My dad was an unrepentant Freudian shrink. He had a classic psychiatrist’s couch and kept a bust of Sigmund on top of the grand piano in our living room. He talked a lot about the Oedipus Complex. Interpreting dreams was one of his specialties.
Even the most unqualified layman wouldn’t need his assistance to make sense of the dream I had last night: I’m feeling like an unproductive loser.
I was a reporter again, back in the newsroom. An editor tapped me on the shoulder, and, as I often did when summoned thusly, I shuddered. The shoulder taps invariably meant an unwelcome assignment was in the offing – perhaps a tale about the latest permutation in the local weather patterns, or a tiny fluctuation in the price of gas – something that no sane person could give a shit about.
Worse yet, perhaps they wanted to send me into the eye of a hurricane or off to Pakistan, where another reporter had recently been decapitated by a sneering lunatic wielding a machete. This was an ongoing concern of mine, having my head chopped off.
Last night’s dream concerned a more mundane assignment: covering a local school board meeting. I’d never covered the board before and hadn’t been reading our coverage of these blowhards, who were debating the merits of a major computer purchase. I couldn’t identify a single one of them and knew nothing about the pros and cons of this computer deal, which they had been fiercely debating for months.
Under ordinary circumstances, I’d have prepared for the meeting by logging onto the newsroom computer system and calling up our previous coverage of the issue. But in my dream, I couldn’t accomplish this simple task. It had been so long since I’d written a story, I could no longer remember how to log on to the system. A responsible reporter would have been cranking out stories every single day; they’d never have forgotten their computer password. But I hadn’t written a damned thing for months and months and months. It was a miracle they hadn’t fired me.
I went to the school board meeting and humiliated myself by failing to identify a single board member. I ran around asking everyone a series of incredibly dumb questions, then returned to the newsroom, utterly confused about the proceedings I had just witnessed. I tried in vain to log on to my computer, which my editors had relocated to an uncovered desk outdoors, where it rained approximately 260 days a year. On my way to my new digs, I passed by an editor who was firing a sobbing reporter for no legitimate reason. Just for fun.
Did I mention that the San Jose Mercury News, a real-life newspaper that had 440 editorial employees when I worked there, now has just 39? And more layoffs are on the way! The Seattle Times, my current local paper, has sold off its parking lot and main newsroom in order to stay afloat. It only hires millennials, whom it pays a pittance for their extensive labors.
This 58-year-old geezer is in no danger of finding a newspaper job anytime soon.
I used to have a blog, but it’s dormant. I’m writing a novel, but I’ve been stuck on page 198 since 2015.
I’m not sure why I stopped. I think I was worried that everyone would hate it — my family, my friends, feminists across the globe, members of various ethnic and racial groups, the former ambassador to Vietnam, an endless array of honest, upright citizens of all shapes, sizes, shades and nationalities.
I’m scared to finish. So, I wrote this instead.