What are some important life-things to memorize?
January 8, 2013 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Recently, I was asked for my husband's SSN (no idea) and my license plate number (usually I know this, but it's newly registered so again, no idea). I got funny looks when I didn't know these things, which made me wonder-- what other similar information should I memorize or otherwise have readily at hand?

I saw this question from 2005, but that's more about random facts and academic information. I already know pi to the 100th and it's come in handy.... exactly 0 times. So not looking for that sort of thing-- just the really important, daily life sort of stuff that I should absolutely know. Like, do people memorize their health insurance numbers? Other spouse info? Passport numbers?
posted by charmcityblues to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
My tip: don't memorize your license plate (or any other unnecessary number/factoid) if you have a smartphone - just take a photo of it and you can look it up anytime, or alternatively put it in an email to yourself or document in Google Drive that you can pull up quickly when needed.

Life is too short to waste brain space. As for the SSN, you have to be careful where you keep a written record of that, so memorizing it is worthwhile.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:04 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have my credit card info - number, date of expiration, and security code for my most frequently used card - memorized. Saves time from needing to grab my card when I'm making a one-time purchase on a site (I'm wary of having my browser save that information.)
posted by estlin at 8:04 AM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had my last credit card # (along with exp. date and security code) memorized and was really nice not to have to always whip out my CC (especially when I was upstairs and it was downstairs) every time I bought something on-line.

For some reason I never have any idea what my insurance co-pay is and they always ask me when I go to the doctor. I should probably memorize that even though it sorta feels like something they should know.
posted by bondcliff at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2013

Family-you-live-with's birthdates, SSNs, blood types, medicine allergies, other critical medical history.

...but I would not feel bad about forgetting, because after 10 years (yay!) I still can't remember biscotti's SSN.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find that knowing my own SSN, phone number and address is sufficient. I do make a point of keeping other info (spouse's data, kid's data, financial account numbers, etc) organized in a place I can quickly access (doing this on paper or digitally depends on how you feel about storing data on the cloud or on a smart phone, some folks may not feel digital storage is a good idea).

I believe the secret is organization, not memorization.
posted by HuronBob at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

For one's spouse, things like last 4 of SSN, parents' middle names, mother's maiden name. Things you might need for security questions if you need to access an account in the other person's name.

I also have all the last four digits of my credit and debit cards, plus security codes.
posted by supercres at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2013

It's really weird that these people gave you strange looks for not knowing your husband's SSN, or even your license number. There are just so many numbers associated with us these days, any of which can be prompted for as a means of identification, that one can hardly be expected to keep track of all of them.

Generally speaking, my rule of thumb is that if I'm inconvenienced by the prompt for information, and if it's one regularly asked for, I will memorize it. Car license, perhaps, because I wouldn't want to pop outside to take a look every time. Driver license number, not really - I can just take it out of my wallet and reference it.

But really, don't stress yourself out about it. Anyone who expects you to have all these numbers at beck and call is honestly being a little dickish given how much information we have to deal with and keep track of. Do what conveniences you, and leave it at that.
posted by Conspire at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

My memory is odd. There are things I can't remember to save my life... husband's SS number being one (although I know the last four because I used to have to enter it to access our telebank.)

I have memorized my debit card number, pin and security number which is extremely handy when ordering stuff online or calling in a takeout food order.

I have also memorized the account numbers for three of our bank accounts as well as the routing number for the bank. Not sure how that last one happened since I don't use it that often, but again it has come in handy when trying to make a bill payment online out of the account that doesn't have a debit card.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:22 AM on January 8, 2013

If you want to store a sensitive number in your phone just don't label it as such. Pick a random contact and put it in the Notes field as an extension or re-name a pic [number].jpg (for example). Then you just have to remember where it is. Another handy number to have on hand is checking account number.
posted by mikepop at 8:27 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Things I've memorized that were useful:
my blood type
Library card number (so I can request/renew books online without having to pull out the card every time)
credit card number/expiration date/etc.
posted by belladonna at 8:29 AM on January 8, 2013

Memorize a few important phone numbers of close contacts. This would include your spouse's mobile phone, parents/relatives home/mobile phones etc. Especially with everyone relying on speed dial on their phone, its amazing how many people don't know these numbers. And these are the numbers you will need in an emergency.

Everything else is nice-to-have, really.
posted by vacapinta at 8:31 AM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't memorize anything but URL's I need to find stuff that I need to know.
posted by empath at 8:31 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Knowing one's own license plate number strikes me as a bit out of the ordinary. Most people can be safely expected to know their own phone number(s), home and work addresses, and social security number.

In terms of "facts" to memorize, I also recommend knowing one's blood type. One should also know the basic health facts of close family members for whom you might foreseeably need to assist in medical treatment such as allergies and blood type. Also, evacuation routes.

Generally, I think what you "must absolutely know" is a small set of information that you can recall at a moment's notice if disaster should strike. "Disaster" doesn't necessarily mean the collapse of society but any high stakes or high emotional time such as a family member's medical treatment or being broken down on the side of the road. Think of it as a mental "grab and go" or "bug out" bag. (don't worry, you cannot waste brain space because it will not fill up)

For everything else, it is a good idea to keep such information close at hand in a smartphone, provided that your smartphone is password-protected.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:37 AM on January 8, 2013

Most of mine are covered above (especially the library card number), but I for some reason had my old employee number memorized. Not intentionally, as I only needed it about three times a year. But when those three times happened and others were scrambling to find theirs, it was occasionally amusing/useful to me that I happened to know mine.

Might or might not be useful to you depending on how often you need your employee number. (Plus, that was my old job, where it was 8 digits. The ID at my new place is 16 or so, and no way am I memorizing that even by accident.)
posted by Stacey at 8:53 AM on January 8, 2013

Perhaps not exactly what you were after, but I keep meaning to memorize the NATO spelling alphabet. I can't count the number of times it would have been handy when trying to convey exact information over a bad phone line or a noisy service desk.
posted by pont at 8:55 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't think of a really compelling reason to memorize anyone's blood type, even your own. If you need blood, the hospital will need to type and cross-match your blood at the time they are giving it, to check for a bunch of antigens/antibodies. This only takes half an hour or so, and if it's super urgent, they'll give you O-negative. I cannot imagine any medical personnel giving blood of any type other than O-negative solely on the basis of a family member's report--the possible consequences are just too risky, and why do it when you can just give O-neg?

I know my own SSN but not my husband's or son's. I used to keep one credit card memorized but now I just use my credit cards' web-based virtual card option to get single-use card numbers. I have notes on my phone for non-sensitive numbers (like health insurance, library card, VIN, etc). Back when I used to travel a lot in the pre-digital era I kept a photocopy of my passport in a safe place; now I'd probably keep a photo of it.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound obvious, but important phone numbers. I rely ENTIRELY on my smart phone for phone numbers, and I never dial, just look up the contact. Apart from my parents' phone number (because it is one that they've had since before I got a cell phone), I don't know anyone's number, including my fiance's cell phone number and OUR HOME LANDLINE*!! Seriously! It happened not long ago during a three day period where my smart phone was broken I needed to call my fiance. I didn't know his cell phone number or our house number. I ultimately had to call my parents and get them to tell me my own home phone number. Not a joke.

So phone numbers.

*yes, we have a landline even though we both have cell phones. We live out in the boonies and only have spotty cell service out there.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:01 AM on January 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

The name of the hospital at which you were born.

My roommate took a wrong turn in Buffalo NY, and we ended up having to turn around at the border crossing. Nope: that involves the CAN guards handing you over to the US guards, who walk you into a holding area. After a suitable punishment period (30m?), since we weren't carrying passports (because we weren't going to cross!), we were drilled on the details of our system-stored ID. My passport app required my birth certificate, and the guard gave me shit for not knowing what hospital I was born in.

posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 AM on January 8, 2013

My job requires that I do a lot of purchasing/flight reserving/account checking/random stuff.

In addition to my own most-used credit card, my library card number, and license plate number, I also have the following memorized...

For the company in general: main credit card numbers, bank account numbers, PIN numbers, passwords for nearly every site and program we use, account numbers with our major vendors

For the 5 employees here who travel the most often: full names, DOB, meal and airline preferences, room preferences

For the two partners: names, DOB, frequent flyer miles, personal credit cards, personal bank information, logins for nearly every site they use (the lunkheads use the same passwords for everything, ugh), names of family members, girlfriend/wife's DOB and full name, mother's maiden names, pets' names, (random details for security questions), phone numbers and home addresses...there's got to be more, but that's all I can think of for now. Basically, I could do a hell of a lot of damage if I wanted to.

Most of this stuff wasn't intentionally memorized, just picked up from needing to type or say it repeatedly day in and day out. I think of all of this, I'm most proud of knowing my library card number.

To find out what's important for you, think worst-case scenarios (loved one in hospital, car gets towed, you're lost without access to your phone) and think through what things you'd need to solve the problems at hand. Decide from there what you need to memorize.
posted by phunniemee at 9:02 AM on January 8, 2013

I don't know my ersatz spouse's SSN or even my kids' full SSNs without looking them up. I only use them at tax time and beyond that I don't really have any business using them. (Lots of people/businesses ask for them but with only one exception they've not minded that I don't provide them.... I mean, why in the world would a music-instrument-rental place need my fourth-grad kid's SSN when they have my CC info?)

I have photos on my phone of my license plate and I have memos of auto/health insurance info, bathroom measurements (doing a slooooowwww remodel), and a few passwords for sites I don't use often but aren't sensitive should I lose my phone.
posted by headnsouth at 9:06 AM on January 8, 2013

I travel a lot, and I find that having my passport number memorised helps with both online check-in and filling out landing cards.
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:09 AM on January 8, 2013

Knowing my bloodtype kept me from worrying about whether I'd need Rhogam shots when I was pregnant.

It also saved a little time & hassle the times I had unexpected surgery. The last hospital I was at didn't have my records, so being able to tell them my bloodtype saved a few minutes & an additional blood draw when I showed up at the ER with an appendix that needed to come out immediately.
posted by belladonna at 9:27 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

SSN's should not be given out unless you really need whatever it is the asker has, like a bank loan. It used to be illegal to use an SSN for anything other than official US Gov't stuff, but they tell me that is no longer the case. Still, your identity can be compromised with that info.
posted by Hobgoblin at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2013

Perhaps not exactly what you were after, but I keep meaning to memorize the NATO spelling alphabet. I can't count the number of times it would have been handy when trying to convey exact information over a bad phone line or a noisy service desk.

Memorize the LAPD phonetic alphabet instead. It's way more intuitive (Foxtrot? Kilo? Papa? Zulu?) and less confusing to other people.

(I say this as a soldier who knows the NATO alphabet and has to concentrate not to use it; the LAPD version is much better if you're speaking to an Anglophone.)
posted by Etrigan at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2013

I store that information in my husband. I am not kidding he remembers all number based information as he has a real skill at it. I only got my SSN three years ago when I moved to the US, the looks I get when I go I don't know it hang on and ring my husband are priceless.

In return I remember what bills need paying and when, when family members birthdays are and where pretty much all the day to day running of the house things are kept. Like scissors, that man can never remember where the scissors are kept.

I figured being able to share responsibility for remembering shit is one of the perks of getting married a group memory bank.
posted by wwax at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've memorized the price for snacks and drinks I buy frequently (e.g. a large Diet Coke at McDonald's is $1.92) so I can have the correct change ready.
posted by epj at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

To reiterate what headnsouth and Hobgoblin said: Don't hand out SSNs! Not yours, not your husband's.

(I'm asked for my son's SSN all the time at various medical offices, and I always decline. If they tell me it's an office policy, needed to bill insurance, I tell them my insurance company instructs me to give them only our insurance ID. Turns out the policy can be worked around, *every time* so far. As for anyone else asking for an SSN - forget it. No thank you.)

Now, what you should memorize is enough limericks to generate unique passwords to everything. But that's a different story.

Also seconding important phone numbers. Some emergencies involve losing access to your smartphone / purse / address book, and having to borrow a phone from someone to call ...? And if they aren't available, then you call ...?
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:33 AM on January 8, 2013

You really only need to memorize the numbers that you have to trot out in your regular life a lot. For example, student ID numbers at college--I was surprised at how many have that memorized, but think of how often they have to trot those numbers out. Anything that you get asked about frequently needs memorization. If you go to the doctor every other week, you'll memorize your ID there, but if you only go a few times a year, you won't.

I do, however, literally forget my own phone number probably at least three times a year. Hey, I don't call myself....
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:08 PM on January 8, 2013

Sounds less important than memorizing say, a credit card number, but if you have your measurements (waist, hip, bust, even calf measurement) memorized it comes in really handy when you're ordering clothes online, even if you think you know your sizes. I'd say I need that information ten times as often as I've needed to know my license plate number. Then again, I shop online quite a bit. (And same with your SO's measurements, naturally, if you buy clothes for them at all.)

Other than that, though Evernote on all my devices has really reduced my need to memorize a lot of things, important phone numbers and a credit card number are the things I figure would really come in handy if I didn't have my phone with me in an emergency.
posted by thesocietyfor at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should try to memorize at least one phone number. Maybe someone who can do something if you happen to find yourself in jail (where they will take away your cell phone).
posted by mhum at 1:22 PM on January 8, 2013

I memorize my family's credit card numbers and social security numbers by turning them into melodies. 1 is do, 8 is do an octave higher, and 0 and 9 are ti and re a step below or above that octave.
posted by umbĂș at 1:53 PM on January 8, 2013

I've never once needed to know my husband's SSN in almost 13 years of marriage.

License plate number I know, because you're supposed to fill it in in motel registration so they can make sure there aren't unauthorized cars in the parking lot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2013

Think about memorizing a few phone numbers to loved ones. I work at a hospital and so many patients want to call their family but all the numbers that they need are in the cellphone that they don't have.
posted by MadMadam at 4:52 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is going to sound obvious, but important phone numbers.

This x1000. Most people these days, if stranded somewhere without a phone, would probably be incapable of calling any of their loved ones. I've memorized the numbers of all of the people closest to me, but they haven't mine, and frankly it kind of frightens me.
posted by threeants at 8:24 PM on January 8, 2013

I have many times been grateful that I knew my checking account number and routing number offhand. And once when I was working phone support I really creeped someone out because they had to read off their routing number (I was supporting accounting software and they were setting up an online banking thing) and I said, "Hey, BofA Southern California, right? Neighbors!" Apparently nobody expects people to recognize their routing number.

And, yeah, phone numbers are great in a pinch. I just know my parents' house line and my husband's cell, but I know I ought to learn a couple more just in case.

I have purposely NOT learnt my credit card info as the process of getting up, walking to my purse, getting out my wallet, etc is a valuable time to ponder how much I really need what I'm buying.
posted by town of cats at 9:56 PM on January 8, 2013

I agree that a few friends' phone numbers should rank way above anyone's SSN or license plate number.

Also: learn the major bus routes in your area and have at least a general sense of what hours they run. Memorize the number for a cab company. Figure out which local hospital it would make the most sense for you to go to in an emergency. Remember where important documents are in your own house, so that you could give unambiguous instructions to someone else who needed to find them for you.
posted by and so but then, we at 10:03 PM on January 8, 2013

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