Random Thoughts

I remember certain names

... odd brain connections to old friends

by John Averell

Now that Shirley and I have moved to a retirement community, our biggest problem is trying to remember names. With at least 200 singles and couples that we see around every day, putting names to faces seems to be a ubiquitous problem for all of us.

But this story is not about that. I find myself having names pop into my head almost daily when I do certain routine activities. The associations in my brain are so odd that I wonder why my head ever bothered making the connections.

For instance, whenever I brush my teeth I think of Bill Dalzell, one of my bosses at Polaroid in the 70s. Here is why. One day several of us were discussing marketing tricks, and Bill brought up the "fact" that toothpaste tubes always squirt wide streams because people will cover their toothbrushes, regardless of how thick the stream is. I don't really believe this, but for some reason I associate toothpaste with Bill.

Then whenever I put shaving cream on my face, I think of Dick Suitor. Now Dick is probably my oldest friend, going back to early 1960s at Avco, and remaining today as a Facebook Friend. One day at Polaroid, where we worked together during the 70s, we somehow were discussing shaving. I like to use thick cream. Dick preferred just soap and hot water, because he didn't like to clog the drains. So now his name just pops into my head when I put shaving cream on.

I worked for years with another Polaroid colleague, Ham Hayes, a top grade microscopist. We looked at thousands of film samples together. One day a young woman assistant was changing a blade of a microtome. Now a microtome is a wicked knife that slices thin samples to be examined under a microscope. It is sharp as a shark's tooth. This girl started to drop the blade, and tried to catch it, resulting in a nasty cut that bled profusely. Both Ham and I used that for a teaching moment -- never try to catch dangerous things. Resist your natural impulse. You are more important than the things. Here is the connection. When I walk downstairs carrying something reasonably valuable, I tell myself to resist the impulse to catch it and maybe fall myself. So Ham's name pops into my head when I am walking down stairs that are steep or difficult.

Last is a completely inexplicable connection. Whenever I put shampoo on my hair in the shower, I think of Bror Hultgren, a fellow scientist in color theory at Polaroid during the 80s. Why, I have no idea, but there it is!

So you will note these names are all old colleagues from the most fun days of my career, at Polaroid. I'm happy never to forget them.


December 3, 2010


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