“I forgot the combination.” A comment I overheard in the ladies locker room at the local Y. The facility had just opened the locker rooms after more than a year of restricted access; requiring masks, and a complicated reservation system to use the pool and exercise areas. Before the pandemic, members were accustomed to the routine of accessing the locker room by punching in a combination of two numbers to open the door. Now the lock on the door required memorizing a combination of three numbers.
I was proud of remembering to ask for the new combination at the front desk and my short-term memory for keeping the three digits in the front of my cortex for the two minute walk down the hall to the locker room door. I pushed the numbered buttons, the door opened, I went in, opened my locker and prepared to get ready to swim. Before I left the locker room to go to the pool, I went through my mental check list: goggles, towel, water bottle and shower supplies. I was confident I hadn’t forgotten anything important.
I finished my laps in the pool and headed back down the corridor to the locker room. I stopped at the door and stared at the lock. The code so clear in my mind 45min. ago had disappeared in the not-so-easy-to-retrieve area of my brain. I was standing in a wet bathing suit in my flip flops, feeling foolish and too embarrassed at my short-term memory deficit to go back to the pool and speak to the life guard and certainly not to schlepp out to the lobby to get the combination again.
The lock had five vertical numbers. How hard could it be to guess the right combination? I tried 2-3-1. No good. 5-4-3. No good. I was getting a little anxious now. Suddenly I had a “eureka” moment when I thought about various three number combinations and one in particular stood out in bold. I followed my instinct, put in the numbers and the door opened.
As I was getting dressed, I chatted with another woman. We talked about our common experience of returning to the Y after such a long “recess” and among other things, relearning the routine of accessing the locker room. I put aside my pride and confessed “I forgot the combination.”