Call me Mr. Memory, Kevin Trudeau

By Anthony Buccino

Mr. Memory, says his memory technique is like riding a bike or swimming, once you learn, you never forget. I suppose I could still ride a bike, but my legs and butt would be awful sore the next day.

Hands still shaking in introduction, is your new acquaintance’s name already forgotten? Of course, that’s no way to get ahead. At best, memory is selective. The more important it is to remember something, the more likely it will be forgotten. At least that’s the way it seems.

If you want to know what I had for breakfast, you have to ask me in the morning.  Write it down, fax it to me, just remember, “verbal orders don’t go.” Face it, except for some odd things from long ago, many short short-term memories can use enhancement.

Not too long ago I saw a fellow on a late-night infomercial, that’s a half-hour long TV commercial disguised as regular television. This fellow was telling his sleepy listeners about his new system for remembering.

To prove his ability, his partner, a pseudo talk show host whose suspenders reminded me of Larry King’s, rattled off 15 items for Mr. Memory (aka Kevin Trudeau). Mr. Memory repeated each one given him and at the end of the list he said he had all 15 memorized.

            Sure, pal. I listened to the 15 items in the list, including a phone number somewhere in the middle, and those 15 items are history to me. But Mr. Memory called back the list, backwards, no less, to the host. Then they discussed the evolution of Mr. Memory’s system.

A long time ago, he said, in Tulsa, I might recall, they tested some recall techniques with blind children, and, wouldn’t you know it, the blind kids all improved their recall a lot.

He said, they went from somewhere around 10 or 15 percent recall before Mr. Memory’s techniques to about 90 percent and higher recall after Mr. Memory’s seminar.

Somewhere, at random in their conversation, the host asked the memory guy what was No. 8 on the list, and Mr. Memory knew it. Or the host would give Mr. Memory an item from the list and Mr. Memory would tell him what number it was. Of course, this random testing was impressive, to me, anyway.  I know that if I had a 15-item list in front of me, I couldn’t read the answers as fast as Mr. Memory remembered them.

Mr. Memory said the secret to recall is not word association. He said he read and tried all the other memory techniques, but they didn’t work for him.

But after the experiment with the blind kids, then later with “retarded” kids, Mr. Memory took the best of the techniques he used and refined them into his own system. I don’t remember him ever saying what his system is, or how it works. 

Mr. Memory said ‘millions’ of people have attended his memory seminars, even one guy who got a job on Wall Street because he memorized the stock exchange companies and their letter codes, and, get this, he memorized the name of everybody he met during five days of interviews to get the job.

Mr. Memory said the guy who got the job said he’s had some promotions on account of his great memory and because of his memory, “They think I’m smart!”

I’ve always wanted people to think I’m smart. If I had a great memory, I wouldn’t have to be smart, but people would think that I am, and I would get a lot of promotions like the guy who got his job on Wall Street because of his great memory.

Like Mr. Memory said, maybe I, too, could go to business meetings without a pad and remember everything that was said? Wouldn’t that be a terrific surprise for folks who didn’t see me writing everything down?

Mr. Memory said, in between rattling off random items and numbers from the 15-item list, that because of this special offer, if I call the 800 number, I can get his memory system for half of what he charges people to go to one of his seminars.

One thing he forgets to mention is how much the system costs.

In the mumbo and jumbo of how great the system works, the host asks Mr. Memory if the system can help people remember things from the past.

Mr. Memory said he had a call from a lady who hid some valuables in her house before she went on vacation and when she came back she couldn’t remember where.

Mr. Memory said his tapes could help reunite her with her valuables and memories.

Anthony Buccino, copyright © 2005 by Anthony Buccino, All Rights ReservedI wonder, if I got this system, would I remember what I had for breakfast yesterday? And on June 5, 1972? Just how far back would I remember if I used Mr. Memory’s techniques?

If it’s that good, I suppose I could remember all my classmates from kindergarten? And first grade? And the Saturday morning TV line-up from summer of 1963?

Would this new memory power take over my life? Suppose I started remembering stuff from long ago and I couldn’t stop? I would remember my Cub Scout den meetings with John and his mother the den mother! And all the Boy Scout camping trips when it rained and the tents leaked!

Could I remember the weather of the day I took my SATs in 1971? Why would I want to?

Where would this new memory power stop? Or would it? Would I remember every fishing trip I ever took? Every person I ever met in my life?

Would I remember my old Italian grandmother who died when I was four? Would I remember the Rosary, and the Act of Contrition? And the pain when I broke my finger and had my wedding ring cut off? Would friend and foe call me “Mr. Memory”?

Mr. Memory must have a control in his system. After all, a perfect memory could make someone crazy. He talks about how great it is to remember people’s names.

Mr. Memory says his memory technique is like riding a bike or swimming, once you learn, you never forget. I suppose I could still ride a bike, but my legs and butt would be awful sore the next day.

Maybe I could be like the people in the old folks home whom Mr. Memory talked about during his infomercial. First, talking to them was like talking to mannequins, he said.

On his next visit, after his memory course, they were lively, talking and playing chess. The old people thanked him for awakening long-forgotten memories. That part nearly made me cry.

So, should I call the 800 number and take my chances with creating a perfect memory that, like a reanimated creature from my past, could consume my countenance?

I could use a few promotions, and I could probably get them if the people I worked for thought I was smart, if they didn’t know I had a great memory thanks to Mr. Memory.

It is, after all, half the price of what his live seminar would cost? What a deal, whatever the cost.

If I don’t call the 800 number and order the memory tapes, I could just plod through the rest of my life wondering what I had for breakfast, and who was that guy I just met. I’d still have some memories of long ago.

Isn’t not remembering everything all the time what makes what we do remember special in some way? Flip through a family photo album and see if  that kindles any memories.

What to do? What to do to remember more, or just some more? If only I could remember that 800 number, then I’d call and see how much half of a live memory seminar costs. Would that be worth remembering? I can’t recall. Or should I just forget it?

First published in Rambling Round, Aug. 15, 1996, in The Independent Press of Bloomfield, Worrall Community Newspapers. Adapted from RAMBLING ROUND  Inside and Outside at the Same Time


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''New Jersey's 'Garrison Keillor' '' **

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** "... or something to that effect"

New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards. The Pushcart Prize-nominated writer has been called ' “New Jersey’s ‘Garrison Keillor” or something to that effect.’

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