Dream # 3: The “Post Office at College” dream

This dream I can explain very briefly:

For some unexplained reason, I go to the campus mailbox of one of the two colleges I attended. This dream is always the same: I go to the mailbox, and I haven’t been there in years, and there is a huge pile of mail waiting for me.

That’s it.

Not being some kind of Freudian, I have my cheap shit interpretation:

I’m not using my education the way I should. So: old mail at the old college means: I’m a failure who has wasted his education.

Okay, piss on me and criticize me. But that’s my interpretation, and I’m sticking to it. (Maybe)

jj

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Coffee in Northeim

Northeim is pronounced “Nord hime”.

I’ve taught at least three courses there, all for unemployed people looking to improve their employability with some kind of certificate or other kind of evidence demonstrating a modicum of English skill.

These courses are provided by a school which generally provides courses for the unemployed. The school is literally on the wrong side of the tracks. I arrive on the train, walk to the end of the street and turn left under the tracks. To the right is the town. To the left is…well…the run-down, industrial, cheap-rent side of the town.

And the people there are, for the most part, decent people who are out of work and a bit desperate for a chance to improve their employability. I generally like them, and respect them.

But then there is the Kiosk.

In Germany, a Kiosk is a small convenience store or even smaller. If a school has a small room where they sell coffee and candy bars to starving students, it is called a Kiosk.

The school I work at in Northeim has a Kiosk.

And it’s a good thing, too, because the school—being on the wrong side of the tracks—isn’t near any other source for coffee and candy bars.

This Kiosk is a very small thing. Basically, a couple of unemployed kids—mind you, these are kids who are unemployed because they have never had a job before—sell you sandwiches, coffee, and usually have a cake or some waffles to offer as well.

They even have a cute name for it. They call it:

The Lunch Box

I’m not translating here. They call it “The Lunch Box” in English, and photocopy their daily specials—should they have any—and post them throughout the school.

So, several months ago, I go to The Lunch Box to buy my mid-morning coffee.

Stop. Let’s back up. EVERY morning that I work in Northeim I buy a cup of coffee from The Lunch Box before I start class, then I buy a second one mid-morning. The first cup of coffee I actually buy at the train station before getting on the train to Northeim. I save the cup, present it in Northeim, and they fill it for fifty cents (Euro cents, that is). My second cup—the mid-morning cup which is actually my third for the morning but my second from The Lunch Box—also costs fifty cents…UNLESS…I choose to buy a sandwich as well.

Sandwiches normally cost €1. But you can buy a sandwich together with a coffee for €1.30.

So one morning I go to The Lunch Box to buy my third cup of coffee and I’m…a bit hungry…so, I decide to get a coffee AND a sandwich.

I hand her my styrofoam cup and tell her what I want, and she says,

“That’s one Euro and fifty cents.”

I say, “That should be one Euro and thirty cents.”

She says, That’s one Euro and fifty cents.”

I point to the sign, which happens to be about two feet from my head, taped to the door to the small kitchen where she is selling her wares, and on the sign it says,

“Sandwich AND coffee: €1.30”

I point to the sign and say, “It should be one Euro and thirty cents.”

Now, in telling this story I might have given the impression that this was the first time I had done this. In fact, I had done this at least a dozen times. I am often hungry at the mid-morning break, and I often buy a sandwich with my coffee. For €1.30.

But on this morning, it was not going to be easy.

She said: “But that is only when you use one of our cups.”

I said: “I have never used one of your cups; I ALWAYS use one of these cups…”

Which she knew, of course.

Let’s back up a bit. I am strange. (All my regular readers know this.) And one of the signs of my strangeness is my…well…habitualness. In this case, I always gave them a styrofoam cup from the exact same place from which I buy my coffee at the train station. Which happens to be a fish and chips stand. So my styrofoam cup ALWAYS has this little red fish emblem on it, something like the bumper sticker fish which some Christians put on their cars. Very distinctive.

So this girl had filled coffee in my red-bumper-sticker-fish cup DOZENS of times, many of which were in combination with a sandwich—which cost me €1.30.

She said, “Ms. Soandso recently told us that these are the rules.”

AHA! New rules! Or old ones newly applied! Whatever!

I wasn’t accepting it.

I said, “well, I’ll pay you €1.30. That’s all I’m going to pay, because that’s what the sign says. If you don’t like it, you can tell your boss. But that’s what I’ll pay. You decide.” And I gave her a €2 coin and thirty cents.

So the poor girl (Why do I call her poor! Rather than frustrated, at this point she was just getting bitchy) actually gave me a €1 coin for my change, and whispered something nasty under her breath.

And that was that.

Except for it wasn’t.

The next week I returned to Northeim. I went to the Kiosk with my cup and asked for a cup of coffee.

The (same) girl said: “You aren’t getting anything from us.”

In German, I had received what is called a Hausverbot. I would not be allowed to buy anything anymore from the Kiosk.

I looked at her and laughed (which I’m sure she didn’t appreciate). I went to my class and told them the story and laughed some more.

The problem was, I still wanted coffee. So I went and found the director of the school and said, “Do you think you could get the Hausverbot lifted at the Kiosk? They won’t sell me any coffee anymore.” He looked at me strangely, then said, “Let’s go.”

Dear friends, perhaps I have bored you up till now. But here is the interesting part of the story.

We go to the Kiosk, and the big, dark-haired, unemployed (because she’s never had a job in her life) cow is there, and the school director says, “What’s the story here?” And she says, “Last week he didn’t pay for his coffee.”

I gave a puzzled look and said, “That is not true. I paid for my coffee. I paid €1.30 for a coffee and a sandwich. The sign here says…” (and I literally put my finger on the sign) “…that this is the price. It is not true that I did not pay.”

She said, “Ms. Soandso said that the discount only applies when someone uses one of OUR cups….”

I said, “Well, I could have used one of your cups and then just poured the coffee into my cup. The rule is silly.”

She said, “Those are our rules.”

The director said, “Excuse me.” To her: “No, those aren’t the rules. A coffee and sandwich costs €1.30, no matter what cup a person is using.” To me: “We apologize. There was a misunderstanding.”

I did not think that there was any kind of real misunderstanding, but that the girl was simply an idiot. Furthermore, she was falling into the horrible, nightmarish German insistence on “rule following” that—while 99% okay—can lead—has indeed historically led—to tragedy. Yes, we should usually follow rules. When they make sense. When they are ethically sound. We all must think about rules and what they mean. Americans and Germans included.

So I said, “Well, she still should have used her brain to think about whether the rule made sense.”

And he said, “Hey, wait a minute, let’s not start talking this way…”

And she started bitching very loudly.

And I said, “I’ll talk any way I want. This girl has an attitude problem and I am a customer here.”

And she started bitching VERY LOUDLY.

And I said, “YOU shut up!”

And he said, “Hey, wait a minute here…!”

And I said, “I’m not just a customer here; I’m a teacher here, and I do NOT ACCEPT a student talking to me in this manner, and I do not take the train here each morning to be treated like this by the students and trainees in this school!”

Subtext: You, Mr. School Director, have never paid for a single cup of coffee in this school ever. No, you come here every morning and fill an entire pitcher up to take back to your office. I—an itinerant teacher with no permanent contract here—not only pay for my coffee, but get bitched at by 19 year-old unemployed girls as if I were a piece of shit and have to argue about whether I should pay twenty cents extra to use my red-bumper-sticker-fish cup instead of making them put one more cup into the dishwasher.

And I stomped off to my class.

jj

Epilogue

Yes, the dark-haired cow was still working there when I returned for the next course. I avoided her. I kindly asked one of my students to go get my coffee.   Though I sent my red-bumper-sticker-fish cup with the student with.

So who won? Actually, I think she did.

As for the school director, whenever I saw him in the hallway he just smiled at me as if he knew I was working there but wasn’t sure who I was.

So who won? Against him, I did.

So the moral of this story (if there is one)?

The big, dark-haired, unemployed (because she’s never had a job in her life) cow won—is perhaps still winning. And this should be a lesson to us all.

jj

Dream # 2: The “Car Accident” dream

My most recurrent nightmares have to do with car accidents. Always.

Not being in one.

Seeing one.

My sisters will, of course, understand the source of these nightmares: growing up in Taiwan, where we saw more than our share of bodies in the road.

As an adult, this still mystifies me: why did it bother me so much? Children in war-torn areas see more human gore—intentionally inflicted—in a few months than I saw during my entire childhood. But I still have nightmares about the bodies we saw.

Or, in my case…

…didn’t see.

I was perhaps 8. So let’s make it 1971, just for the sake of the story.

My father owns a very small station wagon. Very small. Some kind of 60’s Honda or Toyota kind of thing. Mom and dad sit in the front, Sheryl and Syndi sit in the back seat, and I sit in the storage space in the very back.

1971: I’m sitting in the very back, but looking forward through the front windshield. There is a problem up ahead, maybe three or four hundred yards away. I see (this is how I remember it) lots of lights, and something—can’t tell what—lying in the street. My dad says something like, “Kids…don’t look…there’s an accident ahead.”

Dutifully, I don’t look.

I kind of crunch down in the suitcase section of our small station wagon, terribly afraid. My family…well, I can’t remember real details, but they are making noises like “Oh…oh…that’s terrible…my…my…oh goodness” as we approach the site.

And I can see, all at once, lots of light there in the back, and I know we are passing the accident.

And my sisters make noises (I cannot remember specifically what kind of noises) of wonder and fear and disgust, and I…

…decide I must take a look

so I attempt to look. I raise my little head toward the back window and I see:

Two legs: two very, very, white legs and (did I really see this?) a skirt or a dress very high up on her thighs as she is laying there…laying there…dead, dead, dead….

And I duck my head down.

I look no more.

Perhaps, in my entire childhood, this was the biggest mistake—emotionally—I ever made.

Later, family discussion filled out some of the details. Apparently her head was crushed, all over the road, and my entire family was upset by the view.

But me—little Jeff—never really saw it.

The nightmares started shortly after.

And, to this day, my nightmares are usually about approaching car accidents in which there is a lot of gore to be seen. Sometimes, in my dreams, these are accidents with dozens of cars and dozens of splattered bodies.

And I can’t stop thinking, after I wake up: had I looked, back in 1971, would I still have these dreams?

Because, somehow, my soul-fears are filling in the details of gore and suffering which I did not actually see on that night. Forever I am doomed to see…in my dreams…things which I was afraid to look at. What is worse? What I would have seen, or what I think I would have seen?

Around 1975, after years of nightmares and fears about what I might see dead in the streets, I started staying at home as much as I could.

During my sixth grade year of school in Taiwan, I was—for as much as an 11 year-old kid can get away with—a recluse. And all for one reason: I didn’t want to see a dead body in the road…

…again.

Years later, in Hawaii, I got a speeding ticket, and was sentenced to attend a remedial driving course. In fact, the course was only a review of the Hawaii state traffic code. Every Saturday, I drove to the court house to spend the morning learning about the traffic code. Except for the sixth and last week. On the sixth and last week, they showed gory traffic accident films. (Curiously enough, I noticed—even the scholar back then!—that these films were all produced by the Ohio State Police.)

Somehow, the boys figured out that this was the case, and since the course were offered in rotation, some class was having their “gory traffic accident film” class on any given Saturday.

And during the breaks we would congregate around the window of the class who was having their sixth session, and peek through the window at the gory films being shown.

Of course, eventually we had our own sixth session, and we watched the films.

(Probably, these same films are still being shown today in driver’s ed classes.)

For me, this did not serve the purpose of scaring me away from unsafe driving. No, for me, these films served the purpose of desensitizing me against the childhood fright of seeing gore.

But:

My nightmares are still about car accidents. Not about the gore, but the anticipation of seeing the gore. I’m driving on a highway, and up ahead about three or four hundreds yards, there are a lot of flashing lights and things lying in the road….

jj

Open House: JVA Rossdorf

Sunday was open house at the new prison.  Here’s a link, though it’s all in German.

Billy and I went along with my friend Juergen and his son Johann.  Unfortunately, we did not take cameras, because the paper said that we would not be allowed to take cameras or cell phones (presumably because cell phones have cameras).  This was doubly unfortunate, because people all around us were taking pictures; the prohibition was apparently redundant, given the number of people.

Given the number of people.

Juergen and I wanted to see the inside of a prison, and this was a good chance to do so.

Apparently, about 25,000 other people had the same idea.

Damn!  I wish I had had a camera.  The line to get in—at least at the time we went through—was an hour long.  We spent another hour and a half taking the tour.  It was interesting in a small way, but in the large part disappointing.  The most interesting thing was…

…the number of people.

And while it was not exactly a party atmosphere, there was something…a bit…strange about it.  They were selling grilled sausages and drinks (including beer:  hey, I live in GERMANY!) for the people waiting in line.  And in the last room we visited in the prison itself—apparently some kind of work area for the future prisoners—they were selling all sorts of souvenirs.  You could buy a T-shirt, a baseball cap, a coffee mug, a cigarette lighter, an umbrella, or a shopping bag—each separately or a package of everything for 16 Euros.  I bought Billy a baseball cap.  I normally snap up T-shirts whenever I get the chance (why did no one offer a “I was in the Gettysburg Hospital—and lived to buy this T-shirt!”  T-shirt?  I would have bought it.)  But the one the prison had for sale I found aesthetically unpleasing (and a bit silly.  It said:  “I was in prison” on the front, and “but only for a visit” on the back.  I think they should give these away free to the prisoners when they leave.  Kind of a rehabilitation statement, if you know what I mean.)

So:  new prison, open house, 25,000 visitors.

Is that normal?

jj

Dream # 1: The “I’m falling and I can’t fly but I’ll land safely” dream

Here is the dream:

Variation #1: I am, for some strange reason, high…high…high in the air. I can see the ground like a skydiver sees it. I do not know why I am up here. But I do know this:

I will land safely on my feet.

This my friends, is one of the stranger things about getting older: while dreaming, I remember dreams…or, at least, my pattern of dreaming. I know, while dreaming, that if I am up in the air looking at the ground like a skydiver, that I will land safely—though I cannot fly and I do not have a parachute.

This dream is a bit strange, but is in no ways a nightmare. Because: I know that I will land safely, because within the dream I know it is a dream and I know that I always land safely in dreams.

Variation #2: I am sitting in a passenger airliner (usually in the back…though I can always see what the pilot sees in the cockpit window (dreams!)) and there is some kind of problem with the plane. The pilot is flying low and over highways and between buildings and under bridges—TERRIFYING STUFF!—but…hey…been there before, done that, and while the rest of the people on the plane are scared shitless, I’m doing okay. Because: this is a dream I’ve had before, and within the dream I know this, and I always survive.

So, this dream could probably be categorized as the “I’m in a dangerous position but in dreams I’ve been there before and I always survived and I know I’m in a dream so I know I will survive.”

Comments?

jj

Speaking of dreams…

I suppose I am no different than any other person in having lots of wild and wooley dreams which, over the years, start to fall into categories. The pattern is set, and the dream—although different—seems somehow the same.

I have, basically, five repeating dreams. In chronological order (meaning, dream 1 began when I was younger than when dream 2 began) these are my dreams:

1) The “I’m falling and I can’t fly but I’ll land safely” dream (With a variation: I’m on a plane—a passenger plane—which is flying under bridges and such, but I KNOW I will survive.)

2) Car accidents (these are nightmares)

3) The Post Office at College dream

4) The Christina dream

5) The Northern Desert dream

Now, my friend G-man often refers to being “tagged” or something of the sort (my memory is shot) to write points on a certain subject. I want to do something a bit different. I won’t tag anybody, but I will write entire posts on each of these dreams. I challenge others to do the same (but on their own dreams, of course). Together, we’ll give the world some useless blogging information which tells scientists nothing…but friends a great deal.

Ready?

jj

Eating the poodle

So, about a month ago…

I’m working hard, albeit beset by allergies—hay-fever has nearly killed me this summer, but my alcohol defense has kept me alive so far—and I’m dreaming like mad—because Benadryl and alcohol, though a good defense against the demons of pollen, cause one to dream strangely—and I have this dream:

I am young, and with my entire family. We are the visitors of the pastor of some church somewhere in Texas or Oklahoma, and he is preparing something special for our feast. He has a couple of young, black poodles tied up in his well-lit, sparkling-clean basement, which is apparently a home abbortoir, complete with tile floor, sinks and hoses and a couple of hooks and…a cage with a few black, fat poodles in the corner. You get the picture.

And he’s been saving a young (six-months old, perhaps), chubby, perky poodle for our visit.

(Here I shall skip some of the more explicit, horror film stuff.)

Strangely, in the dream I eat the prepared feast—upset but not horrified, doing my duty, preserving the honor and reputation of our little missionary family (or my father) by eating my share, though I am creeped out by the experience.

And I wake up.

And I think about me, and my life, and where I came from, and my background and my parents and my sisters and our childhood living as missionary kids and I think:

Why did I eat the poodle?

I’m sure there is some symbolism here, somewhere; but lowly philosopher that I am, I will have to let the Freudians (lowlier but more practiced in this art) chew (HAH!) on this one.

Eating the poodle, what does it mean?

Well, for one, it means I shall begin blogging again.

(At least until vacation).

jj