Struggling up a hill, causing a traffic jam: A recent dream

October 11, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 11, 2019

Author’s note: I originally published this post with the title “Climbing that hill, stuck in traffic: A recent dream”; I adjusted the title shortly after publication to make it more accurate. MEM

This morning, I dreamed that I was driving, perhaps to work. I remember thinking to myself — or explaining to someone in the car? — that this wasn’t the route I normally took to get where I was going, but that it was important to have some variety in one’s routine.

(This part of the dream may have been influenced by Thursday, because I went to a part of Hillsborough Street in Raleigh that I hadn’t traveled on in a few months and found the area transformed by construction. As I used one of the new roundabouts to reverse course in order to access a bookshop on the north side of the street, I noticed that the concrete foundations for a new building had been installed on the northwest “corner” of Hillsborough and Dixie Trail. I thought to myself, “Hey, the sports bar with the outdoor deck that used to be right there that I never visited is now a thing of the past!”)

(Incidentally, I checked out Google Street Maps and found that this establishment was called East Village Grill.)

In the dream, I was on a hill approaching a busy intersection in the commercial district of a thriving town — Nyack, N.Y.? someplace in Northern New Jersey? There was something funky about the intersection. Maybe it was a five-way junction; maybe there was one of those large public clocks that are sometimes mounted on poles occupying a small traffic island.

The important thing is that my car was struggling to reach the top of the hill, and therefore the intersection. My balky vehicle was holding up traffic behind and around me. This was at once frustrating and embarrassing.

At one point, I made a gesture to a nearby driver. Even in the moment, it was unclear to me whether I was trying to indicate You should go ahead or Hey, I’m trying my best!

The other motorist took my meaning as the former. And then my vehicle’s engine finally engaged and the tires got traction and we both surged into the intersection. Disaster ensued. My car was wrecked.

Here the perspective of the dream shifted, and I was no longer experiencing it in the first person. Instead, I got an overhead view of my body laid out in the street — the kind of sight you see on television and in the movies but rarely in real life. Curiously, there was no sign of my car.

I also found that my mental perspective changed. I started yelling at the people around me (perhaps I had changed bodies): Forget him! Ignore him! Just move on! Go ahead, forget about him! I wanted people to ignore the — injured? dead? — body in the street in order to get traffic moving again.

And that was the dream.

Was I projecting into a future that I fear will pass geriatric me by? I vaguely recall reading or hearing something recently (a Stephen King story? coverage of the widespread California power outages?) that made me think about being an isolated senior citizen. Was I mentally expressing frustration about poker, or perhaps pinball, in which I’m struggling to improve and fear that I may not?

Readers, I do not know.

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