I never have working dreams any more... That’s kinda funny, but then again,
There’s not that much about originating mortgages that one would want to relive during REM sleep, is there?
Tell you what though, when I was a Firefighter and a Cop, I had ‘em all the time, and I know that a bunch of my friends did too.
The plain ol’ Workin’ a Shift dream is the most common and least intrusive variety. During one of these, you just dream about driving around, taking regular old calls, interviewing people, writing the report; very normal, mundane activities. Nothing exciting happens, there are no real lapses of reality, you’re just workin’. Actually, these can be exhausting, because they occur when you should be recharging your batteries, but instead, you’re working, so you often wake up just plain tired.
The next variety is the Common Dream Problem version. You go to work and you can’t find your locker, can’t remember the combination, arrive in pajamas, don’t have any uniforms, are late and keep getting later and later, crap like that. It’s an anxiety dream, but fairly mild in the broad scheme of things. I have no idea what the psychology of such things are, but I think they're more of a regular, garden-variety Freudian issue than relative to a specific profession…
Now things start getting weird. The next level is what I call Escalated Real Life Occurrence dreams. This is something like, “Leaving the station light,” a euphemism for heading out on a shift without your gun. Now, there may be cops who have never done this, but there’s way more of ‘em who have and don’t admit it. I did it twice: I discovered the first incident at breakfast, so it was no biggy other than the embarrassment factor. The second time, I had just hopped a six foot, chain link fence looking for an intruder at a silent alarm. I reach for my roscoe and… Now that’s a little scary. Never did it again after that, but sure as hell dreamed about it a bunch. In this kind of dream, you’re in a situation where you or someone else is in immediate danger, under attack, etc, and you reach for your piece and its empty holster time… After that, things get real shitty in this kind of dream, so they’re way more debilitating that the previous varieties… I might dream that my bullets were actually nails, or had fallen apart, or were the wrong caliber and…. You get the picture. When I was a Fire Chief at an airport in Washington State, it was always in the back of my mind that if a jet crashed and burned on either runway approach in the middle of winter (Read really, really wet), there was no way on God’s green earth that we’d be able to get anywhere close with an engine: So what was my recurring dream? Yup, MD-80 with a full passenger load eating it in December on the approach to Runway 1-6… These dreams definitely are professionally motivated and feed on the weirdness and fears only known to those who work in them.
Finally, you have the completely surreal, nothing-to-do-with-reality version of the work dream, and actually, these never bothered me that much. When the reality factor’s removed, it’s just a dream, even if it is work-based in nature.
To me, the worst kind was the Escalated Real Life versions. I still have them, albeit not so often, and I’ve been out of the business for ten years. Is this some kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or am I just weird, (Don’t answer that...)
Do doctors, and pilots, and truck drivers that haul gasoline have the same kinds of dreams?