Memory Lessons from the Parking-wallah

A usual afternoon…

keysIt was a usual afternoon when I parked my car in a busy parking lot of Delhi. A place where almost a hundred, or more cars were parked in a place meant for hardly one third of them.  As usual, I parked and gave the keys to the parking attendant, which he took with a momentary glance at the keys and me; and added them to his big bunch in his hand. Hours later when I returned, and called him for keys, he glanced back at me, and to his big bunch of keys.


To my surprise, he found my exact key is less than a fraction of a second. It looked so simple, and yet extraordinary.  It made me think, and I started conversing with him casually. Asked him how he could exactly tell which key was mine. He smiled and said – ‘Aadat hai’ ( I am used to it). My mind was racing to find out what is the exact process that his memory has developed, over the years that makes him find the exact key so fast, in a single attempt. I offered him a chewing gum I had, and continued my conversation. I saw him handing over keys to other drivers all along the talk in almost a hundred percent accuracy. And then he did a mistake, and his face had confused look when someone asked for a car, pointing at it. The man pointed to the correct key to the parking guy, and to my amazement, the parking guy commented that it was a different man who parked the car. The man showed the parking-token and was given the key. I was observing it all along.


I continued my talk with the parking guy about how he does it, but he could not explain much, to my questions. What I could gather from his talks was that he glances at the person who gives him the key, another glance at the car, a third glance on the key. And then he makes a mental association between the three.  Then, somehow, he retrieves that information when he sees the combination of the car-driver and the car together, and pulls out the key. It was a highly practical application of photo memory indeed. It reminded me of the guy whom I saw a few months ago demonstrating photo memory, being into a book-of-records for the ability. I guess these parking-wallahs deserve even higher honors. For them, ‘photo-memory’ and ‘association memory technique’ is a simple way of livelihood, without the show.

He had not attended any memory workshops, no formal training, no books read, and yet, he had learned it all as a matter of fact, a way of life.
Some day soon, I will go and watch him, and model him. I hope I see his again

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