Thursday, October 8, 2015

Story 103: Vacancy Needed

(Setting: The Human Brain.  Long-Term Memory Storage has rows of VHS-like containers, and a pleasant employee works at the counter)
LTMS Employee: (Speaking to Nostalgia) Now you keep enjoying those family vacations again and again, you hear?
Nostalgia: (Rubs away tears while leaving) I always do.
LTMS Employee: Lovely.  Next!
Consciousness: (Approaches the counter while biting nails): Yeah, we have a bit of an issue.
LTMS Employee: Oh?
Consciousness: Yeah, you see, we need to cram for an exam that’s really important for work, and Short-Term Memory Storage right now is almost maxed out.  Plus, putting the material there won’t do us any good in the long run, `cause we’ll need to keep using that in our job for who knows how long.  Bottom line is, I’m gonna need to take some space from Long-Term. 
LTMS Employee: Aren’t we a wee bit old to be cramming for exams?
Consciousness: You’d think so, but it’s part of the job to pass this thing, and I can’t seem to retain any of this stuff in Short-Term.  I put it in there one day, and it’s gone the next, so that’s telling me it needs to be permanent.
LTMS Employee: I’m sorry, but I can’t just “take” memories out of Long-Term.  They’re here for keeps, barring trauma.
Consciousness: Come on, there’s gotta be something in there that can be tossed!  You think we always want to remember being humiliated at the 4th-grade sock hop?  Pitch it!
LTMS Employee: (Stony-faced) Let me get the manager.  (Leaves)
(Consciousness fidgets while waiting and spots Artistic Ability (Dream); she shakes her head sadly at Consciousness, who turns away in guilt.  Long-Term Memory Storage Manager arrives at the counter)
LTMS Manager: You seem to have a dilemma.
Consciousness: Yes, I –
LTMS Manager: I heard all about it.  Let me show you something.  (LTMS Manager guides Consciousness over to the main part of the cerebrum and points at various parts of The Brain) You see all that?
Consciousness: What is it?  Mental dirt?
LTMS Manager: It’s plaque.  And it’s only going to get worse as we age.  That, my friend, is what will overrun us all in the end.
Consciousness: So, in what, 60 years?
LTMS Manager: Try 30.  And that’s if we’re lucky.  Welcome to the wonderful world of The Body outlasting the thing that runs it.
Consciousness: But that’s not fair!  I don’t have any control over what’s here without our permission!
LTMS Manager: It is what it is.  The point is, when the plaque inevitably starts taking over, we’re going to need as much of these (Points to the VHS containers in Long-Term Memory Storage) as we can hold onto, because they’ll be about the only things left.  Take any of them out, and the plaque’ll move right on in.  Nature abhors a vacuum.
Consciousness: Yeah, but I won’t be leaving the space empty; I’ll be filling it in with Short-Term stuff.  And don’t worry, they’ll turn into Long-Term `cause I’m supposed to keep using it, although really, who knows?
LTMS Manager: That simply won’t do.  Long-Term Memories are like trees, planted ages ago, whose roots are so strong that almost nothing can move them.  Short-Term Memories, however, have shallow, spindly little tendrils and often dissolve from lack of use as soon as you stop looking at them.  I will not replace permanence with the ephemeral.
Consciousness: You don’t understand: we need to pass this test, and I won’t remember any of the material unless I make these Short-Term Memories Long-Term!
LTMS Manager: Listen to yourself – a permanent change such as this is not to be made flippantly.  I don’t see why you’re putting yourself through all this stress anyway.  You were much happier when you wanted to be an artist instead.
Artistic Ability (Dream): And to think, you could have been a renowned graphic novel illustrator by now.
Consciousness: (Points at Artistic Ability (Dream)) You shut up!  I already killed you once; don’t make me kill you again!
LTMS Manager: You appear to be losing self-control and cannot be trusted to make rational decisions.  Good day.
Consciousness: (Tries to calm down while grabbing LTMS Manager’s shirt by the collar) Look, you don’t understand how much this affects all of us.  Forget 30 years down the road – if I don’t pass this exam, we’re gonna be fired, no one else will hire us, and we’ll all starve to death.  So, in everyone’s best interest here, I NEED THAT SPACE!
LTMS Manager: (Ponders this) When you put it that way, there are some memories that we probably can get by without –
Consciousness: Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!
LTMS Manager: However – I will be the one to go through them and I will make the final decision on which and how many can go.
Consciousness: Understood.
LTMS Manager: (Goes behind the counter and starts sorting through the containers) Be warned: once these are gone, we will never see them again, and we may very well remember whatever algorithms and regulations you’re replacing these with for the rest of our life.
Consciousness: I don’t care – all that matters is now!
LTMS Manager: Mind if I hold you to that?


(Long-Term Memory Storage has much less inventory and only LTMS Manager is working there.  Consciousness appears at the counter)
Consciousness: Hi, me again.
LTMS Manager: Yes, I was waiting for you to come back.
Consciousness: Got that one with my cousin’s 8th birthday party?  That was some good times.
LTMS Manager: Let me check.  (Glances over shoulder) Nope, that was one you trashed in favor of quadratic equations, which you subsequently turned out to barely use, so they vanished into the ether and were replaced.  By.  Plaque.
Consciousness: Why, just because I became a lazy slob and stopped engaging my mental faculties?  Is that why everything I put in Long-Term Memory Storage is disappearing?  Why oh why did I make such a foolish and impulsive decision all those years ago?  If only I had known that I would spend what’s left of our remaining years searching for memories that are no longer there!  If only I could speak to my younger self and warn her away from our fate!


Consciousness: That is not how dementia happens!
LTMS Manager: True, but my argument is still valid: don’t throw away valuable memories for exam cram.
Consciousness: So I’ll just fail and we’ll all go down with the ship together, is that it?
LTMS Manager: Naw, just make the new Short-Term Memories last a little longer than usual.  You can keep them in Long-Short-Term Memory Storage.  They last just long enough until you don’t need them anymore.
Consciousness: That may actually work.  Why didn’t you just suggest that from the beginning?
LTMS Manager: You needed to learn gratitude, if nothing else.

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