After a three-month hiatus, we arrived back home a week ago. This shifting of locations for months at a time has been a feature of life chez Idiosyncratist for several years now.
The moving back and forth is not unpleasant generally. We have good friends and interesting routines on both coasts. But it can be disorienting.
Mostly the disorientation is the fault of my brain. My CPU memory is ruthless, constantly sorting the details of daily existence and discarding the trivial bits that are not essential at any given moment.
I admit that I am not good at keeping track of many things at one time. The next person who describes me as a "detail person" will be the first one.
And I'm pretty sure I'm not losing my mind. I don't forget names or faces or appointments or how to do arithmetic or diagram sentences. My brain holds tight to important events, conversations with friends and books read many years ago.
It's just the little stuff that slips away.
In a way, this makes sense. Hard-won knowledge and life lessons are worth storing. But I do wish sometimes that the mundane stuff were a little more accessible.
This week, for instance, I have had to relearn several things, and not for the first time.
-- How to use the home microwave, which was programmed by a different engineer than
the one who designed the machine in California.
-- How to set the timer on the local oven as opposed to the one out west, which came
from a different manufacturer. One goes by seconds, the other by minutes, and even
at this moment, sitting here, I couldn't tell you which is which.
-- Where to turn the car to reach the grocery store and the doctor's office. I drove
blithely past both locations this week, realizing only a block or two later that I was
in unfamiliar territory.
-- What the combination numbers are on the five-year-old lock in my East Coast gym bag.
Every time we move, I have to think where the salad bowl and big saute pan are stored, how much detergent to use in the washing machine, what foods we buy at each of our five (!) food markets and where I stored the coming season's clothes.
It isn't difficult, exactly. I got to the doctor's office in good time, and I recalled my gym lock combination within a moment or so.
But it's strange.
Plus, these things can get you in trouble. Think of traffic rules, which vary by state.
Making a right turn after stopping at a red light is perfectly legal in California. In New Jersey, it is practically a felony.
On the other hand, jaywalking is a public sport in Northeast cities, but in Los Angeles it can get you a $200 citation. Interestingly, though, if you step one foot into a California crosswalk, all traffic in both directions will stop and wait till you have crossed the street. (This is always surprises and charms visitors from New York.)
Here's another thing: Consumers cannot fill their cars' gas tanks in New Jersey, but they are required to do so in California. I do not forget how to do this, but on the first refueling stop back, I probably take a little longer to get the job done.
(On the plus side, the last year has seen an innovation in credit card purchases at the gas pump -- the requirement to enter your home zip code after swiping your card. Not once this year was my credit denied on the presumption that I was using a stolen card. That's progress.)
I don't seem to improve with time at these things, and it could get worse this year because we plan to spend several months in a third state. When that happens, I hope sincerely that I won't again lose the second car key, which I also did last week. (If you are a New Jersey friend who has spotted an unfamiliar Audi key around the house, please call me immediately.)
Maybe I am mischaracterizing my confusion by saying my brain sloughs off nonessential information. Maybe it is just challenging me to learn to be a little more flexible.
I like to think that the latter alternative is the true one.