I'm dreaming about work
December 22, 2004 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Work dreams. I work as a bartender, and after particularly busy shifts, I often dream all night of work-related scenes. [More inside]

My recurring work dream is that every single person who comes up to the bar orders chips and salsa. No drinks, no entrees, just chips and salsa. My girlfriend used to work in the industry, and her recurring dream was that she had her regular section, then had one table across the street. Another old friend from the industry always dreamt that right as he was making last call, 100 people would stream in. What is/was your recurring work dream?
posted by vito90 to Grab Bag (36 answers total)
I still have recurring dreams about the last job I was in. Same cube. Same boss. Same bullshit that made me leave in the first place. I'd have some impossible task and then mid dream realize I don't work there anymore and would wake up happy. And the times when I don't realize I'm gone from that place, wake up freaked out until I realize I've escaped.
posted by birdherder at 9:02 AM on December 22, 2004

Best answer: At my last job, our controller was a former cheerleader. Her boyfriend was an unhappy restaurant manager. They both had spells of sleepwalking, sleeptalking, and so forth. She would smile broadly in her sleep and say, "I knew it!" and he would say, "What?" and she would say, "We won the championships!"

Nights later, she wakes up and can't find Russ--he's not in the bed, not in the living room . . . finally she goes out on the patio, where he's stumbling around in his underwear with a bathtowel draped over his arm, asking their empty patio furniture whether their dining experiences were satisfactory.
posted by littlegreenlights at 9:16 AM on December 22, 2004

I worked as an x-ray file clerk for awhile, which meant my only job for 8 hours a day was filing x-rays. After about a week, all I would dream about was filing those damn x-rays.

On the plus side, I was really struggling with the "Color=number" filing system until my first dream. After that, it was like second nature.
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on December 22, 2004

I'd have dreams of books upon books, stacked high upon a book truck, talking to me. Yep, opening and closing, asking me to shelve them.

Which I did. Only to turn around to push the empty truck back to the office, only to find books upon books, stacked high upon the book truck, talking to me.

This may very well be a level of hell Dante forgot to mention.
posted by icontemplate at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2004

I haven't had any work dreams, but I've only been at my current job for about a year. When in law school, however, I routinely had dreams about my finals. In the week or so before finals, I would often dream that I had registered for a class, only to forget about it early in the semester. I would remember I was in the class the morning of the final, and have to take the exam without having studied or even attending the class. Horrible.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:38 AM on December 22, 2004

In college I had a job loading trucks at large international parcel shipping corporation - getting up at 2am or so to shove boxes into trucks. I would dream about this, wake up, go to work and actually do it. The work was incredibly mechanized and repetitive and I found the dreams indistinguishable from the actual work to the point where I woke up and felt convinced I had already been to work that day. Easily the most miserable time in my entire life.
posted by milkrate at 9:41 AM on December 22, 2004

I still have recurring dreams about the last job I was in. Same cube. Same boss. Same bullshit that made me leave in the first place...

I get those every now and again too, and when I wake up I have what I can only describe as an "anxiety hangover". Fortunately, I quit the job but only after months of it wearing me down. That stuff is hard to shake.
posted by box elder at 9:43 AM on December 22, 2004

Best answer: Gah. I hate server dreams. My worst one came after I quit my second to last server job:

No bartender. No kitchen staff. No other servers. Just me. And the restaurant is full, and I've got a nine-top that doesn't speak English very well and keeps ordering soft drinks that we don't have (orange soda? birch beer? grape soda?) AND then the roof starts to leak over the table.

I woke myself up by practically screaming in my own head "YOU DON'T WORK HERE ANYMORE".

Pretty much anytime I'm doing anything repetitive (ie data entry and the scintillating dreams that evokes) or stressful, I dream about it. Since I went back to school, I have a lot of dreams where I'm trying to apply various legal concepts to regular activities, such as baking brownies using the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or thinking through the elements of various intentional torts to determine whether it's appropriate to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock.
posted by jennyb at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2004

monju_bosatsu, I had that type of dream when I was in college, too, and in fact, I still occasionally have it (I've been out of school for 13 years). I read somewhere once that it is actually pretty common for college graduates to keep having this dream.
posted by CMcKinnon at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2004

My recurring dream was from my first job at Howard Johnson's restaurant.

I worked at the ice cream counter [HoJo's was famous for their hot fudge sundaes] and I made a lot of ice cream desserts.

The dream [nightmare] was that hot fudge sundaes would chase me down demanding more whipped cream or nuts, "And where is my cherry?"

Thank goodness that only lasted 3 months and was over 30 years ago.
posted by kamylyon at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2004

When I worked in fast food, the worst times would be when we had Big Macs for a dollar. I'd go home and dream my house was a giant big mac producing machine, with the front door serving as the drive through.
posted by drezdn at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2004

I was reticent to bring it up earlier, but since school has been brought into the picture . . .

High school was pure misery for me; I went to a high school out in the sticks, with a whole lot of rednecks; this was in the days of Guess? jeans, and many of the girls had little worn-down denim circles around the Guess? triangles where their Skoal had rubbed against their back pockets. Our pep rallies each Friday consisted of a mid-twenties, severely retarded student/waterboy riding around the basketball court on a four-wheeler with gigantic school flags attached to the gun rack while Wild Thing played over the PA system.

I was in g/t and art and played two instruments in the band and weighed almost 300 pounds and generally didn't fit in at all. I was going to do early admissions to the local college, but my GPA was crappy due to my misery and inability to figure out what was going on, so, long story short, I showed up for the first day of my senior year, found out I had a unit of physical education and half a unit of free enterprise (final exam: fill out a check just like a grown-up!) left to take, said fuck it, and walked out. My mother signed some papers giving me permission to leave since I was 16; I got my GED the next day (which is a story in itself) and started college a couple of weeks later.

So the thing is that there was no closure, and even though I'm fairly successful now, there's something not quite right; I often dream about a situation comedy-style predicament that forces me to go back and finish high school, or take another year of band. I'm always thinking, Well, let's make the best of things! and settling in for it with a good attitude, then waking up on the edge of panic once things go downhill.
posted by littlegreenlights at 10:45 AM on December 22, 2004

I have a couple recurring work/school related nightmares:

1) I majored in Russian in college. At least once a month I dream that I'm taking my senior final exam in my language class the next day and I haven't been to class in a year. I never have this dream about any other class I've ever taken. I don't know why it's specifially always the language class.

2) I was a DJ at my college radio station (who wasn't?). Usually once a month or so I dream that a song has just ended and I have no record (remember records?) cued up and I can't find anything in the studio and there is dead air for endless excrucaiting minutes.

In the past I've worked as a chef and a bartender at a bunch of places and usually the first week of a new job I spend my nights sitting up in bed sleep talking to customers or waiters.
posted by spicynuts at 10:52 AM on December 22, 2004

In my recurring work dreams I am trying to print the stupid newsletter and the Xerox breaks, or the layout is all wrong, or the boss wants to make a huge change last minute. Or I am folding and assembling the thing all night long. So it's all real-life scenarios.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:07 AM on December 22, 2004

I used to deliver pizza. My girlfriend at the time said that not only did I talk in my sleep, saying things like "Where's Evergreen Avenue?" and "I'm supposed to have a large supreme," but I would actually hold up a pillow in one hand and rotate it as if it were the steering wheel on the car. At that time I drove a stick shift, so while one hand steered, the other would grab her arm or a cat (we had about six; there was always one under foot) and use it to shift gears.

And yes, I too still have the school dreams, possibly because I dropped out of grad school, leaving several classes as incompletes. Anyway, they vary a lot in terms of setting and details, but the theme is pretty much the same. It's the end of the semester, there's a class I haven't even been going to let alone reading or studying for, and the final exam is today. I usually wake up in a cold sweat.
posted by Clay201 at 11:17 AM on December 22, 2004

spicynuts: At least once a month I dream that I'm taking my senior final exam in my language class the next day and I haven't been to class in a year.

Clay201: It's the end of the semester, there's a class I haven't even been going to let alone reading or studying for, and the final exam is today.

Well, at least I'm not the only one. I wonder why this particular theme is so common?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:26 AM on December 22, 2004

monju_bosatsu, I have the same dream only it's high school (which was 20 years ago!). I always wake up with a stomach ache.

No recurring work dreams, though. The only work dream I can recall was just before moving from SoCal to Texas. I dreamt about my new office and co-workers. Where I hadn't been before. And yes, the details were correct.
posted by deborah at 12:05 PM on December 22, 2004

Chalk another one up for the weird school dreams. I had a dream around finals that I came to class and forgot totally to come to class or study. I was panicking about ways to get out of it. I also have a recurring dream that I'm stuck after school and it's really weird as everyone else has left. This dream stopped after high school, I think it had something to do with the independence. Or more likely just random neurons firing.
posted by geoff. at 12:12 PM on December 22, 2004

I too often have the "back in school" dream. This can either be "Back in HS" or "Back in College" but they usually both end with me thinking "Why the fuck am I here? I have my masters!" and storming out pissed off. I storm out so hard I end up waking myself up, making me doubly pissed off.

Usually after I work one of the Beer Summit events I volunteer for, I end up dreaming that I'm right back there working the event again. This was particularly horrible last April when the event lasted three days. It felt like all I did the entire weekend was pour beers, tote kegs, and deal with a pissed off Magners rep.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:19 PM on December 22, 2004

I also have the school dreams. Sometimes it's the one everyone else is talking about, that I have a final exam in a class that I haven't attended or done any work for since the first day. I've also dreamt that my high school or college (usually high school) found out I was missing some obscure credit and I have to make it up or else my diploma is no longer valid. (I graduated high school almost 14 years ago!) I've also dreamt that I had a big project or presentation due and I was feverishly scrambling to get it done at the last minute, and I panic because I can't find some of the information I need. Sometimes I even say to myself in the dream "Why am I doing this? I graduated! I have my BA!" I usually wake up freaked out, and it takes me a moment to realize that it was just a dream.

I took a few years off between when I started college and when I actually graduated, but I never had these kind of dreams until after I graduated college.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:33 PM on December 22, 2004

I haven't taken a French course since highschool, but whenever school starts to get stressful, I start dreaming about French homework that I need to do and can't possibly finish in time.

Why French? I don't know. But I actually like them, because I wake up and realize I do not, in fact, have to translate 100 pages of something.
posted by kavasa at 12:39 PM on December 22, 2004

If it makes all you school dreamers feel any better, mine continued after I made the transition from student to teacher. Sometimes it's the first day of classes, I can't find my classroom, and I know that my students are not going to wait for me for much longer. Other times, I get to class and realize that I have no syllabus to give them and nothing to say on the topic. But the worst is when the students are yelling at me, walking out of my lectures, and sometimes throwing things. When I dream one of those, I always tell my students the next day what assholes they were last night.
posted by bibliowench at 3:23 PM on December 22, 2004

Yet another school dreamer.

- There's a band performance, but I hadn't attended a rehearsal that year; had no idea what the repertoire for the concert was, hadn't practiced for a year. Highschool and college scenarios.

- We had a rotating 'block' program in HS (5 classes a day, 6 per semester) and I'd show up at school with no idea which class I'm supposed to be in, or where the heck it is - and I hadn't done my homework (not that that ever held me back in HS).

- I use this machine hooked up to a computer that reads fluorescent antibodies that are stuck to cells; little dots show up as each cell is read (several hundred dots per second). I'm usually sitting in front of it for hours every day. Lots of dreams of little red dots dancing across a computer screen.

Almost invariably, these would be followed up with my running around a deserted schoo/labl trying to find my locker (opening the combination lock is another story) so I can retrieve a hockey stick/shotgun/whatever to defend against myself against aliens/zombies/my supervisor/mercenaries/things-that-go-boo. The floorplan would be a missmash of elementary school, HS, college, and university (two different ones) only magnified by a factor of 10.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:26 PM on December 22, 2004

It turns out it's all due to our system of meritocracy.

(and yes, I have these school dreams as well. In spite of having a PhD, mine seem to focus on being either in college or in 7th grade)
posted by neurodoc at 4:36 PM on December 22, 2004

I am living in China and teaching spoken English. The first time I had a dream in Chinese I was really hoping I was getting it. Nope, apparently my subconscious understands more than my conscious mind. Just my luck.
posted by geekyguy at 6:05 PM on December 22, 2004

When I worked as a waitress in college, I used to have all-night dreams (or so it seemed) where I was running all the tables in the restaurant and everyone was demanding water and salads. I'd go to sleep so tired from work and wake up so tired from dreaming about work.

RE: the school dreams, every so often I have this recurring dream that began when I was getting my master's in music -- in the dream, I'm almost done with school when I learn that I can't graduate because I didn't meet the solfege requirement. I usually wake up at the part where I'm told by my advisor that I need to take four more years of solfege to graduate.

That won't seem like torture to anyone who hasn't had to endure solfege, but there you have it...
posted by mothershock at 6:28 PM on December 22, 2004

Variation on the theme: I was constantly involved in theater when I was in high school, and more than once had The Actor's Nightmare. Mine would ususally take the form of walking into the theater to learn that it was opening night of some kind of "revival" of a show I'd done a year or more ago. "You still remember all of your lines, right? And you heard about the changes?" Those were always sweat-inducing.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:38 PM on December 22, 2004

I usually wake up at the part where I'm told by my advisor that I need to take four more years of solfege to graduate.


Though I think being told that I had to take four more years of Eurhythmics would be more painful for me.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:39 PM on December 22, 2004

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I'm usually naked from the waist down. My shirt is long enough to barely (teehee!) cover my ass if I move very carefully.
posted by deborah at 7:22 PM on December 22, 2004

school dream, yep. It's finals for my one and only college math class, "math for art majors," i believe it was called.

In real life, I freaked out, bombed it, and got a total pity grade of a D-, not based on performance in the least. In the dream, the teacher fails me as I had scored.

Further entertainment may be found in that I found out three years later that I had not graduated after all - a language requirement changed from the time I did my intake counseling to when I believed I'd graduated, and I had to take the language credits out here and get them credited over at the school I attended.

So I fully expect them to revoke the degree based on inscrutable changes in bureaucratic procedure at any moment.
posted by mwhybark at 10:02 PM on December 22, 2004

My (least) favorite school dream:

It's my first year of law school, and I've been concentrating so hard on my Civil Procedure take-home exam that I don't notice when the deadline passes. I rush to hand it in a few hours later, scared that the registrar won't accept it....but there's a long line of my classmates waiting to hand in their exams too, so I get in the back. Whew.

Here's the strange part: we had to turn in our exams by rolling them up and inserting them in hollow, peeled pineapples. The fruit drips all over our hands and wets our exams. We were given strict instructions to do it this way, so what can we do? We dutifully wait in line holding our pineapples. As I get towards the head of the line, I worry that I didn't peel my pineapple correctly, and it looks kinda lopsided. I'm quietly hacking away the pokey part when I wake up.
posted by equipoise at 12:52 AM on December 23, 2004

Back when I was in school, I was shelf-stacking in the evenings, and playing a lot of Tetris.

I started dreaming that every time I completed a line of soup tins they disappeared. I gave up Tetris just after that...
posted by Leon at 2:27 AM on December 23, 2004

I haven't had this one in a while, but all through my late teens and 20s, whenever I started a new job, I almost always would have a recurring variation of the same anxiety dream--my new boss would lend me a car (or when I started teaching, a school bus), and I would get in a crash with it.

Yeah, that one's not too hard to figure out. Haven't had it in over 10 years, though, that I can recall.
posted by LairBob at 6:11 AM on December 23, 2004

mwhybark the language requirement thing actually happened to me (by fault of my original assigned advisor). Luckily, my self-chosen advisor was able to finangle the deal.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2004

I've had the same school dream as everyone else: exam in a class I've never even been to, always college, almost always French, oddly enough, although I did well in French. As for work, every time I put on a really big event I dream about it for a couple of days beforehand. Usually it's pretty classic: everything goes wrong, noone shows up because the invites were printed wrong, there's no food, the tables are never delivered, guests are starting to arrive and we're not ready at all, or part of the building falls off just as the auction starts.

The really scary dream though was the one I had a couple nights ago: a metafilter dream, aaauuuggghhhh!! Yes, Matt was deleting my Askme question, and everyone was laughing, and I could see this giant hammer coming down on my username. Is that pathetic or what? I need to do some actual work at work once in a while instead of sitting on the internet so I can dream about bank deposits and being yelled at by my boss. . .infinitely preferable!
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:33 AM on December 23, 2004

Surprised no one's brought out a cashiering dream... I'm a teller, and that "line keeps getting longer and I can't keep up" dream sucks.
posted by e^2 at 1:45 PM on December 24, 2004

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