Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let Me Remember

It's winter. It's cold outside. A month after New Year's, maybe your resolution to exercise is losing its savor.

A few weeks ago, The Washington Post ran a story called "The old-school way of memorizing diners' orders is fried," in which they suggest that another type of exercise is on a much larger downward slide.

The article introduces a 20-year veteran waiter in Washington, D.C. who still does everything from daily specials to orders to payment--from memory. No order pad. No pen and paper.

I wasn't too surprised to find that waiters like this man are becoming more and more scarce.
As Washington's annual Restaurant Week brings waves of new diners into local eateries, the venerable waiter memory act is in serious decline, a result of increasingly complicated orders -- customers who customize because of nutrition concerns or allergies real or imagined -- people going out in larger groups, and a generation that seems less comfortable with memorization.
Although the article emphasizes that Americans are asking for more personalized meals, making waiters' jobs more difficult, he also says servers' ability to memorize is not as good as it once was.
Several recent studies -- including one published last year in the journal Behavioral Neurology that tested the memories of veteran cafe waiters in Buenos Aires -- found that the servers' constant practice actually expands the brain's memory function.
One professional waiter says younger servers are much less capable of going without a pen and paper than their older counterparts, despite their supposedly sharper brains.

Even if waiting tables is not a job you--or your children--plan to tackle any time soon, these facts are disconcerting, don't you think?

The ability to memorize, like any other muscle skill (remember, the brain is a muscle!), requires practice. Whether you're studying multiplication tables, spelling words, or Latin declensions, you're teaching your brain how to input and store information effectively.

If you've ever tried to get in shape physically after an extended period of inaction, you know how difficult it is to restore lost muscle tone.

And those of you who are studying diligently to retrain your brains after years of neglect know it is equally difficult to reclaim lost muscle tone in the brain.

What is even more significant, if we shrug off memorization in favor of easier options, we're selling our, and our children's, capabilities short.

So let's renew our efforts to reverse this trend. Join us here at Classical Conversations as we use memory work to train our brains today, keeping them quick and sharp for whatever advanced tasks we may want them to perform tomorrow.

Remember, you can do it, and so can your children.

Leave a comment to let other readers know what your favorite "exercise" is this week!

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