Dreaming about work is just fine

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The plane came in low over the heart of the inner city. From where I stood, I could see the underbelly of the massive craft as it descended. Tall buildings around it looked the playthings of a child waiting to be knocked over. There was an eerie whistling sound as the crashing plane made its deadly descent. A world of flames rose up. A pregnant silence fell and then hell on earth. Explosions, screams, the grinding sounds of ruin and death. The city was crumbling in a hellish inferno and there I was, watching it all without a notebook to write in.

I give small thanks to the fact that at least I was wearing pants.

I remember that dream as vividly as a movie viewed on the big screen, though it has been many years. It felt like a long dream and during all of the calamity, I ran from one scene of chaos to the next, searching for a scrap of paper to write on. So stressful and intense was the labor involved, I tried to convince my editors I was due overtime pay. They balked. Clearly they don’t understand the power of dreams.

In almost every work dream I have, I am surrounded by news but I am missing either notebook or pen. I imagine pro athletes dream occasionally that they have no legs the way a pianist might dream he has lost his fingers.

These are classic stress dreams with an esoteric blend from the chosen career of the dreamer. The cop dreams of shoot-outs where his gun won’t pull free from the holster. Firemen dream of flames too ferocious to be battled through conventional means. I imagine editors dream, too. But it probably consists of hunting and devouring reporters, the way lions might dream about tackling gazelles on the Serengeti.

Reporter dreams are particularly diverse because there is no limit of material for the subconscious to chew over and regurgitate in vibrant color. On a given day, we might be immersed in the world of criminals, the world of business, the world of politics or the world of sports. Where an accountant dreams of a calculator with no zero key, the journalist will dream of naked mayors shooting hoops with the murder suspect who, strangely, is wearing a Realtor’s suit.

It gets pretty mixed up in there, is what I’m saying.

In my most recent occupational nightmare, I had a hot story in hand and it was near deadline. I came into the newsroom to find that it had been completely redesigned and filled with strangers. Not only was I unable to find my desk, I was unable to find a familiar face to which I could complain.

Classical psychology will likely suggest that this is a mere manifestation of a gnawing fear of change. Thank you, Dr. Freud. Why don’t you go call your mother?

I don’t have any clear theories on the origin or nature of dreams. I just know that when they get particularly intense, you are tired upon awakening. I don’t care if it all happened within the universe of the mind. Give me a dream about a hulking, surly and winged Randy Whitehouse and I promise you I’m calling in sick the next day.

I get chills thinking about that one. I’ve probably cursed tonight’s sleep.

They say amputees will dream of their lost limbs all their lives. A plumber might dream of the ultimate, nightmare clog decades after he retires. Same for the retired dog catcher who dreams of Cujo and the cabinet maker who dreams of evil, carnivorous saws come to life.

How we choose to spend our days and earn our living gets a special place in the weird caverns of the mind. If you don’t dream about your work, maybe that means you don’t love it enough. Maybe you have achieved that blissful, elusive state where professional and personal lives are separated completely. You are so normal and well-adjusted, you frighten me a little.

I would be okay with it all – the crashing planes, the gunfire, the Lucifer-like Whitehouse with his wings and horns and breaths of fire. If only I had a notebook and a pen with which to record it all. I go to bed with a pen and notebook very close by, but they never descend with me into the bog of dreams.

Maybe one day I’ll become complacent and passionless about the work and the dreams will stop. I’ll have perfectly ordinary dreams about ordinary people in ordinary places. Nobody will have wings and nothing will explode. It will all be perfectly ordinary.

Only I won’t be wearing any pants.

Mark Laflamme is a Sun Journal crime reporter. Editors require him to wear pants to work.

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