18 December 2010

Spatial memory


I got into my car again today, the first time for a week.  My memory, so bad in some areas is fine when it comes to learned tasks such as driving.  I perfectly executed the wiggle reverse to get to the door of the garage, and all in the thirty or so seconds between pressing the remote button for the garage grille to slide up, and before it starts to grind down again, thinking no-one is coming.
The car was mostly well behaved on the way to the tyre garage, but I was distracted, as I went into Industriestrasse from a different direction to normal, trying to pick the most used and hopefully least slippery route.  It was not only the physical memory of driving, moving feet and hands in autonomic rhythms that I was thinking about, but also the memory of driving down particular streets.  I have driven the same street to work most weekdays for the past three and a half years, a pulsed drive, stop-start with it's seventeen sets of traffic lights.  There are alternative routes which take around the same time, even though they are kilometres longer, but my mind likes the directness of this one, almost door to door on the same road except for the last couple of hundred metres.  Definitely an autopilot road, point the car in the right direction and I'm almost there.
A more satisfying feeling is that of sneakily beating the traffic, from knowledge of side streets, or the sequencing of traffic lights.  I only have one chance to do this on my current way home, I can nip in round a couple of Einbahnstrasse and pop out at the road into the garage when other cars get held up by cars turning on and off the street the other way around.  Is it sad that I can still remember my 'favourite' traffic cut?  I guess it must be a little, especially since I haven't driven on Canal Road in years, but I reckon I could still pick the moment to shoot around the red lights on the main road and jump the traffic waiting there by using the Valley Road loop, pretending I am going to Tesco's and veering back onto the main road at the last minute.
These are hard wired memories, through repetition I suppose, and I wonder why 'normal' memory doesn't work the same way?  Words, feelings; they fade faster.
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