May 7, 2003
Don't Remind Me

Wednesday morning, 8:27 a.m.

I am standing in the middle of the Dirt Company production room, in front of the fax machine, holding a stack of triple-quadruple-urgent invoices for the Corporate office in L.A. ... desperately trying to remember which way to insert the fax into the auto feed. Does it go face up? Or face down? Bottom edge first? Top edge first?

Outside-in or inside-out?

This is not some new fancy-pants fax machine that I'm still struggling to become fully acquainted with. This is the same decrepit Sharp F-4024 that I have used approximately 43,897,621 times per day, five days a week, twelve months a year,  -- for the past year and a half. On any given workday I could probably send a fax from this machine blindfolded, standing on my head, with both ankles tied behind my back. (Not that I would want to do such a thing, mind you: all of the cookies would fall out of my pants pocket if I did that. But the point is that I could do it, should the need arise.)  And yet here I stand on this perfectly normal Wednesday morning: properly caffeinated, well-rested, enjoying a Fabulous Hair Day ...

... and utterly unable to remember which direction the paper goes into the fax machine.

Lately this sort of stuff seems to be happening a lot more often than it used to. I pick up the phone at work, and all of a sudden I can't remember the name of the company I work for. I'm constantly trying to remember where I left my bike gloves/my dry cleaning ticket/the other half of my banana. I routinely forget how old I am: on the rare occasion when this becomes an issue, I actually have to stop and do the math on my fingers. ("2003 minus 1957 ... ")  Zip Codes seem to have become a problem all of a sudden, especially when I'm shopping online: nine times out of eleven, I absent-mindedly use my home Zip Code when I should have used my office Zip Code -- or vice versa -- which of course doesn't match the billing information on the credit card, causing the entire order to bounce.

Don't even get me started on computer passwords.

Should I be concerned? Should I talk to my doctor about early-onset Alzheimers? Should I start mainlining ginko biloba? I don't know. On the one hand, this isn't simply a matter of forgetting the name of my ninth grade Washington State History teacher, or blanking out on the capitol of Tonga, or trying to remember the lyrics to "Ca Plane Pour Moi" and coming up empty. We're talking about critical *Information Molecules* here -- the nuts and bolts of my daily life -- slipping through the cracks of my colander-for-a-brain on an increasingly frequent basis. It's as though the information is stored and accessible in my memory banks one minute, and the next minute it has poofed into the ether, like a GeoCities homepage.

On the other hand,  it's probably not as bad as waking up the morning after a cheap-chablis-and-chat-room bender, trying to recall whose marriage I may have helped to derail the night before. Things could be a lot worse.

In the meantime, I've still got to figure out how to get this fax to Corporate ASAP. If the Accounting Department doesn't have these triple-quadruple-urgent invoices by 9 a.m., they'll send out the snarling Dobermans (or -- even worse --  the Junior Accounting Administrator).  The way I see it, I can either hang around here in the production room for the next little while pretending to alphabetize stuff, and wait for one of my co-workers to come in and fax something so I can look over their shoulder and see how they do it ... or else I can take the gamble. Eventually I decide to risk it. I stuff the fax into the machine, cross my fingers, hold my breath ... and hit *send.* Thirty seconds of sweaty, lip-biting uncertainty, as the fax machine dials the number in Los Angeles. A series of distant clicks and beeps. The blinking red light turns to green. And then, finally, the invoices begin sliding through the auto feed, one after another. Of course, there's always a 50-50 chance that I've still got it screwed up -- that I've fed the invoices into the machine upside-down, and now I am sending 47 blank white pages to the snarling Junior Accounting Administrator -- but I don't think so. Something about the sight of all those pages sliding through the chute, face-down, jars my flagging memory ... and all of a sudden I remember..

Face down, head first. I gambled correctly, in other words.


When the fax has finished processing, the machine gives a satisfied *beep* and burps out the rest of the invoices. I pull them out of the machine and stamp the whole packet "FAXED," then toss the hard copies into the outgoing mail pile for tonight's California Overnight. Job completed. Crisis averted. Before I leave the production room, however, I grab a big yellow Post-It note and scribble "Fax goes in face-down!" with a black Magic Marker. This I affix to the front of the fax machine. (If anyone asks, I'll say that it's a *helpful reminder* for the New Office Manager.) And then I head for the lunch room to get a cup of coffee. I'm not going to read anything ominous into any of this. So I momentarily forgot how to use the fax machine. So what? I figure that these occasional bouts of *memory seepage* -- like the new wrinkles around my mouth, the Miss-Clairol-resistant gray hair, the sudden inexplicable nostalgia for ugly saddle shoes -- is probably just another perfectly normal symptom of my age.

Which I can't remember ANYWAY ... so who cares?

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