Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jobs and Nightmares

by Annette Dashofy

I haven’t always been a yoga instructor. Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away I worked sales at a number of retail establishments. All but one of these stores have since gone out of business. I refuse to take responsibility for their demise. Two of them closed their doors a year or so after I left, leading me to presume that they simply could not get along without me. A third was already in bankruptcy when I was hired. I showed up for my shift one day to find the doors padlocked. Come to think of it, they still owe me two weeks wages.

One of the now defunct businesses was a photofinishing/camera sales kiosk in the middle of a mall. I worked there for five years, including five Christmas shopping seasons. It was this frenzy of holiday buying that inspired my first round of job-related reoccurring nightmares.

This particular kiosk consisted of a storage room with a three-sided counter/display case in front of it, so we salesgirls were corralled within its confines. At closing time we rolled flaps of blue canvas down from the conduit framework to the tops of the counters, zipped the corners and slipped small locks through rings at the bottom of the zippers. It kept the honest folks out.

Camera and film sales soared during the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. Keep in mind this was long before digital cameras. If you wanted pictures, you needed rolls and rolls of Kodak or Fuji in 100, 200, or 400 speeds, 12, 24, or 36 exposures. Canon had just come out with the Sure Shot, a small easy-to-use 35mm. So you no longer needed to comprehend shutter speed or f-stops to get top quality photographs.

We couldn’t keep the little buggers in stock.

And then there was the day before Christmas, when all through the mall all the dads were frantic. What to get Mom? They wanted one of those new cameras. But we’d been sold out and no more were coming in until after Christmas. Last minute shoppers don’t care. Just give them something, anything to wrap and put under the tree! The recipient of the not-quite-right gift can always bring it back and return it.

I should mention here that we sales clerks hated the day AFTER Christmas with a passion for this very reason. Cranky people with a not-quite-right gift demanding to exchange it for that new-fangled camera. The one we’re still out of.

But I could deal with all this. The thing that haunted me in my sleep was the frenzied customers arriving at 5:05 PM (we closed at 5:00 on Christmas eve), after we’d dropped the canvas awnings and were attempting to zip them. Borderline hysterical faces forced their way between the gaps in the canvas. “I need five rolls of 110 film!” Another face appeared at another corner. “Please! I know I’m late could you pullleeezze sell me two rolls of 35mm, 36 exposure, 400 speed. No, not Fuji! Kodak.” We could easily wrack up another hundred dollars in sales with the canvas curtains drawn. Never mind that we sales clerks had family and friends we wanted to get home to. NOT UNTIL YOU SELL ME SOME FILM!

This scenario cropped up time and time again in my sleep. My reoccurring nightmare wasn’t limited to the holiday season, but it always revolved around me trying to close out the register and zip up the canvas while frantic and demanding customers kept UN-zipping them and demanding to be waited on. AGH!

Jump ahead twenty years to the present. I teach yoga. Calm, relaxing, stress-reducing yoga. And yet, I have a new reoccurring nightmare revolving around this career, as well. In my new nightmare, I try to get class started, but my students won’t settle down. They’re having a party and won’t listen to me. But this dream has no basis in actuality. I have a class or two where they tend to get a bit chatty prior to class, but they always settle down as soon as I start to speak. My friend who owns the yoga center where I teach has confided that she has the same nightmare. Go figure.

But nightmares in my other career—writing—are a great source of material. I’ve awoken from a terrifying dream, jumping with joy. What a great story that would make!

I have two short stories available currently in online magazines and one of them, “Sanctuary” came right from the horrors of my restless sleep.

Maybe there’s a story to be mined from somewhere in that Christmas Eve trauma. Hmm.

So does anyone else have any job-related reoccurring nightmares they’d like to share?


Joyce said...

I never have nightmares. I'm one of those people who never remember dreams, unless it's one that's going to come true. Weird, I know.

I feel your pain about working retail, though. I worked at the old Revco store downtown on Fifth Avenue when I was in college. Yuck.

Brenda Roger said...

Before the first day of art camp, I had a dream that I overslept and missed half of the day. Also, I had a dream that I TOUCHED one of the paintings in the museum, right on the paint, in front of the director and my boss. Anytime I have put a great deal of effort into a program, I can't sleep the night before and always think I'm going to be late and miss it.

I worked retail for many years and I would love to share, but I've blocked it out!

Tory said...

I have recurring nightmares about spiders. Ted Andrews in _Animal Speak_ says that writers often have spiders as a totem animal, so I'm hoping it fits.

I loved, "Sanctuary," Annette! Was it the first scene (the concrete canyon) that emerged from your nightmare?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tory. My nightmare was being chased through dark city streets and taking refuge in an old church with a bunch of people (instead of the two in the story) who kept morphing into other people so I didn't know who to trust.

And, Brenda, I refuse to block out my retail sales experience. By remembering every minute, I know I will never be lured into another retail job EVER. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, etc, etc.

Kristine said...

Oh yes, I still have recurring nightmares of my time working in retail. My husband does, too. Endless lines of grocery store customers fill my dreams.

Nancy said...

I still have the nightmare about being backstage, about to go on in a play, and I don't know my lines. I keep catching other actors as they come off stage, but they can't help me. Thing is, I never actually get ON stage--it's just the pre-performance anxiety.