Nightmare Come True

Some people claim that they “never dream.” My understanding is that everyone dreams, but some people—for whatever reason—don’t remember their dreams. Among those who do, there seem to be some pretty much universal themes. Is there anyone who hasn’t dreamed of being back in school? You haven’t prepared for the test. Or you don’t remember which class is next or how to get to the classroom. Or you’ve forgotten your locker combination. My case is even worse: since I was briefly a high school teacher in a previous life (Latin, four years, straight out of college), I often dream that I’m teaching the class but have forgotten how to find the classroom!

Another common type of dream—at least for me—is frustration when trying to leave on a trip. I have a plane or train to catch, and everything is going wrong. The light is burnt out in the bathroom, I can’t find the right clothes to pack, and there are constant interruptions as the clock is inexorably ticking. If I do manage to get away, I realize when I arrive at the airport (or even at my destination) that I have forgotten to pack underwear or that my suitcase contains nothing but underwear!

It is my understanding that all dreams of this nature stem from a sense of “unpreparedness” in some aspect of life. They occur when life spins out of control and we feel that we no longer have a firm grasp on all the threads of our daily existence. I try to avoid this; I depend heavily on To Do lists, Outlook tasks, shopping lists, and—when I am making a trip—a packing list.

Usually. This weekend I went out of town for a Rotary meeting. Since it was just an overnight trip to a location only an hour away, I didn’t take it seriously enough. I didn’t make a packing list, and, because the day of my departure was full of other mundane chores, I didn’t devote much attention to packing—just hurriedly threw some things into a suitcase.

As I was leaving, I said to my husband, “I hope I haven’t forgotten anything important.” He said that surely anything I had forgotten, I could do without for 24 hours. He was mostly right.

I hadn’t gotten very far before I started thinking of things I’d meant to take and forgotten, and as the day wore on, I thought of others. Some omissions were inconvenient, but none were vital.

Except one. The outfit I’d planned for the next day included a pair of corduroy pants, a black turtleneck, and either of two jackets (light or heavier) depending on the meeting room temperature. As I was about to get in bed, it dawned on me that I had packed the pants and jackets but not the turtleneck!

This was not the first time I’ve omitted a garment in this way—sometimes I’ve dithered about whether or not to take a particular shirt or pair of pants, decided not to, and later wished I had—but it was certainly the most disastrous! Needless to say, I didn’t get to sleep easily, thrashing both physically and mentally as I considered whether it was worth getting dressed again and going out to look for a 24-hour Walmart on the off-chance of finding an acceptable substitute. Or a two-hour drive home and back to collect the turtleneck. Or—wild idea—calling an acquaintance in Orange Beach to see if she had one I could borrow.

I reluctantly concluded that, unless I wanted to make another kind of nightmare come true, I had no choice but to wear the same outfit a second day. I reassured myself that, since most of the other attendees were men, probably no one would notice. I did confess my situation to two female fellow Rotarians (both of them, coincidentally, wearing black turtlenecks), and they both said that (a) they were not satisfied with the clothes they’d brought, either, and (b) the men would never notice!

In future, however, I will remember that even the slightest trip deserves appropriate preparation—even if I have to draft a full-blown packing list to make sure I don’t leave out something vital!

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