I'll call this a trivial matter. I'm referring to the mind-boggling amount of mind-clutter we all must assimilate just to get by. What the heck am I talking about? Take a moment, for the sake of illustration vs. explanation, and go get your remote. Doesn't matter which one (since most of us have a whole freakin' fleet of them!). OK, quick -- where's the Volume control? That was easy. You remember which button to press.
The point is, that little example is just one of the hundreds of little details we learn, then store for everyday use. People with lots of keys on their chain know what I mean. You have to know which key is for what lock, and you probably know which keys turn clockwise or not. You know LOTS of tiny little things! You have memorized the entire dashboard and control system in your car. You probably have a pretty good mind-map of your spouse's car, too, if he or she ever lets you drive it. How many VCR's or DVD players do you own? Three? At the very least, you know how to turn each one off and on. Mind-maps.
When you stop for coffee at the Hess station on your way to work, you know right where everything is there, too. Don't believe me? Try a different coffee-stop, even just a different location for the same brand. You'll spend at least two extra minutes navigating the new place, just for a cup of coffee. More's the point, you have a similar mental picture for every place you go regularly. For every remote control you use. For every appliance you operate. For every piece of office equipment in your work area. You even know the complete layout for your favorite newspaper. You could probably name the comic strips you read, in order!
So what? you may ask. Fact is, you can't help it! This is how our brains work, helping us cruise through our daily lives on auto-pilot. Imagine if every day was a whole new experience, and you had to learn all these little details from scratch each time. Trouble is, all those little mind-maps really add up. They're taking up a whole bunch of valuable room up there. No wonder it's so hard for older folks to learn new stuff! There's just no place left to put the new stuff, with all that other clutter piled to the rafters.
[reprinted from October]