26 March 2013

memory fault

This morning I sang along to Rammstein's "Heirate mich" for the first time in quite some time. I remember listening to it on a borrowed CD of the Lost highway soundtrack back in high school. I remember seeking out other music by Rammstein throughout college, scouring the globe (imported bootlegs) and even seeing them in concert*. I remember listening to it a lot, about a decade ago.

That said, I probably haven't listened to that song in over a year or more - not since trying to finally watch Lost highway, which I have yet to manage to do, yet I had no difficulty with the lyrics. Or at least, my phonetic parroting of them, since despite all the time I play games against them online, the language of the German people is not one I have mastered. Nevertheless, verse after verse it all came back to me, and I must say my drive was more enjoyable for it.

Less enjoyable is doing my own taxes, but not so terrible that I'd rather pay somebody else to do it. I bring this up because I'm stymied by a particular schedule that I have filled out, twice, in the last couple years. The forms don't change much, so I can't say they shouldn't look familiar to me. Yet, and I can't recall if this was the case last year, I am a little lost without last year's iterations of them in front of me. Once I read over my PDFs (or printouts) I should be fine, but until then I'd rather do other things than try to bumble my way through Schedule C again.

I did once look up the German lyrics of "Heirate mich", and probably have them in some CD's liner notes, but I don't think I ever used them as a reference to try to sing the song. It could perhaps be said that phonetically learning a song's lyrics in another language, and following convoluted directions and calculations to fill in a bunch of numbers, in a form are two completely different things. They probably tap into different portions of the brain, but I would think there would be a memory component of both.

So why is it so much easier for me to recall a decade-old, and rarely-heard, song that I can only understand in translation, than to type in a bunch of numbers connected to real money (and potential hassle from government employees) every spring?

For that matter, why do I need to look up my kids' social security numbers every year? I've had little difficulty memorizing credit card numbers, library card numbers, and even the occasional phone number that I almost never use, yet these very important numbers (that I almost never use) elude my recollection.

I suppose this is a case for memorization by rote. My library card numbers come to mind so quickly because I use them every week. Presumably back when I was a bigger fan of Rammstein I listened to the song, over and over, until the words were just as emblazoned in my head as the digits I type weekly now.

It's just a shame that there's no way to shortcut the process to "learn" something like filling out tax forms, without needing to do them more frequently.


* In Europe, and probably elsewhere outside of Chicago, Rammstein is known for a lively, pyrotechnics-fueled stage show. This sort of thing does not go over well, apparently, in a city that burned to the ground.

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