A few years ago I took on two part-time jobs within a few months of each other. The first of those jobs was working for the Little Ceasars I used to deliver pizza for. I’d come in in the morning, get the earnings from the previous day out of the floor safe, count the money and the checks, enter the information into a daily sales report and then take it all to the bank and make a deposit. I was hired to do this because the owner of the store wasn’t local anymore and he had a good memory of me as being responsible. Also, most of his other employees weren’t old enough to vote. It was every day but it only took up an hour of my time and he paid me $150 a week, which was a nice little pad to my income. About six weeks later, I took on the second job, which was doing the same thing for Gemmel Pharmacy, just on the other side of San Antonio (both businesses were located in strip malls on the north side of Foothill Blvd. in Upland, one on the west side of San Antonio and the other on the east). It came up in conversation with a friend of my dad’s that I was doing this every morning for Little Ceasars and he asked if I’d like to do the same thing for Gemmel and I said sure. So I worked for two hours every morning at both of these businesses every day for years and it was an easy way to pad my income with a few extra bucks. They were happy with me helping them and I was happy for the extra dough
Here’s the weird part: None of that ever happened in what we would all agree is the real world. As I type this, I understand perfectly that all of that took place in a series of recurring dreams. Yesterday morning, however, I woke up and I swear to God I had a small panic attack because I’d just realized that I hadn’t worked for either of those companies in over a year and, worse, when I stopped working for them, I just stopped going in. I didn’t call, I didn’t email, I made no attempt at explaining to them that I was tired of coming in every morning and making their deposits. Immediately, I started running through different bits of dialogue in my head, trying to come up with something that sounded the least bit plausible for what I’d done. Things are really tight right now and I really wanted to get those jobs back. This literally took up almost three minutes of my morning and was finally interrupted by my overwhelming need to piss. As I was standing at the toilet, a thought came crashing into my head and, out loud, I said, “Wait…I haven’t worked for Little Caesars since 1996.”
That’s just one of the reasons I sincerely hope they don’t show home movies in the afterlife.
So, that said, I finished what I was doing and went back to bed and just lay there going over my waking-world timeline (the one I’m positive my wife would verify, when asked) and, yeah, there’s no fucking way I could have taken on either of those jobs. For one thing, the owner of that Little Ceasars is a huge dick and the last time I saw him, I told him so. Mostly though, I just never worked either of those jobs. This is verifiable. But when I woke up yesterday, I did remember having worked at them. As I slowly brought my mind back into the waking world, I realized that it was just a dream but then I also remembered that I’d had that dream several times. Maybe thousands of times. Or – and I apologize for sounding like a philosophy major with only one class under his belt – maybe I just dreamed that I’d had that dream so many times. Why not? As I type this, I have no way to determine if I’ve had the dream of working for those jobs once or a thousand times. All of which leads me to two questions.
The first question is ancient and is not one that I’ll attempt to answer here and now, but the question is: What is the nature of reality? That line of thought starts basically like this: There’s a small part of me that remembers working these two jobs. I know that memory comes not from real-world experience but from dreams, but the fact remains that the memory is there. So if the memory is there, does that mean the experience is there too? Don’t bother with the real-world evidence that it isn’t, I’m not talking about the real world, I’m talking about reality and perception. What if I wake up one day and, instead of a three-minute panic attack, something switches off in my brain and the memory of working those jobs becomes dominant? In the real world, that would be the moment when I go from being a normal person to a crazy person but, again, I’m not interested in the real world for the purposes of this particular thought. If that happened, would I accept that as reality? Or would I be able to tell that this thing I absolutely remember doing was never actually real (think Russell Crowe in A BEAUTIFUL MIND)? Anyway, that’s probably enough of that particular wankery. As I said, I won’t be answering any of that here and now.
The second question is more personal: Should I marvel at the things the human brain is capable of or should I be concerned by the things my brain is capable of? There’s a good debate to be had there someday.
This morning I was producing a film that we were shooting on location in Lubbock, New Mexico and in order to get the filming accomplished without the locals fucking things up for us, I had to first win over their hearts and minds by performing various tasks for them, like repainting the town church. The fact that I’ve never been to Lubbock, New Mexico did absolutely nothing to make putting up with their bullshit any easier.