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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nightmares of Repetition

Many, many years ago, back when the minimum wage was $1.15/hour or less, I held a part-time job at the Lansing Civic Center. What our crew did depended on the event. For a circus or a country Western concert, we sold popcorn, hot dogs, coffee and soft drinks; for formal events we checked hats. Yes, hats. Even in those early post-Kennedy years, older men still wore hats. In cold weather, we checked coats, too, and if the weather happened to be rainy, oh, no! Umbrellas!

An evening in the coat check room involved one long spell of quiet, with little to do but chat and read, book-ended by two episodes of absolute frenzy. First came the rush of arrivals, with coats piling up on the counter almost faster than they could be checked in; we ran and scurried, arms loaded sometimes up to our noses with coats! That heart-thumping activity was followed by the lull of the event itself, interrupted only occasionally by a visit from someone needing something from a coat pocket or by an early departure. At the end of the evening came the madness of the exodus, men crowded and squeezed around the counter, handing their numbers over the heads of other men, shouting to direct us to coats and hats. Most tossed tips into the aluminum pie plates on the counter when handed their coats and/or hats and/or umbrellas. Tips! We never got tips during the circus when we were selling hot dogs! There was, however, a price to be paid for the “easy money” of the coat check room, because after such an evening came the dreams.

Any tedious, repetitious activity can infiltrate the dream state, lengthening a day’s labor and extending it through the hours of what should be rest. And so, back then, during sleep, the work continued, coat after coat after coat, hat after hat — until someone insisted that he’d checked a hat, but I could find no hat matching his number! Panic! Umbrellas went missing in the coat check nightmares, too. Because it is the dream state itself, not its content, that determines what will be a nightmare, what will roil the stomach, bring cold sweat to the skin, and send the mind into panic.

Last week and this, at my bookstore, my husband and I have been sorting books, boxing books for donation and recycling, moving furniture, loading some furniture to deliver to a consignment store, sorting books, boxing books, moving books, sorting, boxing, moving. 

How will the bookstore’s reduced floor space accommodate what survives the cut, and how can our best books most effectively be displayed? Backs ache, and legs and arms quiver by late afternoon. It’s exhausting. And then in my dreams, night after night, I continue moving tables and bookcases and shifting books, by subject, from one area of the shop to another. Was valuable inventory inadvertently scrapped? Oh, no!!! Panic!

The fun of transition!
From these silly, tiring dreams I wake in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep, and get up to read for a while, then return to bed for a couple more unconscious hours, until the packing and moving dreams again become so intolerable that they interrupt sleep. Morning. Pre-dawn light in the sky. Might as well get up. Sigh!

What would it be like to work for a moving company, for heaven’s sake? To do nothing day after day but move furniture and boxes? Would a person ever manage to have decent, interesting dreams?

This too shall pass.

Smaller view will mean more wall space
Long before summer arrives, the new wall will be in place and freshly painted. Pictures will be rehung and bookcases and tables of beautiful books redistributed. A new street entrance will welcome our customers. Everything will look fresh and new and welcoming.

Then, in June, I can start dreaming about sowing seeds and watering and mowing and weeding! If I’m lucky, I’ll also have dreams of exploring woods and fields with Sarah and of alfresco dinners beneath the linden trees with David and friends.

Violets will bloom again soon....


Dawn said...

Nothing like a little forced purging I guess. Though I think you will miss the space. Looking forward to seeing the new fresh look though. And I"m sure you're looking forward to it being DONE!

P. J. Grath said...

DONE -- AMEN! And let this be a lesson to me not to let so much accumulate from now on! If it isn't good enough for the showroom, it isn't good enough to store.

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