Joe Pisani (opinion): Welcome to the support group for confused room walkers

An entrance to a room.

An entrance to a room.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

Lately, I find myself walking into a room, looking around and wondering, “Why the heck did I come in here?” This happens a lot ... except when I walk into the bathroom, because I usually know why I’m there.

I’ve been assured it’s a common experience, so if you email me and say, “Hey, the same thing happens to me!” we can start a support group for confused room walkers.

I live in a house with only eight rooms, so it’s not as bad as it might be for people with 15 rooms.

Experts call this the “doorway effect.” (I love that word “experts.” Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said, “I’m a scientific expert. That means I know nothing about absolutely everything.” He would have been amused by the many scientific experts we have today.)

I’m not an expert. I’m just a garden variety schlemiel, but I’ve read the latest research on the doorway effect, so I guess that makes me an expert, too.

The good news is these episodes of forgetfulness don’t mean you’re developing Alzheimer’s or that your memory or intelligence is diminishing.

It happens to people of all ages and not just those who can’t remember who the president is. Temporary moments of forgetfulness occur when your brain is trying to function at different levels at the same time, according to research at Bond University in Australia.

For example, assume you just had a medical procedure and you’re waiting for the results. You want to know if your health care insurance covers the test, but you need your glasses to read the fine print. You go to the bedroom to fetch them, while these competing thoughts are rambling through your brain ... and you forget why you went into the bedroom.

When I walk into a room and can’t remember why I’m there, I go back out and come back in, and I can usually remember — with an emphasis on “usually.”

Sooner or later, it hits me: “Geez, I was going to get my reading glasses.” Then, as an added reminder so it doesn’t happen again, I’ll write “GET READING GLASSES” on a slip of paper. But since I don’t have my glasses, I can’t read the note, so I call my wife and ask, “What’s this say?” She tells me, and I start searching for the glasses, but I can’t remember where I put them. Misplaced reading glasses are an overriding problem for anyone past 40.

Lately, I’ve also noticed that when I walk into a room, the dog is behind me. I call this the “doggie doorway effect.”

“Are you lost?” I ask her. She gives me a curious look that suggests, “No, but I think you are.”

“Is there something I can do for you?” No answer. Just a concerned loving stare. No one ever gives me a loving stare unless they want something. Cash. My car. My credit card. Maybe she wants a dog biscuit.

“What is it, Bella? Did you forget why you came in here, too?”

“Arf!” We’ve been together 11 years, but I’m still not sure whether that means yes or no.

The crazy thing is she knows about 300 words of English, and even though I went to a reputable institution of higher education — at least they said it was — I know only one word of Dog. It’s ARF. Or ARF, ARF depending upon the occasion.

Fortunately, she has no memory problems. Her mind is like a steel trap and she knows precisely when it’s “treat time” — at 9:15 a.m., 1:08 p.m. and 1:57 a.m. And she’ll bark incessantly to remind me.

Another study by the University of Notre Dame concluded that “changing rooms and walking through doors actually make us forget things.”

It said, “the memory performance of participants was worse when they walked through an open door than when they walked the same distance within the same room.” To my thinking, the solution is simple: Sit still, don’t think, write notes to yourself and take down the doors in your home.

The best way to avoid this type of forgetfulness is “to keep your task at the front of your mind until it’s done,” a psychologist at Bond University said.

Great advice. I’ll take it. I’m going to put Post-its on my forehead as a handy reminder that say: “Find reading glasses ... dog treat due 1:57 a.m. ... Arf, Arf .”

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at