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Last week's "Commentary" described what a genius I have become since I bought and studied Master Memoryologist Harry Lorayne's self help book "The Memory Book." In my column I described how I could read a 300 page book and remember what happened on each and every page. I could also memorize a shuffled deck of cards, in order, backwards or forwards! That Braggadocio came to a shocking THUD this past Saturday.
Well, one of our readers who works for a PR agency in New Jersey, and who represents the "Mental Athletes" Olympics of the Mind 8th Annual Championship invited me to register as a competitor. The fee is $25.00 and you have to be age 22 and older. Under 21 is free.
This year, students from Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx go head-to-head with students from the Bergen Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey, and also contestants from across the country.
I decided to attend. However, I would go as a reporter. I'm smart enough not to enter into a contest with genius teenagers!
Here is the Agenda for the day. Five categories of memory tests:
The object of NAMES AND FACES is to commit to memory and recall as many names as possible and link them to the right face.
Mental athletes will have 15 minutes to memorize 99 color photos of different people (head and shoulder shots as demonstrated above) with a first and second name written below each picture.
The object of RANDOM WORDS is to commit to memory and recall as many random words as possible in the order in which presented.
Mental Athletes will have 15 minutes to memorize a list of words organized numerically in five columns with 20 words per column. Competitors MUST start at the first word of column 1 and remember as many of the words as possible.
Once the memorization period is over, the Mental Athletes will have 20 minutes for recall.
The object of SPEED NUMBERS is to commit to memory and recall as many random digits as possible in the order in which presented.
Mental Athletes will have 5 minutes to memorize a list of computer generated numbers which are presented in rows of 40 digits with 25 rows per page. Competitors MUST start with the first digit in the first row.
The object of POETRY is to commit to memory and recall a previously unpublished poem.
Mental Athletes will have 15 minutes to memorize a previously unpublished poem.
The object of SPEED CARDS is to commit to memory and recall a single pack of 52 playing cards in the shortest possible time.
The contest was being held at Con Edison's (New York City's utility company) Grand Auditorium. So, on Saturday I jumped on the # 6 subway from the upper east side of Manhattan, and made my way down to 14th street and third avenue, site of the event.
I walked into the Con Ed building and was met by a security guard whose mental wattage seemed to be dimming. "Good Morning, I'm here for the Memory Contest."
New Yorkers expect to meet at least one screw ball a day. This guy looked up at me as if to say to himself, "Oh good, I've got today's screw ball early in the morning. I'll just avoid looking at him...and hope he goes away." I persisted, "There is a memory contest here today! All of a sudden I took his perspective, and started laughing. Over his shoulder about 20 yards further down the hall, there was a big security desk with a man who looked like he was the real guy in charge. I yelled down the hall, "Can you tell me about the Memory Contest please!" He looked up from his newspaper and had that same look as the man sitting right in front of me. However, he decided to come forward and greet me. I guess his experience told him that this was his screwball of the day, and let me get it over with. As he approached me, I started to laugh.
"Follow me." We walked into a spacious information office, and he went behind the desk and opened a large journal that listed all of the week's current events. "Sir, there are no meetings scheduled for today. He thumbed through the pages. "Ah yes, here it is. Memory Championship. But that's next Saturday!"
Michael J. McCurdy
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