Friday, February 22, 2013



As a kid, I loved comics but now I only skim them. They really don't seem to be the funnies any more, but they do come in colour.
I know nothing about a strip called Rhymes With Orange but the other day, one panel showing a couple reading in bed made me grin. The husband asks the wife why her diploma is on her nightstand. She replies: ''Reassurance after another 'I've missed my exam' dream."
I don't dream that much, and can't remember enough of the nice dreams to write them down afterwards. But I sure remember the regular dreams verging on nightmares in my 20s when I dreamed I had flunked getting out of high school.
Younger readers may not understand how traumatic the province-wide exams were at the end of Grade 13. Now that they have shrunk high school, and mark inflation has infected even universities, graduation no longer appears quite as difficult as when every Grade 13 student in Ontario wrote the same exams and you needed nine passes to get into university.
The exams were marked at a central location by a clutch of experienced teachers wanting the extra money, and the only thing your own teacher could do for you is to send in a nice reserve mark in case there was some problem with your exam or you were on the knife's edge of failure.
For a decade or so after the "departmentals, " I would dream sweatily of them and failure and broken pens etc.. Then I would wake and remind myself that I actually had a university diploma and degree and my sweet-and-sour high school teachers hadn't ruined my life.
I was sort of proud of graduating second in my class at Ryerson until I ran into my philosophy prof who said he had never read a worse exam paper and had passed me simply to avoid a future ordeal. I argued weakly that the exam dealt with two of the seven texts and I had only read the other five. So I wrote everything I know that was philosophical and survived.
Ironically, then several decades passed and my occasional dreams were sweet and occasionally sexy. Then I retired with the daily ordeal of creating 6,000 columns and 3,000 editorials behind me.  Now I dream regularly of deadlines and not a thing to write. It used to be that the typewriter would jam and the paper would tear under all the erasures. Then I graduated to computers and if my computer didn't eat the editorial, the system did just before it crashed. Or the computer kept crashing. 
You get used to grinding it out in the newspaper business. Not much time to polish an adjective or ditch an adverb. And the workload keeps expanding unless you yell a lot. There's always some special section or anniversary issue and some colleague asks plaintively if you mind dashing off a few paras The bizarre thing about these new dreams is that the real pressure never bothered me much. When I was the rewrite chief, I knew that the Page 1 headline story I was cobbling together had to be finished in the next minute, and 90 minutes later it would be out there for street sales, and any mistakes I made in grammar or fact in what has been called the first rough draft of history could not be erased until the next edition.
You got used to it. If you didn't, you drank a lot or went into public relations. I find it perplexing that I now seem to find it more difficult in my dreams than in reality when I couldn't figure out the final paragraphs and some editor was bellowing he had to get the paper off the floor and where was the blankety blank Downing column for Page 4.  (Except he didn't say blankety blank.)
At least now I get to wake up, which some days is better than a good dream.

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