Posted by: Jennifer | Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jen’s got skillz

Do any of you have a rather odd skill that is not necessarily normal but can be incredibly handy?  I do — I have an unbelievable memory for details about people.  Isn’t that weird?  I remember stuff about people, even when it is not (and never has been) relevant to my life or to my job.  (I am in fundraising and alumni relations, so remember stuff about people is important.)  I remember who’s in their families, what their jobs are, where they live, and so much more.  In fact, my mind retains so much information that I have to pretend that I don’t know as much as I do or else it freaks people out.  Believe me, I learned that one the hard way.

I was recently looking at the Facebook page for the private school where I worked as a fundraiser for the five years before Graceful’s birth nearly 11 years ago.  (So we’re talking about the mid-to-late 1990s…)    As I was scrolling through the list of people who are fans of the school (around 200 names), I recognized the vast majority of them and could even remember details about them and/or their families.  Now that’s just wrong.  I will never work for that school again, nor will I likely ever see any of those people for the rest of my life.  Yet, I remember that Bob Smith was married to Karen Smith and they had three sons and lived in that big white farmhouse a few blocks away from the school and … blah, blah, blah … ARGH.

Let’s see, other random things I remember:  The birthday for the guy I had a crush on starting in 6th grade and going all the way through high school.  That my grandfather wore a navy blue blazer with brass buttons to my uncle’s wedding in 1973 — I was four years old. That someone I knew in high school — but haven’t seen in nearly 20 years — shares a birthday with her daughter and that her son was born the day after 9/11.  I haven’t even met these children, yet I remember their birthdays.

I read around 80 blogs and can tell you the basic life details of pretty much any of those people, most of whom I have never met or even emailed.  Seriously, if I ever meet any of you in real life, the chances are really good that I’m going to ask you a question about some random thing you might have posted on your blog at some point.  Because I will totally have remembered that you, say, were thinking about painting your living room sage green but were also considering cardinal red.

Even worse, ask me about a random celebrity, even someone who I have never seen in a movie, TV show, or anywhere else.  If I’ve read about them at some point, I can guarantee I have a mini-bio of that person in my head.  Now that’s just wrong.

Now I ask you, why would my brain retain such random stuff?

Alas, this freaky-deaky skill for details doesn’t transcend all areas of my brain.  For example, phone numbers don’t seem to stick to my gray matter.  Don’t ask me my mother’s phone number because I can’t tell you what it is.  (In fact, at this moment, I’m questioning if I even know the area code.  I do, but barely.)  Hell, ask me Pete’s cell phone, which I dial at least once or twice a week.  The chances are that I’ll give you approximately the right numbers, but not necessarily in the right order.  Think I’m kidding?  I once mixed up Pete’s cell phone number and ended up getting interrogated by the grouchy old lady on the other end of the line.  And I should also mention that it took me years to memorize my own cell phone number and that I almost always have to stop and think about it when I’m asked what it is.

It’s not just numbers.  I suck at political stuff, such as my elected officials.  (Probably because I’m all “… Congress … blah blah blah … bored Jen …” when politics comes up in a conversation.)  I can totally remember that the White House is occupied by President Obama and I’ll hesitate only briefly over Vice President Biden.

(Wait, it is Biden, right?  But have no fear, I totally remember that his wife’s name is Jill and that she’s a college professor and that she’s his second wife and that his first wife was killed in a tragic car accident.  Oh and the I-think-their-name-is-Bidens have two sons and a daughter.  And at least some of their grandkids go to Sidwell Friends School on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, DC.)

See what I mean about the personal details?

But ask me about my other elected officials.  I’m pretty sure one of our Senators is Mark Warner and I think our governor is Tim Kaine, but I am going to pause over that one to make sure that I am right.  And don’t even ask me who our Lt. Governor is.  I don’t remember, but would say, “Oh yeah, right” if you were to tell me his name.

So yeah, my brain is rather unbalanced.  Empty in some areas and overflowing in others.

So there you have it.  My freaky-deaky skill that has been known to make some people uncomfortable but also fails me in some key areas.

I know I’m not the only person who has some odd skill — tell me yours.

Oh, and I’m over at Eco Women today talking about this and that.


  1. I can tell you what I ate and what I was wearing on virtually any day of my life. I also have a great memory for personal details, books, movies…just not “useful” things like, say, math.

  2. My weird skill is the ability to remember, nearly word for word, conversations that I’ve had with people. Even long conversations. The sad part is that I can hardly ever remember *who* I’ve had those conversations with, which leads me to tell the same stories to people who’ve already heard them, thus making them wonder if perhaps I’m suffering from early-onset Alzheimers.

  3. well, i kind of have your skill. don’t know if it’s quite as good. but i often find myself pretending i don’t remember or know stuff because i don’t want people to think i’m wierd and stalking them. but don’t ask me about politics. or anything with numbers. can’t remember that…..

  4. I have a penchant for sequences - like what happens next or what did so and so actually do or say next. Its scary. I can recall a whole conversation I had 10 years ago with my parents about college but what I did yesterday evades me. If I need something to stick, I will more than likely remember it. I have been able to do that since I was 4 - I could recall whole movies by the time was 4. Needless to say, my parents kept me locked away a lot.

  5. I’m just amazed you read 80 blogs…and that you only call Pete’s cell once or twice a week. I think I call Josh’s cell (or he mine) once or twice a day. And our cell’s don’t even work while we’re at work.

    No freaky mad skillz here that I can think of.

  6. I’m pretty horrible with numbers, but I can kick ass at Trivial Pursuit.
    Close family and friends call it my “cesspool of useless information” in my brain.

    If you ask me how I know something, I’ll say “I don’t know, I must have read it somewhere”

    But I can never remember my cell phone number or my own social security number or how old I am.

  7. I have a great skill: no matter how much trivia I can remember, just like you, I forget the reasons for arguments and fallings out. So I’ll remember there was an argument, but not why, so I’ll dismiss it and just try to get on with the person. Which means people see me as diplomatic and bridge-building when in fact I just have a little door in my head where the anger falls out.

    Which would make me a rubbish wartime negotiator. But a great neighbour.

  8. I have a head full of useless trivia and remember lots of details. But I often forget what I am supposed to do next.

  9. I also have a bunch of useless, trivial information stored in my noggin. Makes me good at Jeopardy. But don’t ask me how I know something, because chances are, I have no clue.
    I’m going to start making up shit on my blog, just to mess with you!

  10. I have a phonographic memory. It’s like having a photographic memory, excpet that instead of visual details, it’s musical ones. I can hum a song back to you after hearing it once. I’m usually singing aloing by the third verse of a new song. I can call to mind the tunes and lyrics of every Girl Scout Camp song I ever heard.

    I swear I could cure cancer or broker world peace if I could use that brain space differently.

  11. I have a crazy memory for numbers. Which is weird because I HATE math and all numbery things. But give me a date, or a phone number, or an address, and I’ll have it memorized for the rest of my life. In high school my history teacher told us his birthday was October 6, and for the 2 years I went to that school I gave him a card on his birthday. I think it weirded him out and he thought I had a crush on him or something. I was just trying to be nice. Sheesh.

  12. I can pick up things with my toes, and I know that Webb is the other Senator from Virginia.

  13. Hey, are you coming up to the women’s colony meet up in Reston tomorrow night?

    And my mad skill is having a sharp eye. When I got my engagement ring sized, they gave it back and the diamonds were off. I told three different people that it was messed up before they finally pulled out their eyeglass thing and were all “It IS! How did you see that?” and I was all, it wasn’t a straight line, yo.

    Or something. I probably didn’t say “yo” but I can guarantee that there was an exasperated sigh and a big eye roll.

  14. I can pretty much remember all of the lines of plays I’ve done in the past when given my cue lines…That’s a lot of plays scanning over a large number of years! I do suck at remembering lyrics to songs until I see them written down. So I mainly just make them up, which drives my other half insane!

  15. I also remember random facts and trivia, but I barely consume any pop culture so I’m a disaster at the celebrity stuff.

    I also remember phone numbers from a million years ago. I’ve been married for 19 years and have lived in 7 homes during that time and still remember our first phone number and the fact that it shared the last four digits of my mom’s phone number at the time. Strange and useless, that skill is. ;-)

    The other thing that I (and I think most moms do) is figure out the date that things happened by remembering the age my children were at that point in time. Or if it was before or after we had kids, or were married, or whatever. I can figure out almost any event’s date in that context.

  16. I’m good at the personal stuff too, just dont ask me what their names are. I can also find anything that gets lost in the house, or the office, or my friends houses.

  17. I think we have the same brain! I can’t remember people’s names, but I may see someone in a store that I hadn’t seen in 10 years, but I know it’s them. I can remember faces for years. And I can remember odd details, as well as movie quotes and song lyrics. Yet, I can’t remember important dates in history. Like big ones everyone should know — makes me feel like a complete whackadoodle.

  18. I generally remember many details about people that I’ve spoken to that come up in the conversation. BUT, I have a terrible time remembering names of people I’ve been introduced to!

    I also can remember major and minor events from over the years (going far back) and what the weather was on those particular days. It drives my husband crazy when he recalls something and I say, “Oh right, I remember that day - it was so humid.”

  19. That could be quite useful. I can’t think of my skills like that. I’ll have to think on that one and get back to you. ;)