Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Search for Self-Improvement

In the episode of Bewitched that first aired 50 years ago tonight, "I Remember You ... Sometimes," Darrin (Dick York) came home upset because he hadn't remembered an important client's name. Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) told him that was natural, that it happened to everyone once in awhile, and Darrin replied that it had been happening too frequently of late.

Frankly, it was a bit odd for Darrin to forget that client's surname — it was Pennybaker. Not exactly a common surname. I suppose that was the point.

Anyway, the experience had persuaded Darrin that an improved memory would help him in everything, especially his work — and, given that he worked for an advertising agency, that was probably true. He had purchased a book on that subject and was determined to improve his memory.

While Samantha prepared dinner, Darrin stretched out on the sofa to read his book. Endora (Agnes Moorehead) popped in at just that moment, saw that Darrin was reading a book on improving his memory and found that very amusing.

"The ability to forget is very important to you mortals," Endora told Darrin. "You do so many stupid things a perfect memory would be impossible to live with."

And, as she so often did, Endora cast a spell on Darrin to prove her point. Or, rather, she cast a spell on his wristwatch. If a person held it or wore it, that person suddenly had total recall. But if that person put the watch down or it slipped from his/her wrist, that person became a normal, forgetful mortal.

No one, not even the audience, knew that at first. Viewers only knew that something happened to the wristwatch when Endora made her first appearance of the evening.

The problem with perfect memory is that it tends to make the one who has it look like a know–it–all. I can't say that I have known many people who possessed a perfect memory, but none of the people I have known who had at least better–than–average memories were restrained in their use of it.

The client was in the office the next day, and he was something of a know–it–all, too. At first, he appeared gratified that Darrin remembered him — and details about his family — but it soon began to wear on him.

Darrin kept correcting him or topping him.

As you may have noticed, know–it–alls relish the spotlight and are loath to yield even a sliver of the attention.

When everyone gathered at Samantha and Darrin's home for dinner that night, Darrin kept one–upping the client to the point of frustration for the client, Larry (David White) and Samantha. Samantha had figured out that witchcraft was somehow involved in Darrin's astonishing new memory — and she was savvy enough to know that her mother was probably behind it — but she didn't know the exact nature of the spell.

After interrogating her mother, she determined that some object had been the target of the spell, but Endora wouldn't say what it was. Samantha acted on a hunch and concluded that the object was the watchband.

So Samantha made Darrin's watchband snap, and the watch fell from his wrist. At that point, he was the same old ordinary Darrin with the imperfect memory. The client's wife picked up the watch and suddenly became the know–it–all, finishing her husband's stories. After all, she said, she had heard them thousands of times.

By her own example she showed both Darrin and her husband how they had been monopolizing conversations. It is safe to say they were not pleased with themselves.

And when dinner was served, neither was as talkative as he had been before.

It takes more wisdom — and more discipline — to remain silent than to speak.