Last night, I dreamed that my bike had flat tire. I was riding along and suddenly I realized that there was a hole the size of a dime in the wheel. I remember talking to someone about how to fix it with some kind of liquid rubber spray, then noticing that there was another big hole, and realizing that in fact I had no idea how to fix a flat tire on my bike.
This seemed to me, when I remembered it at the beginning of my bicycle commute this morning, to be a straightforward anxiety dream. This week I am acting as the costume shop manager for the costume shop I sometimes do overhire-type work for while the real manager is on vacation; a big responsibility. It’s unusual for me to be in charge and to delegate; I usually work alone on dressmaking and very small-scale costume design, or else work for someone else at the very bottom of the chain. Now I have several kids working under me, and I feel sort of very visible, I guess you might say. Plus I haven’t ridden my bike very much recently, as it’s only now getting to be the right sort of weather; so it’s natural to have some anxiety. (When I first started working for an evil corporate English school in Japan, I had much worse anxiety dreams, extremely literal ones, where it turned out everyone in the company was a robot except me and they were going to kill me for discovering this.) The flat tire dream was also, I thought, influenced by my recently reading The Grapes of Wrath, which has a scene where repairing a flat tire on the Joads’ car is described in detail.
The day at work was painless. We went through the notes from last night’s rehearsal, one by one, and fixed the problems. I recieved and wrote e-mails, arranged meetings and fittings, made phone calls to suppliers, did a fitting, even sewed some buttons. The employees worked on costumes, inventory, puppets. Everything went smoothly. Almost too smoothly: sometimes there was downtime, and even though everyone knew it was going to be a slower week, I still felt sort of worried that there was something I was forgetting to do. But it was fine. There was a strange flurry of activity at the very end of the day, but finally I was ready to go home.
When I came out and looked at the bike rack, my bike was not there. For a moment, I thought it had been stolen. But it was actually sitting in the next rack over from the one which I thought I had put it in; and it was sitting there with the rear tire completely flat. Maybe it wasn’t an anxiety dream after all, but rather a prophetic one? I took it over to a house shared by some friends of mine, some of whom are avid bikers, luckily quite close by. None of the members of the household who know how to repair a tire happened to be there, but those who were let me leave the bike in their basement, and I walked home for the evening.
When I got home I roasted some potatoes in the oven for a frugal repast, and as I sat down with them, alone with my cat, I turned on the TV to Law & Order SVU. I missed the first 15 minutes but I assume it must have been a season finale, because it was epic and crazy. Ludacris, playing a criminal who I guess was defending himself in court, was systematically destroying the credibility of all the members of the SVU cast. He revealed that Ice-T (who was I guess the ex-husband of Ludacris’s mother) had failed to follow procedure and check in evidence immediately, instead leaving a gun and drugs in his car overnight. He revealed that Elliot had gotten his daughter off of a drunk driving charge. He revealed that Mariska Hargitay had helped her brother by giving him money while he was a suspect in an investigation. It turned out that all this information was being fed to him by a bitter colleague of Dan Florek’s, getting revenge for a 15-year-old grudge. In the end all their careers were in season-finale cliffhanger tatters, even Casey the DA for some reason, and Ludacris walked free, though at the cost of learning that he was concieved through the rape of his mother by her own father, classic SVU.
Obviously, a flat tire and some work-related anxiety are nothing compared to this, or to the Joads’ trials. I and my family have had real troubles in my life, though, and I can say that, at times of stress and crisis, there is a certain feeling which, in small doses at least, can be as unexpectedly satisfying as a bizarre overkill of an episode of SVU. Walking home today, in the very straits my sleeping brain had dreamed up to express its fears, I felt nothing so much as I felt alive.