Learning X muscle memory

There’s so much ether out there trying to snatch up your 0s and 1s in cellphone data transfers.

There’s so much ether out there trying to snatch up your 0s and 1s in cellphone data transfers.

Published Apr 21, 2024


Durban — Muscle memory is a wondrous thing, until it gets amnesia.

The couch non-scientific research council found it strikes randomly and can have painful consequences. For example, either you kill something you haven’t saved or you walk away from the ATM, muttering and shaking your head in bewilderment.

You may have used the same PIN for years. It has been programmed into your head or, more accurately, your fingers and you never think twice about tapping it in and transacting. Until you don’t. You suddenly find yourself staring blankly at the blinking machine, with people lining up behind you. Nothing. Is it 0000 or 1111? The only thing to do is take your card, walk away and mentally retrace your steps. Same as when you find yourself in a room and wonder what you went there for.

Ctrl Kill usually happens when you start using a new computer or phone system and the old quick keys, which you spent forever learning, do not match the new ones. Or worse, when you stop to think about what button/s you’re about to press and waves of doubt wash over you: Is it F6 or F8? All three keys and S or Q? Or that password you have used to access your workstation gets mixed up with your (never the same, on the instruction of the cyber securitists) phone PIN.

It can be overwhelming when you stop to think and don’t just let your fingers do the walking.

These musings settled in when my years-old phone developed disturbing flashes and glowing lines across the screen. A midsized wave of fear washed over me as I considered the prospect of having to save all the stuff inside.

There was some pleading with it to fix itself.

There are thousands of reasons I have turned down “upgrades”: the terror of losing years of memories of family, friends and beloved dogs in the data “transfer”.

All that ether out there waiting to snatch the 0s and 1s of our lives.

What about the old WhatsApps and voice notes from people no longer here, which now serve as a comfort when required? Do these things save across? How?

It’s shameful to admit, but the cloud is a misty mystery. There are things stored there, like last week’s picture of the baby couch, which I somehow managed to find, but how does one make sure something doesn’t go awry? It’s going to be a fraught time.

It also caused some wondering about how to learn muscle memory before May 29.

Here’s the exercise plan: stick a couple of roughly A4-sized pieces of paper together, top to bottom, so you have a lengthy strip. Make three and place them side-by-side on a table in front of you. Practise placing your writing-hand finger at a random spot on each paper. Do this until you can do it blindfolded.

Now close your eyes and teach your non-writing hand to effortlessly hold your nose while you start memorising how to use a writing implement and become an expert at blindly making one X on each page.

This is going to be your refuge on election day, and probably produce the same results you’d get if you believed any party manifestos. Not one is going to a) meet all your expectations or b) deliver on all the promises.

But you absolutely have to vote – not doing so in these vital elections is not an option.

Just shut your eyes, hold your nose and let the newly learnt muscle memory kick in.

PS. The data transfer got off to a terrible start: the kids had to be consulted about where the SIM card was and how to get it out. But after that, it was a breeze. People who design phone technology have clearly had some experience with dummies trying to move stuff and complaining loudly when it’s lost. They’ve made it so easy-peasy, even this dummy managed it. Joy!

Independent on Saturday