One of our daughters recently dreamed she was late for work, so took her young daughter to the end of the driveway and told her to wait for the bus. Our daughter, though still in her pajamas, got on a bicycle (instead of in her car) and began peddling frantically trying to get to work on time. As she peddled, she used her cell phone to call us and let us know the situation. The school bus wasn’t due for an hour and a half, and she was worried about her daughter standing at the end of the driveway.

Her worry and frustration increased as, try as she might, she couldn’t manage to dial the correct number on her phone. Even when she slowed her peddling to steady herself, she misdialed. Even when she was very deliberate in pushing one number at a time, she made a mistake.

I, too, recently had a dream about a phone. I needed to call home to tell my wife that I’d be late. I picked up a corded phone and put the receiver to my ear, but discovered that dialing was accomplished by touching the correct coins in a shallow box of change. The money consisted not just of U.S. coinage, but foreign, as well.

In the logic of the dream, I needed to use addition to dial each number. To dial a seven – there being no seven-cent coins – I had to touch a nickel and then two pennies.

I couldn’t shake the box to reveal hidden coins, but had to study what was visible and semi-visible on the top layer. To dial the seven digits of my home number took enormous concentration, but I managed it. The phone rang and was picked up, and I could faintly hear people talking in the back ground, but no one actually answered my call.

“Hello? Hello?” I said, then shouted, “Hello?!”

I hung up and went through the process again, touching combinations of coins to place the call. No luck. No luck. No luck. No luck. My frustration mounted with each attempt.

Many people have dreams about being unable to dial a phone correctly. Such dreams are said to rise from being unable to communicate with someone. Or feeling isolated. Or a need to ask for help but not being able to. Or whatever you can imagine this type of dream might represent.

There are plenty of books and websites willing to provide an interpretation, but the truth is, no one knows what the misdialing dream means.

Sleep researchers are still trying to tackle the basic question of why we dream. Is the brain rebooting? Is the brain sorting important info from trivial? Is the brain using dreams to help us confront issues in our life? Are dreams mostly chemical? Or are they cognitive? Or psychological? Or all three?

We don’t know why we dream. So trying to determine what a particular dream means is like trying to dial a phone using a box of coins.

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