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Can't remember it? It didn't happen

February 19, 2009

Marge, everything looks bad if you remember it.

-- Homer Simpson

That's the solution. Do something stupid? Foggedaboudit. Literally. And science is on board with this plan. According to a Dutch study, a common blood pressure pill could "one day help people erase bad memories."

Leaving us free and clear to make the same mistake twice, I suppose.

Scientists say the drug, propranolol, significantly weakened bad memories of spiders among a group of healthy volunteers. I should clarify that it was the volunteers, not the spiders, that had the bad memories.

The drug, they say, could be useful in treating post-traumatic stress disorders and other problems related to unpleasant memories.

How great would that be? A mental eraser for every bonehead move you've ever made.

Of course in my case, I'm less concerned about my bad memories of me than other people's bad memories of me. I'd have to walk up to everyone I've ever known and say, "Here, mind popping a couple of these?"

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Anyway, as I understand it, you might have been attacked by a chicken when you were a child and ever since have had an irrational fear of Frank Perdue. So you could take some of this medicine and presto, you can now walk down the street in broad daylight without fearing a chance encounter with poultry products.

But I think recreational propranolol has more potential. It didn't happen if you can't remember it. Did you tell off the boss? Did you ask the girlfriend if maybe she's put on a few pounds? At the office party, did you make swan origami out of your pants? Pound a propranolol and it's like it never happened.

At last, a drug to battle that hair on the roof of your mouth that's known as a conscience.

Of course, I suspect this product is already being used by some people, and I am thinking specifically of Alex Rodriguez. Except he probably can't remember whether he was taking propranolol or primobolan. He'll have to ask his cousin, whose name he has forgotten.

You can see how this drug could be a big seller. The entire nation could start taking it to forget the Bush administration.

Fortunately, I do not need to take this drug, and in making this statement, I believe I speak for everyone over the age of 45.

Memory? I remember that. Sort of. I used to have one. But today, conjuring up what happened in the past is simply not an issue. It might be a physiological guy thing -- in your 40s, all the protoplasm leaks out of your head and goes into your gut. Don't laugh, kids, it will happen to you. One day, you're fine, and the next day, you will stride purposefully into a room before you come to a complete halt, look around and think, "What did I come in here for?"

Speaking of which, I wonder what would happen if you mixed propranolol with ginkgo biloba. Maybe you remember things that didn't happen.

Of course, unless you are an investment banker, when you get older you do less stupid stuff, as a rule. So this is nature's cruel trick. When you are young and prone to activities that are borderline insane, you remember every painful little detail. When you are old and never do anything any more outrageous than add salsa to the scrambled eggs, you can't remember where you left your teeth.

But I am optimistic. Pretty soon, there will be a drug you can take so that you won't need teeth. God bless pharmaceuticals.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Watch his video, The Rowland Rant

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