs and files to improve computer performance.

I’d like to do that with my cranial hard drive. There’s so much that I could delete.

That time when I was on a date and ended up falling down some icy steps? No need for that memory. The times in my life that I’ve been forced to dance in public? Outta here. That time when I left a party and didn’t know whether to shake the host’s hand or hug her and ended up giving her an awkward half-hug that probably made her think I was a germaphobe? That could be gone, too.

Deleting those embarrassing moments will free up some space. But to really make a difference in my hard drive -- to really make sure I don’t go to the mall with my three kids and return with two -- I want to delete some of the useless info I’ve acquired.

I think a good place to start is with “x equals negative b plus or minus radical b squared minus 4ac all over 2a.” That’s the quadratic equation, which I memorized back in high school. I still remember it despite using it one time since my last math class.

That one time was in this column.

There’s so much more to delete, such as my high school locker combination, 27-37-6. For some reason, I still remember that. My brain has also held onto importation such as how to play “Hot Cross Buns” on the song flute and that, on Mount Rushmore, each president’s nose is 20 feet long.

Handy!

Another item clogging up my brain is the McDonald’s jingle “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun.” I’ve also got space devoted to “Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.”

It gets worse. Last week, the ‘80s song “Eye of the Tiger” started playing on the radio. I changed the station before the first word was sung, but for the rest of the day, this was playing in my head:

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival.


I don’t even like that song, and I can’t shake the lyrics from my head. So who knows what other fragments of information are lodged in my brain, hampering my performance, taking up the space I need for remembering to put the trash out on Thursdays and not drive off in my car with a cup off the roof.

As far as my lost venture into the kitchen, I did eventually figure it out. I had gone there to get a stick of gum out of a drawer. I remembered it a few hours later.

Fortunately, I had forgotten about a stick of gum and not something important, such as one of my kids.

Wait, hang on a second. One, two, three. OK, they’re all here. Now what was I talking about?

I’m sure I’ll remember eventually.

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