Monday, August 08, 2005

How to remember numbers and dates

I'd like to think that I'm not the only male in the world who has difficulty remembering dates.

Dates like birthdays, anniversaries, children's birthdays, parents' birthdays, as well as numbers like how many kids you have and how old they are may not matter that much to you, but for some reasons they do to your other half.

You don't need me to tell you, I got in trouble more than a few times due to my inability to remember those all-important numbers.

What she didn't realise was I'm not a number person. I'm a writer. I tend to think of things in words. It might have been a different story if I were a businessman or an accountant or a mathematician.

But I'm happy to report that things are looking up for me, now that I have devised a technique to remember them numbers.

It involves turning a number into some kind of word. With some ingenuity, you can remember any date or short numbers with this technique.

Let's start with a difficult one: a birthday that falls on the 9th of December. Now how on Earth do you ensure that you'll never forget that one? Here's what I'd do:

1. Think of 9th of December as 9/12.
2. I don't know about you, but for me at this stage, another important date springs to mind: 9/11. That's not exactly 9th of November we're talking about, but September 11.
3. It's arguably much easier to remember September 11 than another person's birthday. Ask the Americans.

Now watch as I use September 11 as my reference point and turn the whole thing around until I get the date that I want.

1. September 11 is 9/11.
2. But your birthday is not on 9/11. It's one month after, which is 9/12.
3. Your birthday is on the 9th of December.

It's magic!

Another technique requires you to read the number upside down as though they are letters. 3, read upside down, becomes E. 9, read upside down, becomes G. 8 becomes B. You get the idea.

Let's do an exercise.My home phone number is 89xx7018. Looks difficult at first but actually the first four numbers (89xx) are easy to remember becos they refer to the Bandar Baru Bangi area where I live.

The problem is I keep forgetting the last four numbers, so here's what I do to help me remember: 7018, read upside down, becomes BIOL.

BIOL basically means getting a headache. It's a Malay word and a crude one at that. As a rule, any word that sounds crude is easy to remember. But BIOL is especially easy becos you can associate it with, for example, my state of mind when trying to remember my home phone number.

So now every time I need to recall my home phone number, I just think of BIOL.

Anyway, my phone is always unplugged becos one of the little monkeys -- I have 2-ish of them, I think -- keeps trying to chew on the cable.

Another excellent situation to apply this upside down technique is if your birthday happens to fall on the 18th of July. That's 18/07 but on your IC, it's written as yy0718.

Now 0718 read upside down becomes BILO. BILO is bila (when) spoken in Negeri Sembilan accent. There are many ways you can remember BILO. I recommend having a mental picture of Din Beramboi asking you when your birthday is: "Ekau punyo birthday bilo?"

Sorry for planting that ugly picture in your mind.

Credit should go to this particular childhood friend of mine for teaching me this technique. When I was little, I befriended this Indonesian kid called Munir, who lived near our house. No, he wasn't a kongsi Indon. His father was a lecturer in UKM. Anyway, he once punched the following numbers into a calculator:


and showed it to me upside down (the calculator, not him). Then he laughed. OK, so I saw that it spelled BOEGIL but I didn't see what was so funny about it. So he told me. Apparently, that's how they spell "bogel" in Indonesia.

Either that, or he's incredibly bad at spelling, in which case he won't make a good writer. And since he's into profanity, he won't make a good educator either.

Too bad none of the important dates in my life are on 8/93/1971. Otherwise, it'll be very easy to remember.