A return to work, a return to work dreams

In later years at USAT, the work dreams came regularly. At NPR, until last night, I had only had one that I could remember, and it was about USAT. Last night, just about a year into my current job, and before my return from a week’s vacation tomorrow, I had my first dream about it.

Colleague Jen and I were scheduled to launch into space tomorrow.

We were at a space agency’s rocket center in Tanzania. The program expected us to climb into a non-shuttle rocket (like the unmanned one I saw launch last week), do work in space and then return to Earth. As Jen said at one point, “Shouldn’t there have been training for this?”

Our launch came in a series of launches over several days. Current and ex coworkers helmed those rockets. I couldn’t make out any except for USAT’s Brett and Megan. At mission control, colleague Constance was running launch preparations. Also, she was helping me fix my camera. I wanted to take pictures in space (similar to my last pre-vacation work.)

Other colleagues joined us in the control center, and colleague Vincent, as positive as he is in real life, was optimistic everything would go fine.

Taking a break in preparations, a bunch of us went walking through the city, which had cooler temperatures and stone plazas — less like Tanzania and more like Washington. We caught the end of a musical performance led by Mercedes from Glee. (Not too sure what that part meant.) Then I had a long conversation with NU friend Elisa (whose tweets about God I had seen before going to sleep) as to whether I should tell my parents I was launching into outer space tomorrow.

Then I woke up.

Work dreams, welcome back!

Oh, the jobs we once held

My dreams about work peaked and concluded in June when I left USAT. The time since has been relatively dream-free, work or otherwise. But an old job showed up in a dream last night, and it was my own fault.

In what I can remember now of the dream, an angry man stood on the other side of the street with a shotgun, shooting at my house. A little like M. Emmet Walsh in The Jerk, yes. (Did I read an article about Steve Martin just before bed last night? Yes.) He walked away, and I ran out and yelled at him. He dropped the shotgun. The police arrested him.

The cops got his name, and in the dream I recognized it… from real life. He was someone who I’d seen a month or so ago on LinkedIn… in real life. He’d sent me a Connection invite several months previous, and I’d finally gotten around to accepting it. In the dream, mutual friends were responsible for giving him my contact. I warned them. Then I woke up.

Back in real life this morning, leaving bed and shaking off the dream, I wondered who the man was. At the time I accepted the Connection, I remembered him as a reader. But had I checked my e-mail for what his story was? No. I had just assumed, given the LinkedIn invite, he was a friendly one. This assumption was a bad one. He was not so friendly.

The man had a history of making racist remarks and claiming reverse racism. Most of his trouble had occurred in 2008, back when I had to write a personal note to everyone we booted. “Are you a Negro to ??” he replied. “Or is it African American, Idiot.” Early 2010, he resurfaced, presumably after a site moderator ejected a fresh account of his, and well after I was out of the reader role. He wrote, “Get a real job man, you Racist Pig.” In LinkedIn lingo, we’d sure done business together.

Who knew why the guy had sent me a Connection invite. Most likely, he didn’t realize it. E-mailing probably auto-added me to his address book. Then he may have joined LinkedIn and imported all the listings. Many people did that. Who knew what he thought when I accepted!

I removed our Connection. If a dream could find a lapse in my social network privacy and send me to researching, it deserved respect.

Blindness, swan dives and CEOs? The past month’s work dreams

The first came in a nap during a weekend rainstorm. The next four paired up in twos, on weeknights. Dream, wake, fall back asleep, dream. The fifth was an old dream but one I’d forgotten and never blogged. The sixth was early today, technically my first day in years of being employed by nobody.

JUNE 6 — I worked alone in a plain white room. I sat at a wide folding table with probably my laptop or a notepad in front of me, but I wasn’t sure because I had my hands over my eyes, thinking. A door opened in front of me and to the right. An editor stood at the door and began to update me on a mess of projects. I tried to lower my hands and arms, and the light in the room blinded me. I tried to squint and failed. Arms still covering my face, I apologized, embarrassed. The editor paid it no mind and kept talking. The worst part of the dream was I hadn’t heard of anything he was talking about. Blind, I couldn’t begin to respond.

JUNE 8 — A top executive talks to me with his arms folded. We’re on a high floor of an office tower. He leans against a glass wall overlooking an interior courtyard. A window swings open in the wall. The executive moves his arms a little; but he falls backward over the side, saying, “I always knew this would happen to a nice guy like me.” I yell and run to find someone. An office admin makes a call and finds the executive had ordered the interior courtyard cleared that night. I see another of the top executives. She’s broken up over the news. We hug. I see a boss of mine and try to explain how it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. He says he knows but needs to talk to me about a different work matter.

JUNE 8 — That dream was immediately followed by a dream where, using the work travel system, I was going to New England and flexible on my travel dates. The system then booked me on a trip to Paris and London on the Concorde, for just $900 total. My mother or someone else looked at the itinerary and said the price sounded about right.

JUNE 9 — I drove around a mountain town in a RV with friends and a colleague. I sincerely wish I could remember more of this dream.

JUNE 9 — A security guard sees a colleague stumble into the office, flip out and begin shooting. On video screens, I see different scenes of the incident occurring, become upset, and take off down a hallway to help.

JUNE 25 — At my farewell, a colleague reminds me of a work dream I had several years ago and told to him. In the dream, my editor didn’t want me on a certain project, so he had a jungle tiger attack me.

JULY 5 — In the dream, USAT held an all-hands meeting, and bosses named me the CEO of the Florida Power utility. The news surprised all, myself included. I didn’t know USAT even owned a power company! The meeting let out. I leafed through a folder about Florida Power (with its 300,000 customers), answered confused questions from friends and wondered what the CEO of a large electric company did. I visited the utility’s website and found the employees already up in arms over the move. The homepage included a picture of me in a tie, with a diagonal red line over the photo. The picture linked to their letter of protest.

Then I woke up. Rising, I found the utility’s official name was Florida Power & Light Company. It had 4.5 million customers, and I was not the CEO. At breakfast, my dad told me his father, who was a banker, often visited the corporation with the other financial analysts, and my grandmother always enjoyed coming with to a Boca Raton resort. So, it had that going for it.

Bring on the crazy NPR dreams, I say. But let’s enjoy the beach first?

In which a work dream tells me I’m getting older

I dreamed my editor guested on a mid-run Cheers episode. He was walking down the street in winter, explaining something to somebody. It was a Kevin McHale-like role, and McHale was possibly also in it. I woke up and had to Google for this just to make sure it didn’t exist.

Didn’t have much to go on, so it took me a few minutes to get what it meant. Realization: The episode fits the model of a Sammy-gets-older episode. He seeks advice from everyone. The non-regular on the move gives good advice.* (Sam: “But that’s our money.” McHale: “Shame on you, Sam, you know it’s the orphans’ money.” Or film Elvis telling Sam about Rebecca. Or early Fraiser. Or Dick Cavett.) Sam already knows what’s going to make him happy, and he just has to hear the news.

*On the move is key. Otherwise, you’re counting bolts in Boston.

My dream last night: The allegory of the crepe

The worst part of a dream can be knowing exactly what it means.

We got to the shop late, my mom, my brother, friend Jeff, his brother James. We were there to get dinner. This place served up a crepe-like creation, thin dough rolled over different fillings and chocolate drizzled across the top, with the crepe’s ends then turned sideways. Inside, you could have banana, chocolate-covered banana, apple, blueberry, apple and blueberry, or a few others. I wanted apple and blueberry.

As we walked into the shop, hot oil fell onto a hot griddle, circled to form a layer and become ready for rolling. My mom kept trying to touch the oil as it poured onto the griddle to see if it was hot, and I had to keep warning her not to do that. We moved slowly around the small shop until we were the only ones left. I ordered, and my mom said from elsewhere in the shop that she wanted a small Coke too. She apparently wasn’t planning to get any food. The owner behind the counter had a mean reputation and was a jerk about the addition.

I thought I didn’t have money in my wallet, so that started a search among us, but no one else had any and I realized I’d just gotten a bunch earlier. This annoyed the guy more, and when I handed him a $20, he swore, and I called him out for swearing in front of my mom. That made him angry. He got offended, refused payment and began yelling for us to get out. I tried to reason, and he started throwing cooking pots and pot lids. When he grabbed the cast-iron skillet, I gave up and we high-tailed it, me saying. “Hey, hey, we’ll go…”

We left and walked back to the parking garage. We passed a couple cousins along the way, but we were busy talking and neither spoke up. Seeing the car, it turned out friends Jeff and James had already gotten their food and were sitting on a picnic blanket. My family had gotten no food but said not to worry about it. My mom asked what I was going to eat, and I said I figured cereal. Then we drove home.

Moral of the story: This story has nothing to do with my mom, brother, friend Jeff, his brother James, or crepe-like creations. Except maybe the crepe-like creations at the stand I see every day on the way to work.

Good thing nobody got hurt

This is what I get for reading about abandoned subways before bed. My Metro train wouldn’t stop. No one else seemed to notice, so first I tried to get a wireless signal and stop the train that way. But nothing connected. I walked to the front of the car, found the driver’s room open and pressed the red stop button. No luck. I moved to the front of the next car and tried the same. No luck. Finally I reached the front of the train and hit the stop button as the train ran out of track. It slowed just enough to fly through a door, across a pretty empty waiting room, car after car after car, into my empty grade-school cafeteria, down a flight of stairs, with cars pinballing around the room, at last stopping.

I got off the train expecting chaos, but all the passengers seemed to melt away. An investigator stopped by to look at the train, but no one else did. I stood around waiting for someone to talk to me, but no one did. Soon enough an old-fashioned train flew down the stairs and into the cafeteria, same way my subway train had, and all my train cars seemed to disappear and nobody seemed to mind that either. Dwight Schrute may have been driving that train. Alone in the cafeteria once again, I got bored and went looking for an investigator. Found one, but he said to hang on and that someone would talk to me later. He said he’d seen my ties on the Internet and asked why they hadn’t worked. I said I couldn’t get connected, and that satisfied him.

I went to my newsroom, apparently on another floor of the building. I nearly fell over a ledge where I thought stairs were, but I jumped back and someone said the stairs were on the other side. Went down them, but then found a low wall and row of desks blocking entry. Tried to go under the desk fence one way, couldn’t fit, had to step over it another, beyond a few more desks and plants. The space I stepped into had something to do with opinion, and Jim Halpert worked there. He was surprised and amused to hear I’d been driving the subway train. But he didn’t care too much. I went looking for someone who did, maybe a transit reporter or someone, and wondered why I hadn’t tried to call the newsroom earlier. But I wasn’t too bothered. Then I woke up.

Last night’s dream

In the dream, I was climbing a steep and free-standing staircase.

The stairs were a ladder with character, villainous for putting normalcy on a scare. Two people I recognized had either just finished a descent and stepped away at my arrival or had reached the platform at the top that led inside the dormitory. The stairs and platform had a hard plastic or metal mesh, maybe plastic-covered metal like builders introduced to playgrounds in the last two decades. That I could see through was the notable thing. Because being terrified is notable. There was no railing on the left side, just stepping into space and falling, because falling equals disbelief plus realization plus dropping, and a skinny metal rail on the right side, my bad one. Had the rail been on the left, I could’ve grabbed tight unconsciously all the way up, reasserting my sense of balance with every step, compensating mentally for a thorough-going lack of real balance. The right side was disordered and problematic.

My two contexts here had been years ago. The first was the stairs at my uncle’s old townhouse in Florida. I could see between the stairs. Everyone could see between the stairs, but other people didn’t seem as affected. Where the back of each stair should’ve been was nothing, and incorrectly stepping so as to slip through was physically impossible but mentally undeniable. And while the dream’s stairs were never clear about backing, the ground below was obvious enough in the mesh.

The second context was the stairs from grade school. Basement to first floor to second, the circuit upward had the width of a two-car garage (as conceived, obviously, by a grade schooler) and came in bunches of two dozen (similar conception applies) with center railings but no wall.

For the early years on them, when walking alone, I clung to the right side and hurried so not to fall — disbelieving, realizing and dropping into the stairwell’s abyss, bouncing downward, then off the Blessed Sacrament wall and hurtling around the corner as surely had to occur with my childhood momentum, incorporating disbelief and realization temporarily into regretful understanding, dropping hard into the next abyss, a tumbling flight past a teacher or kindergartner in a peripheral hallway who would be horrified, race to my body and report a vain and guilty battle with gravity, tragic for the little stair-prophet who tried.

Last night’s dream came on a college campus. That dream setting has been recurring for me. I was late for a class I hadn’t known until that moment had my enrollment or even existed. I crossed the campus to get books I must have left in my room, and the staircase appeared to be the only way inside. I began the climb, and I shook myself awake.

Selling into my sleep

Hadn’t dreamed about work in a while. Last night I dreamed the paper published a letter from a reader who argued I wrote too much about Springsteen. The reader asked how I could spend so much time writing about Springsteen when there so many other musicians to cover. The hed and body of the letter misspelled “btrpkc” in two different ways.

This letter was, of course, only a dream. I have never written about Springsteen at work. The Editorial department would never publish a letter making that mistake. Nor would it misspell a username in two different ways. But, notably, the dream did have the letter’s hed and body in the correct typefaces. And the letters appeared to run on a right-hand page, which meant we’d sold a full-page ad in the back of the A section. Which was terrific but, of course, only a dream.

New year, new job

I start work today as a product innovation manager on USAT’s new product development team. We made up the title Wednesday. The actual name of the team may be New Product development team or new Product Development team or something else entirely. The job descriptions and salaries are still up in the air. But it should be good. There are four people on the team, and we all want to get stuff done. Transition and other issues are kind of messing with my head, though. Stress dreams all over. I lost half of last night thinking about leaving behind two and a half years of work with Network Journalism, even though the project goes into good hands and part of it stays in mine. After trying to call a friend or two who were probably asleep, I finally fell off by imagining myself making small dark wooden boxes. Zen-ish? I would make each small box big enough for my bare feet, put it on the ground and step inside. Then I would make another box and repeat.

Last night: A corporate media dream?

I work for a Sam Zell media company. I talk with a friend about the company’s financials and stock price as we get into the elevator. I realize Zell and assistants are already in the elevator, so I change the subject. We rise X number of stories when Zell and minions get out. One minion pops his head back to the door as it closes and tells my friend and I in a friendly way the financials and stock price are fine.

I have a mess of secret documents, and a man comes and gets them. Somehow still in the elevator, I step onto a floor and walk to the big glass windows, looking outside. The room is crowded with workers, all a little worried about the cat and the gun. There’s a loaded gun just sitting on a chair, and a jumpy cat is all over the room. What if the cat jumps on the gun? Hpw will the gun spin? Where will the bullet fly?

The scene changes, and I’m having an affair with Zell’s trophy wife. (In real life, Zell is divorced twice.) From bed, the wife speaks to Victoria. Who? A talking computer apparently runs the home, and I know I’ve been found out. If the home computer know she’s there, the computer knows I’m there too. (In my real life, I’ve recently seen Iron Man.) On a sofa in the room, I race to put my shoes on, but I know I’m too late.

Zell strides in and throws himself onto the bed. He tosses me a sheaf of papers. My evaluation forms, he says. “Change one thing,” he says, getting louder. “You have TWO MINUTES!” I flip through the forms and realize they go back to old printers, dot-matrix on yellowed paper, from before I ever began working. These forms aren’t job forms. They’re the evaluation forms for my entire life. I have to change one thing about my life, make one thing worse, to earn his forgiveness. I wake up.