I think this was my first post-COVID dream…

I think the setting was supposed to be the old State newspaper building, but wildly different on the inside…

Well, we know I have long COVID, which consists of some post-COVID physical symptoms.

But I think I just had my first post-COVID dream. (Actually, this was Thursday night, but I’m just getting around to posting it.) So I thought I’d better set it down for the sake of medical science.

I have work dreams, or perhaps I should call them stress dreams, all the time. In terms of the way they feel, they’re related to the cliché dreams that everyone who has been to college has — it’s the end of the semester and you have to go take an exam, only you’ve never been to the class, and you’re afraid to ask anyone where it is, because then they’ll know you haven’t been to the class, etc.

At least, that’s the way those dreams work with me. And with me, looking back on my college career, they’re not that different from reality. But they’re stressful.

And the work dream I had last night was like that, but it had a new, post-COVID wrinkle. By the way, I should mention that these dreams are almost never related to any work I’ve done in the last few years. They’re drawn from the intense situations I encountered daily in the decades of my newspaper career — sometimes from the early days in the newsroom, and occasionally from my time later on the editorial board.

This fit in that genre, but with a twist that is very much pandemic-related. It’s not that I’d had COVID in the dream, it’s that my work habits were what so many of us have experienced the last couple of years. And it’s not that — as in the college dreams — I didn’t know where the office was. I knew the place well, but I just hadn’t been there in a really long time. And things had changed radically.

(In this sense, it’s a little like my current life. We shut down the ADCO office when the pandemic started — in mid-March 2020. Sometime later, we shut it down for good. But in the last few months, my colleagues opened a new office. Nobody goes there as often as they went to the old one. I don’t go there at all. Except for two meetings and one case where I went and took a picture of a client, I haven’t encountered any work that can’t be done in my home office. Anyway, those circumstances seem  to have imposed themselves on this otherwise standard newspaper dream.)

It started with a phone call. Someone called me from the office — an office I hadn’t been to on a long time. He wanted to discuss a backup editorial (a short item that ran below the lede editorial, back when such things existed) he was writing for the Sunday page. He wanted some sort of guidance on it. I found this call disconcerting on a number of levels. First, it was ridiculous that he seemed to think he needed urgent help at this time, because it was a Monday afternoon — normally we wouldn’t even have identified a topic for such an edit at that point. Secondly, the call cut off before we could get the matter settled, and I couldn’t seem to reconnect with him.

But the worst part was that I had no idea who this guy was. And I was aware that there were a number of such people at the office now — new associate editors and editorial writers I had never met, but whom I was supposed to be supervising. It dawned on me that this was probably an unacceptable situation. I decided I should probably start going in to the office and sort all this out. I didn’t want to, but it seemed the responsible thing to do. At the very least, I needed to find out who this one guy was, so I could address his question.

I needed to go there and find Cindi Scoppe, who was the only person I knew who still worked there. (Of course, in real life, even though she was the last member of my team to get laid off, at this point she hasn’t been there either, for several years.)

I went there, and I eventually found her. She was outside a door to the editorial department. I peered in through a window in the door, and saw a place I’ve never seen before. A confusing, chaotic place, crowded with old desks jammed together, and strangers wandering among them. I had hoped to infer somehow which of them had called me, but I couldn’t. Nor could Cindi. She knew these people — she named some of them to me — but had no idea which had called me. I was going to have to get past that door somehow — it was locked — and engage these people in conversation until I sorted out which was the right one, and answered his question.

Eventually, I got in, and engaged with some of these strangers. My first problem is that I had no idea where to put down my laptop, because I couldn’t figure out where my office was. I finally realized that none of these people had offices (we all did back in my newspaper days) so maybe I just had a desk among all the others. I found this disconcerting, and was already missing working at home, but worse, I couldn’t sort out which was mine, so I couldn’t put down the things I was carrying.

And of course, I couldn’t ask anyone. Cindi had wandered off, and I couldn’t say anything to these strangers that indicated that I didn’t know where my workplace was, and I had no idea who any of them were.

Anyway, you get the idea. Like in the classic college dream.

The weird thing is, in real life, I’ve experienced no such difficulty working from home. I talk to people and I write things. With very rare exceptions, of it is easily accomplished using the phone, or perhaps Zoom on my iPad, and my PC — all right here in my office.

But in the dream, it seems I had thought everything was working fine before the dream started, and the main point of everything that was happening was that I was finally realizing what should have been obvious.

This doesn’t worry me, because I have these work/stress dreams all the time. I’m just setting this one down as the first in which the stress seems to have been driven by things we’ve experienced during the pandemic — in this case, by my favorite part of the “new normal,” the part where I don’t have to go to an office outside my home any more.

Anyone else have any such dreams?

3 thoughts on “I think this was my first post-COVID dream…

  1. Bill

    Last night I had a dream
    You were in it I was in it with you
    Everyone that I knew
    And everyone that you know was in my dream
    I saw a vampire
    I saw a ghost
    Everybody scared me but you sacred me the most
    In the dream I had last night
    In the dream I had last night
    In my dream

    It started out in a barnyard at sundown
    And everyone was laughing and you were lying on the ground
    You said “Honey can you tell me what you name is?”
    “Honey, can you tell me what your name is?”
    I said, “You know what my name is.”

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I seem to have had another one of these, using a lot of the same elements, except this one was actually about COVID, the disease itself, combined with the standard work stress dream ingredients.

    It was last night — or rather this morning, just before waking. Those tend to be the ones I can remember.

    In this one, I was actually sick. I was in the hospital, in fact — something that thank God has not happened with regard to COVID, but I think it wrapped in references to my recent experiences with the stroke, and tearing up my hand.

    The symptoms were no different from anything I experienced, if you combine the stroke and COVID aftereffects. Fatigue, a tendency to sleep a lot. Nurses kept coming to bring me pills — a startling number of pills. I mean, like, dozens of them, of various shapes, sizes and colors. Pills I’d never seen before, and no one could explain what they were for specifically. Seems like I was going to have to wait for some unnamed doctor to tell me about those.

    Anyway, even though I still felt pretty low, I eventually got tired of the pill-taking and got dressed and left the hospital. And I walked about, trying to think of what I should do with the rest of the day. So I went to the paper. No, I don’t know what paper. I didn’t recognize the newsroom. And yes, it was the newsroom, not editorial.

    I walked in and looked around, and realized the place looked strange. It was filled with strange, colorful objects. Dunno what they were because I didn’t look closely, but the overall impression was of something I’ve seen in real life: Remember a few years back, when Barnes & Noble turned over a lot of its space to toys? Very colorful objects, but they made you wonder — what happened to all the books?

    Anyway, I walked around looking for something to do — something not to strenuous, something I felt up to doing, but which could occupy me for a few hours.

    I wandered over to the copy desk, deciding I’d spend some time “on the rim” — something that doesn’t exist physically anymore, but I was thinking in terms of the kind of work that entailed: just reading stories and writing headlines and moving them on through the system — nothing that required managerial skills or worrying about running the place. When you’re on the rim, other people have made all the decisions about what to cover and how to cover it, and where this particular story will go in the paper, and what sort of headline you need to write for it. I’m thinking; yeah, I could do that, despite my condition. This was what I had done my first days out of college; it keeps you busy, but was less taxing than anything else I’ve done at a newspaper.

    So I went up to the slot man — the person overseeing the desk operation — and asked if they needed help moving copy. He was somebody I’d never met before, although I had recognized some others I saw as I approached his desk.

    He didn’t appreciate the offer of help. In fact, he was kind of ticked off. He looked at me with impatient disdain, and said, “The shift started at 1:40 p.m.”

    This was — I’m just guessing — about 4 something.

    And of course, this was all news to me. I had no idea I was expected, no idea I was actually employed as a copy editor. But of course, I didn’t challenge it. If you’re having one of those college dreams, you don’t question the idea that you were supposed to be going to that class all semester (and didn’t); you just take on that guilt and embarrassment without challenging it. And of course, I wasn’t about to say I hadn’t known any of this.

    But I must have indicated something about not having realized I had been expected for this 1:40 shift, because he responded with great disdain, noting that as everyone knew, the schedule was posted in the actual newspaper.

    Which seemed to me a very odd place to post a work schedule, but I didn’t say that. What I did say was that I had been busy at 1:40; I had been in the hospital.

    That didn’t keep this stranger from being ticked at me about being hours late, but after a moment he forced himself to ask how I was doing — although he obviously didn’t care; he was just fulfilling a social obligation.

    He also asked what my diagnosis was, and what the medicos were doing about it. There I couldn’t help him, but I mentioned something I had heard one of the nurses say — that they had me on the “SNSE treatment.” Or something like that.

    I had no idea what those letters meant, but I was trying to be responsive as a show of appreciation for his asking. The letters seemed vaguely familiar to him — like maybe there had recently been a story in the paper about such a treatment — but he didn’t know anything more about it than I did, really.

    At that point the dream ended. I don’t know why, but I woke up and turned over, hoping to get more sleep. Then the alarm went off.

    There was one thing different about this dream. I have stress dreams — worrying about work, or about attending class — all the time. But I can’t remember one in which someone actually called me for not attending class or not showing up for work. Normally, I just WORRY that somebody’s going to notice and say something. This slot man was a new character…

    Thinking about it afterwards, it occurs to me that maybe he was affiliated with the Superintendent of Dreams, from Twain’s little-known manuscript, “The Great Dark”… An ominous character who actually steps in and regulates dreams…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, now, this is interesting (to me). I just looked up “SNSE.” Turns out that’s what the stock markets call Sensei Biotherapeutics, “a clinical-stage immunotherapy company”…

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