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What’s the Good Word – ABSTRACTED

By Scherryl Antoniadis

I recently took advantage of a perfect summer day to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes – shopping. Truth be told, I didn’t “need” anything, but as I’ve explained to my husband on a number of occasions, sometimes it’s just about the hunt for us ladies.

good_word_bunnySo… I drove to a nearby mall, parked in the garage and set out to catch my prey. However, after several hours of scavenging, without finding anything that interested me, I decided to call it a day. As I walked out of the mall, I reached in my handbag for my sunglasses. After making many, very thorough searches, I finally accepted the fact that I had misplaced them. I was in deep despair as this was not just any pair of sunglasses, it was my very favorite pair.

I quickly began retracing my footsteps; going from store to store to see if anyone had found my glasses. All of the salespeople were sympathetic, but no one had seen them. Seeing my desperation, they were kind enough to take my number and promise to call me if they showed up – that was some comfort.

With nothing more to be done, I headed for my car. As I opened the door… there were my treasured glasses, on the passenger seat right where I had apparently left them. Obviously I was abstracted by thoughts of scoring some great sales and failed to take them with me – no matter how much I would have sworn I was wearing them as I walked to the mall.

[ABSTRACTED: adjective, not paying attention to what is happening or being said; inattentive to one’s surroundings; absence of mind or preoccupation; distracted]

When I complain to my friends about the ever-increasing frequency of my abstractions, they comfort me with their own stories. One of the more amusing was when one friend took the train home from work; not realizing until she went into her empty garage, that she had actually driven to work that day! And several of us have admitted to renting a movie only to discover, on popping it into the DVD player, that we had already seen it.

Although such instances of spacing out are now most often referred to as senior moments, they happen to everyone – no matter your age – at one time or another. Here are just a few classic examples.

good_word1President Ulysses S. Grant had no ear for music; neither did he have any memory for it. When he was asked one evening if he had enjoyed a concert, he replied, “How could I? I know only two tunes. One of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’ and the other one isn’t.”

Actor A.E. Matthews’ memory deserted him at the most inopportune times. Matthews once appeared in a play involving a telephone call that was critical to the plot. It was a call that Matthews was supposed to answer, but when the phone rang on cue and Matthews picked up the receiver, his mind went blank. Desperate, he turned to the other actor on stage and said, “It’s for you.”

The great conductor Arturo Toscanini would often sing along with the orchestra during rehearsals. But sometimes he would forget what he was doing. Once, during a dress rehearsal, his voice was so loud that it could be heard above the instruments. Suddenly he stopped the orchestra. “For the love of God,” he snapped, “who’s singing here?”

good_word2Doris Day was walking down a Beverly Hills street one day when a man stopped her. Assuming he was a fan, Day said hello and started to move on. “Don’t you remember me” the man called after her. “No,” the actress replied. “Should I?” “Well, you didn’t have that many husbands,” replied her second husband, saxophonist George Weidler.

When the renown actor Sir John Gielgud told Elizabeth Taylor that Richard Burton’s acting had gone downhill “since he married that terrible woman,” he had clearly forgotten that the woman Burton had married in 1964 was Taylor herself.

The notoriously forgetful Russian composer Alexander Scriabin once arrived at a party wearing a pair of brand-new boots. But when he returned home, he was wearing a pair of old boots instead, although he couldn’t remember putting them on. More astonishingly, the boots did not match.

A Greek physician named Asclepiades, who practiced in ancient Rome, was so sure of his medical expertise that he swore he would stop being a physician if he ever became ill himself. His boast was never truly tested, however, because while still in good health he abstractedly fell down a stairway and broke his neck.

In 1960, the young Dame Judith Dench was playing Shakespeare’s Juliet at the Old Vic Theatre in London. As she tells it, she was crouching over the lifeless body of her cousin Tybalt, crying out, “Where are my father and my mother, nurse?” when her actual father, a doctor, who was in the audience with her mother and apparently seized by a senior moment, stood up and announced, “Here we are, darling, in Row H!”

Like many chronically absentminded people, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart often forgot names and places. But his most impressive abstractions seemed to occur at the dinner table, where his wife cut his meat for him so that he wouldn’t forget what he was doing and cut his fingers.

The rock and roll ‘premature senility sweepstakes winner’ is… Mick Jagger! It was reported in 1968 that the Rolling Stones’ lead singer, still only in his mid-twenties, was forced to return a $5 million advance for his memoir because he couldn’t remember enough about his own life to write it.

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