Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

A Survey Of The Funny, Haunted Dreams People Have About Their Jobs

Does a beekeeper dream about her bees? What does a porn star dream about when she's not at work? How about teachers, lawyers and people with office jobs—are they stuck with the same boring work-dream loops as the rest of us, or do their dreams reveal something unexpected about how they spend their days? To find out, we asked eleven people of various occupations, including, yes, a beekeeper and a porn actress, as well as a farmer, a forensic scientist, a waitress, a screenwriter and a live-tv captioner, to tell us about the very best and worst dreams they've had about their jobs.


Kristen Meadows, Lawyer: Recently, I was stressed about a case and had this dream where this girl found a “Burn Book”—you know, like in Mean Girls—with quotes written about everyone in the office. And she was trying to tell me snippets from it, and I wanted to find out what it said about me, but I was too busy with this case. So I was never able to find out what was said about me. I think my subconscious couldn’t work out the mean thing that was going to be written about me.

David Sperling, Live TV Captioner: I still have dreams about going to depositions during my time as a court reporter. The dream ends with some kind of confrontation where the attorney wants me to do something, and I stand up and say, “I don’t have to take this anymore! I’m a broadcast captioner! I worked for "Oprah" for five years!”

Megan Paska, Urban Farmer/Beekeeper: I've been raising rabbits for meat, and as the rabbits are getting older I have to start thinking about the day I have to slaughter them. I took classes on slaughtering and butchering rabbits, so I feel prepared in terms of the technical aspects, though you can never guarantee every single time is going to go smoothly. So I was having dreams of Slaughter Day, about all the things that can go wrong. That was kind of dark.

David Sperling, Live TV Captioner: Or I'd have this dream—and all court reporters have this one—where we’ve actually forgotten our equipment. And so we take out a pencil and they’re saying, “Would you state your name please,” and they say, “My name is John Smith” and we say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Would … you … say …”

Terri Kauffman, Screenwriter: I just had one where I was on "Last Comic Standing" and I'd made this conscious decision not to prepare material. I was just hanging out with the other contestants and telling them I was going to wing it, that I was that funny. But then when they called my name I had this panic where I realized not preparing was a really stupid decision. I woke up the moment before I had to perform. Not like I went onstage and woke up out of fear, but the dream just kept dragging out the moment right before I was supposed to go on stage.

Jay Kauffman, Farmer: I remember one where I was parking a tractor with two big loads of hay hooked onto it, and it started running down the hill. I hadn't put it into park or something and it was rolling. But I think I woke up before any crash happened.

One time when I was 16, the first year I worked there, I unhooked a couple loads on top of a hill and they started to roll towards the bottom. The older guy I was working with started yelling at me, but I just froze. And he ran over quick and stopped it, so there wasn't an accident or anything.

Lena Coleman, Waitress: The last work-related dream I had was about my manager, who's slightly off-kilter. He had promised a customer something and then left. And I delivered the dish to the table and he was like, “What's this? This isn't a French Toast Sandwich! I ordered a French Toast Sandwich!” and I was like, “I'm sorry, we don't make that.”

Megan Paska, Urban Farmer/Beekeeper: But most of my dreams are usually just feelings and fragmented moments that crop up and dissipate. It’s pretty scattered. That probably says a lot about the kind of person I am. I'm always coming up with ideas, and I’ve managed to get involved in a lot of stuff I’m proud of. But I also take on more than I can do, so I end up having panicky dreams. But no nightmares ever. My experience with bees have never been scary or threatening. I’m just anxious about other people around bees, people that don’t understand them or just have an irrational fear. That’s where my anxiety stems from as a beekeeper in the city.

James Roehl, Actor/Comedian: A lot of what I stress about in dreams is timing. Getting there on time, nailing my mark, being in the right place at the right time. That's the most stressful thing for me, especially in LA, this town where you’re driving around a lot and there’s always traffic. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

Bill Demuth, Forensic Scientist: I’d mostly have the dreams when there was a test going on. I don’t know if it was mentally wanting to do so well on the test that I start seeing it at night

David Sperling, Live TV Captioner: I did caption "Oprah" for five years, and during that time I dreamed regularly that we were actually friends. Like, as a result of my working for her, she actually knew who I was. Which is totally bizarre. And I would go to her home, I would have lunch. It happened on more than one occasion, just having lunch with Oprah.


Marilyn Sala, Teacher: My recurring dream is always with kids I've taught. Sometimes they're still in their junior-high bodies, sometimes they're my brain’s idea of what they look like now. And they’re always trying to take me somewhere. They never talk, just hold my hand and lead me someplace.

Kristen Meadows, Lawyer: I'm supposed to be going into work, and I know my boss is going to have me go to court on something I don't know anything about, so I try to avoid him. I go into our office building, but then to another floor, and go to the bathroom and just sit in a stall and hide.

Lena Coleman, Waitress: It's just the worst day ever, having a bunch of tables all of a sudden and I'm the only server in the whole restaurant and someone is complaining about something. It's not necessarily a nightmare or a good dream, but it's also never like I have dreams where guys give me a million-dollar tip. Never that.

Megan Paska, Urban Farmer/Beekeeper: It's just me around the bees. I’ll hear sounds of an open hive. It’s kind of weird. I can smell and taste things in some of my dreams, so sometimes I’ll smell smoke or the smell of fermented nectar or wax.

Kayden Kross, Porn Actress: I have dreams about specific performers I've worked with, but usually it's just dialogue. You know, you don't really have a lot of dialogue with who you work with. It's show up, bang out, and go home. And it's people on set who I didn't feel like there was any special connection. Not even people I just had sex with, just people walking around set or whatever. But I don't have sexual dreams about working, actually. Never.

David Sperling, TV Captioner: They all have to do with not being where I’m supposed to be. In the industry, we call it “missed air.” I’ve never actually missed air in my dreams, but it’s the anticipation. I’m at my desk, I can’t dial in.

Jay Kauffman, Farmer: I'm on a moving tractor. I have the feeling that I'm inside a barn, and about ready to go through the side of it. And I can't find the controls.

Marilyn Sala, Teacher: And there’s always water. It’s either raining, or the kids want me to jump in a pool, or we’re in the woods and we pass a lake. Water every time.

Bill Demuth, Forensic Scientist: When I was in training, I had dreams about evidence. I'd see my hands working the controls of the comparison microscope and looking through to see a pattern of scratches on one side, a pattern of scratches on the other side.

Kayden Kross, Porn Actress: I've had it where I've fallen asleep on set and then dreamt we went through the entire day and were wrapped. Then I wake up and they're like, “Get dressed, we're going to do that now.” And I'm like, aw man, I'm ready for bed.

Jeremy Cohen, TV Editor: I'll be back in the edit room like I never left. And I'll be like, “Oh how about I move this sequence over here? Or move that sound bite there?” And I wake up and I'm like, fuck! I didn't get any rest because I was just working my entire night.

Lena Coleman, Waitress: You're just like, “Really? This is what I dreamed about? And now I have to go back to work. Thank you.” Total waste of a dream. Not restful at all.

David Sperling, Live TV Captioner: Or the keyboard is strange to me. I don’t know how to use the keyboard.

James Roehl, Actor/Comedian: I’ll be in a sketch show just making up my lines, not remembering what I’m supposed to be doing. Just making a fool of myself. I have lots of dreams where I’m ill-prepared to be onstage, letting my fellow actors down.

Marilyn Sala, Teacher: A lot of times I don’t remember who the kid was, especially if they're adults in my dream, so I have to look for hints someplace. Once there was a kid that kept tapping his pencil in my dream, so I remember the kid who'd always get in trouble for tapping his pencil in class.

Terri Kauffman, Screenwriter: Sometimes I dream movies, where none of the people, places or anything are things I've ever known or seen. I'm not in the dream at all, though I can often empathize with the main character. The most recent one was about a black man in post Civil War-era, living out in the prairie. He had two little girls, one baby and the other around 9. And even though he had a small one-room apartment, he was sleeping outside because he was letting his girls have it. Which of course doesn't make sense. They would have been safer with him sleeping inside.


Kayden Kross, Porn Actress: There are times where you're sitting on set all day and you start getting to know each other, but the conversations are still very superficial. It's not like you sit down and have a heart-to-heart. But in my dreams, I'm talking to the people on a real level. Having normal interactions with people I'm so used to having abnormal interactions with.

Megan Paska, Urban Farmer/Beekeeper: It happens a lot more in the winter when I’m not working with the bees. I think sometimes it’s—I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound completely stupid—it’s like spiritually I feel like I’m going through beekeeping withdrawal. My subconscious finds a way to trick me into feeling I still have that connection with them during the winter months.

Jay Kauffman, Farmer: You know, when you work 100 hours a week, it's pretty much all you're going to be thinking about.

Bill Demuth, Forensic Scientist: I have noticed that over the years if I’m working on a particularly high profile case, some of those dreams tend to pop back up.

Jeremy Cohen, TV Editor: Most of it's related to pressure or anxiety. I'm supposed to be getting a cut out, it's a new show, it's people I want to make a good impression on. When you go to sleep you get to escape that. But then, really, you find that you're still doing it in your dream. It's ulcer-riffic.

Lena Coleman, Waitress: I do producing and acting, so this is a means-to-an-end type job, and it's probably filtering into my dreams. It's very easy to discern why I'm having the dreams I'm having. I'm not really that complicated, I think I've discovered.

Marilyn Sala, Teacher: Maybe it’s because when I'm teaching I tell stories about things that happened years ago. Like, recently I told this story about a kid in my class—this was when I was teaching special ed—and there was a girl, she had got mad and burned her house down. And then later I had a dream with her in it, and she led me into her house, and upstairs to an overflowing toilet. Water all over everywhere in her house. Water every time.

James Roehl, Actor/Comedian: I also do singing telegrams—I just had to do six for Valentine's Day—but I never dream about them. It's not as high-stakes, I think. I mean, I really care, it's amazing you can make an impression on someone's life. But if I suck, I'm never going to see these people again. Plus, I'm oftentimes wearing a ridiculous costume, so I'm getting reactions off that rather than my performance. It's not nearly as stressful.

I still have those moments where I wake up and am like, whoa, I was just onstage and it was the worst feeling ever. It’s almost like I don’t remember them on purpose because I don't want to remember intricately how much I failed epicly in the dream. Instead, I just want to drink coffee and move on.


Marilyn Sala, Teacher: I’m dying to find out whether my mind’s concept of what they look like now as adults is accurate. I tried Googling some of these kids and finding them on Facebook, trying to see, wow, “Is that really what Huey Grant looks like now?” Sometimes I can find the kids on the Internet after the dreams, and it's like, gosh, she's fat now. She didn't look this fat in my dream.

Jeremy Cohen, TV Editor: If you ask me about the non-job-related dreams I've had, I remember those. There's the one where I got stabbed, the one where I got shot, and the one with Stephanie Seymour. I remember those.

Megan Paska, Urban Farmer/Beekeeper: I used to have a dream as a child where I was in this black vast expanse and there was this weird old tree growing out of it. And there was a witch flying around, and she was swooping down and trying to get me. And I knew that if she caught me she would tickle me so hard that I would laugh myself to death.

Kayden Kross, Porn Actress: Most of my other dreams are related to flying in some way. It's always just me discovering how to fly. But, like running, there's a lot of exertion in order to fly. So I get up there, and am really excited I'm flying, but get tired because it's so physically exhausting that I need to come back down.

David Sperling, Live TV Captioner: I used to have those dreams where I could just take off, like a scene from Peter Pan. I wish I still had those dreams. But I’m going way far afield here. That, I’m afraid, is a side effect of my job: I don’t get to talk to human beings a lot.

Rick Paulas has been spending an inordinate amount of time dreaming about his upcoming fantasy baseball draft. Photo of bee by bepsy, via Shutterstock; computer monitors by feverblue, via Flickr; toy tractor by squacco, via Flickr; keyboard by Dmitriy Shironosov, via Shutterstock.

16 Comments / Post A Comment

BadUncle (#153)

After a long day turns into a long night of design, my dreams will be about some really minute, tedious aspect of the day's project. Like tracking out some type. It's horrible because it's soooo dull. I'll wake up bored to tears.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

My dreams break down like this: 30% partying, 10% Apocalypse (onset or post-), 10% work related, and 50% forgotten.

juliamark (#226,556)

when i worked retail, i would daily have dreams in which my bed was the cash register and my bedclothes were loose articles of clothing that i would have to clean off. i would half-wake up and crawl around trying to clear everything and fend off dream-customers who wanted me to ring them up, even though i insisted to them that i was in bed.

koko (#11,361)

@juliamark Heh, when I worked retail in college, I never had actual dreams about work, but every single dream I had would have the Musak playing in the background. It wasn't bad enough that I had to listen to that stuff on a 3 hour loop all day at work, no….I had to listen to it in my dreams too!

katherine (#10,025)

I keep a dream journal when I remember (which isn't often), and right after I started blogging full-time, I had a dream that it was 6:00, everyone was leaving the office and asking me to come along, but I panicked and said no, I hadn't posted anything that day yet.

sheycopp (#226,670)

my dream is always the same everyday…I'm already scared…hrrrr

Last night I dreamt I sold a notebook of song ideas (?) to some big-shot musician (Mick Jagger or Marc Boland but modern) and then he looked at them and they were total gibberish (not unreadable dream-script, I could read them but they were just not full ideas) so I had to basically become an unpaid intern until the notebook was sorted out. I am not a musician but I do have a lot of notebooks full of gibberish.

SeanP (#4,058)

I rarely have any occupational dreams at all, and never about my current job (which, truth be told, is not all that dream-worthy). But occasionally I have a nightmare based on a true experience I had in the Navy. The actual experience: you know how sometimes you're walking toward someone in the hallway, and you move in a certain direction to avoid him, he moves the same direction, and you repeat a few times until someone laughs and stops so the other guy can get around? Same deal, but with ships. I finally had to turn us around 180 degrees to get away from a great huge merchant that seemed intent on running us over. NBD, everything was fine. But in the dream, this is happening again and I'm frozen: I can't get the words out to tell the helmsman to change course. The other ship keeps getting closer and closer, I'm just standing there, and everyone on the bridge is staring at me, waiting for the order. I always woke up before the collision.

I haven't had that one in a long time, though.

spauff (#226,892)

I work as a journalist. Two work-related dreams I've had:
1) Trying to set up a 10 a.m. phone interview with Mark Twain.
2) My editor sending me out an assignment where I have to interview a horse.

alliepants (#204,157)

Ha – I'm a journalist covering financial markets and one time, when I had just started my job, I had THREE nightmares that I overslept, came in 4 hours late, and got fired. Each time it scared me so badly I woke myself up.

BuffyBot (#201,559)

When I was a waitress I had dreams about work all the time. My favorite was where my table was my divorced parents and their reconciliation was based on my service as their waitress.

My other table was the Pope.

I have no idea where my sub-conscience was going with that one.

Pound of Salt (#15,166)

Sala needs to pee before bed.

selysefrost (#226,905)

Whenever I am stressed out about work, inevitably I dream about being a waitress again – the restaurant has been rearranged and all the table numbers are different. I can't remember how to use the POS machine. People keep being seated in my section but no one ever leaves. To further illustrate how deeply this is burned in to my subconscious, I once had some surgery done and when I woke up, the nurse asked me, "Do you work in a restaurant?" I said, "I used to. Why?" She said, "Because right before you went under, you opened your eyes and shouted, 'You can't seat 8 people at table 15!"

hijabeng (#99,782)

When I was a stressed out engineering undergrad, I would dream of solving math and engineering problems over and over and over again. Many a night was spent with differential equations and free body diagrams. I'd wake up feeling like I had already studied.

ladyfriend@twitter (#226,974)

I used to teach English as a Second Language at a private academy. Last night I dreamed I was back at my first school (which had an idyllic setting, where from my trailer/classroom I had a view of the Pacific). When I taught, I'd often learn of the romantic drama between students. So while dreaming I found out one student (who did resemble someone I taught six or seven years ago) found out her secret boyfriend (also based in real-life) had been cheating on her. In this dream, I lived in a room on-campus. The girl dragged her cheating lover into my room, handcuffed and hooded. I booked it out of there. Only two hours later did I realize I had some personal responsibility, so I freaked out and called the other teachers to report the kidnapping/torture session in progress. I felt terrible I'd only just realized I could do something to prevent death/maiming.

I don't know why I've just had this dream. I've just started doing volunteer work where I have a fair amount of oversight and responsibility, so perhaps it's a stress dream?

Ginger Jane@twitter (#226,981)

When I was working as a barista I would spend all night dreaming about making lattes and then wake up and go and make a bunch of lattes at work. Hideous.

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