I am happy to report that I have stopped having college-related nightmares. It only took 30-plus years.
The one that I had most frequently throughout the years took place around finals week. I would suddenly realize that I was supposed to have been attending a particular class all quarter. While I may have dropped in on a few classes earlier in the term, months have passed and I have blanked on that particular commitment. It doesn't help that, as I try to conjure an explanation for the professor, I can't find the classroom anywhere.
The other nightmare that seems to have faded into justified obscurity over the years relates to post-graduation call from some administrative office within the university. A less-than-apologetic voice explains that an error has been made, and I really didn't have enough credits to graduate. My diploma is now invalid, and to gain proper standing as an alumnus, I need to take one more class.
If there's a theme here, it's that something’s missing; something's been overlooked and it's my fault. I wish I knew where this fear of forgetfulness comes from, this internal requirement to be sharp, be alert, don't let anything slip by you. Heck, I'm usually extremely organized.
The times I really have screwed up have been few and far between, but they make wonderful cocktail-party fodder. I cited one a few weeks ago in The Fees, The Rule of Three, and Me, when I incurred change fees from United because I'd made online reservations for the wrong day. The more interesting one occurred when I diligently researched flight schedules for a trip from San Francisco to Vancouver in advance of a cruise to Alaska my wife and I were taking. I noted the flight time in my calendar.
But as the day for the cruise approached, I realized I had no paperwork confirming those reservations. No e-mail from the airline either. This gave me the same frisson of fear that the finals week dream did. I called the airline and said hopefully, "I want to confirm my reservations for tomorrow's flight."
The reservations clerk was dutifully apologetic when he said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Baldwin, but you have no reservations on that flight." Further, he said, there were no remaining seats. There were seats available on a flight a few hours later, he added; I could almost hear him gulp as he said this: "The fare is $1,200." I told him I had no choice and booked the seats (it turned out they were $1,200 because they were in first class, and that figure included our return flight as well).
Ever since, when I put a flight schedule in my calendar, I amend it with the notation "reservation not yet made."
With a modicum of dread, I assume there must be a middle-aged equivalent of the forgetting-class dream. Will I show up at some border crossing without my passport? Will I fill out Part B of my Medicare application incorrectly? Will I start being ostracized at reunions? (Although that dream may have already started.)
More likely — I hope — the middle-aged resourcefulness that spawns notations like "reservation not yet made" will detour these dreams deeper into my subconscious, where forgetfulness can legitimately take over.