I suffer the weirdest sensations sometimes; episodes that make me wonder what this job is doing to my brain. I'll be out and about somewhere, not thinking about TV News at all, when a strangely familiar face appears in the crowd. I'm never sure of their name or profession, But I'm suddenly certain I've framed their countenance in a talking head shot sometime in the past...
It happened to me this weekend, when I was shuffling the kids through a supermarket check-out line. A stout, rather plain looking woman two aisles over was unloading her own grocery cart, and I couldn't take my eyes off her. I had nary a clue as to who the woman was, but the more I looked at her, the stronger I became convinced that I had processed her image from viewfinder to living room.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I approached her outside the store. Yes, she replied, she had been interviewed by my station five years earlier - as part of a story on school lunches. She didn't remember me of course - but she did recall the reporter I was with that day and asked about him. I smiled and nodded, choosing not to tell her what a righteous schmuck the guy was.
It was a momentary encounter, one devoid of any real intrigue. But it got me to thinking about the power of memory and the weird nature of what our brains decide to hold onto. For example I'd have a hard time naming the thirteen original colonies, but I can close my eyes and envision the beads of sweat rolling down the face of a dogcatcher I interviewed ten years ago.
Is it because we're such visual creatures? Perhaps, but the same deja vu feelings can also apply to audio. Who here cannot quote verbatim a memorable soundbite from eons ago? I myself got a miilion of them, but without proper context, they're meaningless - like the punchline of a joke you don't understand.
I'm guessing the selected recall comes from the edit bay; the simple repetition of certain sights and sounds finds its way into our deepest memory reserves and refuses to let go. Which is particularly infuriating to an absent-minded goob like myself. For the love of God, I spend ten minutes a day looking for my car keys! You're telling me I'm gonna go to my grave with snippets of monotone police chiefs and frazzled fire victims bouncing around my head? Will I lay on my deathbed quoting public information officers and stunned neighbors? Will my grown kids look at each other in confusion as I describe the feathered back-light on a live shot from twenty years ago?
Chances are I will. It's just a shame I collect musty film strips in my brain - instead of more lucrative data like scientific theories, square roots and other money-making formulas. Yes, if I could have held on to all that crap I ignored in school, I coulda been somebody - instead of the Walter Mitty of southern TV news photogs.