The Simpson File, And Other Disasters Averted

It happened early one morning last week. I was at work and the telephone rang. It was a court reporter setting up a telephone hearing. “Dammit” I thought – I had agreed a few weeks ago to cover this matter for another attorney in the office and I had completely forgotten to look through it yesterday as I had planned to.

I quickly buzzed my secretary to go find the Simpson file for me. My mind was a wreck. It was not my case, so I had no background on it at all – what was the dispute about, who were we representing, all of those most basic things were big, ugly question marks in my mind. The mind that was racing wildly. There are cases were someone is less interested in the outcome than are the others, and maybe our client is one of those. I surely have the experience to sit back and listen to the other lawyers ask their questions so that when my turn comes I can elicit something good and not bad. But what if I am the one who has to start at the beginning? “This could get ugly” I said to myself as I fumed “Where is she with the Simpson file.”


Fortunately, all of the problems were quickly solved. It happened in the most unexpected way – I woke up. In reality, it was Sunday morning. There was no hearing. I had not been asked to do anything. And there was absolutely, positively, not a Simpson file. For anyone looking for a way to really appreciate your life as it might be at a given moment, I cannot recommend this method highly enough. Because once it became evident that there was no Simpson file (and none of the potential catastrophes that went along with it) life could scarcely have been better.

I suspect that all of us have, at least once, awakened in a panic over a similar kind of impending doom. I have had conversations with others where we share experiences that are some variation on taking an important test in school. The one I have experienced a handful of times is where I find myself seated in a classroom, ready to begin taking a final exam. The problem is that I had completely forgotten that I had signed up for the class and had not been to a single classroom session for the entire term. Such dreams (at least for me) have never progressed to actually having to answer test questions. They end with the sheer dread that comes from the looming disaster of not knowing any of the material. And, of course, the sheer joy that comes from realizing that you have avoided what would have been a monster fail.

One of my children, who shall remain unidentified, actually did this in real life – that child thought a college class early in the semester had been dropped, and was surprised to receive a report card with a big fat F for the course. The situation was not made better by the fact that this report card arrived following what the student had intended to be the final semester for graduation. I was sitting right next to the youth as the mailed result was opened. I saw the panic start to set in on a face that had been so happy a few minutes before.

Marianne was furious, but all I could do was start laughing. When she asked me (in a not terribly happy tone of voice) what was so funny, I could only respond with: “Everyone I know has had nightmares about this exact scenario, and here this kid has actually done it in real life!” My reaction calmed my offspring somewhat, who was subsequently able to contact an advisor and move around some credit hours to apply to the final requirement, and all was resolved – without going back to school. And without the need to wake up.

I will confess that I came kind of close to a variation on this theme. I attended a university that maintained a physical education requirement. It was a point of pride for me that I was able to earn my six phys ed credit hours without once donning a pair of gym shorts or athletic shoes. The school had anticipated students like me by offering courses that included bowling, pocket billiards, casting & angling and archery. My final two hours came thanks to a course in golf. You could say that I took a golf course. Or not.

I dutifully attended every class, and as one who started from zero when it came to knowledge or experience in the game, it was helpful. I had an ancient set of clubs that had surely been hand-me-downs to my father. The canvas bag and big names etched into the clubs like Sam Snead and Tommy Armour (OK, big names in the 1930’s) were the giveaways. I learned about the grip, the stance, the swing and one of our two weekly sessions was at the university driving range where we would hit bucket upon bucket of balls with a particular club.

The final exam was to be held at the driving range where I was to be graded on ten strokes each with a wedge, a 9 iron, 5 iron and a driver. It was my last exam of the semester and I worked late the night before. I awoke with a start and remembered that I had forgotten all about my golf final. I threw on some clothes and rushed to the driving range, arriving just as the last students were finishing up. I ran (OK, so I did run at least once for my PE credit) and was out of breath by the time I got to the instructor. In a method that has served me well ever since, I confessed that I had overslept and asked “What can we do?”

The professor looked at me and laid out my options. “You can hit the balls if you want, I have time. Or” he continued “I have been watching you through the semester. I suspect that if you were to hit the balls the way I think you will, you will get a C. If you would be good with a C we can do it that way.” Having taken the class on a pass/fail option (and being no fool) I replied that a C would work for me. I thanked him for the courtesy, apologized again, and walked back to the car.

So the crisis was averted. I guess waking up was part of that one – if I had not awakened when I did, things could have taken an ugly turn. And it felt just as sweet as my successful resolution of the Simpson file.

25 thoughts on “The Simpson File, And Other Disasters Averted

  1. Your progeny having actually experienced this is priceless. No doubt the sense of dread was orders of magnitude greater in real life. Makes me wonder if they will ever dream about it later since their dream actually had come true.

    My parents, when in their forties, periodically mentioned having similar dreams about missing a final exam or having forgotten about being in some class. I always thought it weird – until about ten years ago. Then, lo and behold, similar starting happening with me, but with the twist I had decided not enough knowledge was gained the first time around, so I was back at school re-earning my degree to ensure more abundant knowledge. But somehow I still maintain enough cognizance when asleep to realize what’s happening and I wake up. It’s hard to know if that’s good or not.

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    • That’s a great question – having beaten it in real life, will there be no dreams on the topic?

      I have occasionally had the one about going back to school, and feeling very out of place at my age. 🙂

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  2. Yes, I have those dreams too, the more common one for me is that the semester has started but I don’t know my schedule and can’t attend any classes.
    My grandfather injured himself in his 80s, dreaming of Nazi soldiers chasing him. He leapt over a ditch to escape and found he’d leapt out of his bed and into a wall.

    I very nearly had the experience of missing an exam in university. I was on my way to a 3 hour final and happened to see the professor. I said hi and he asked me where I was going. Turns out the room had been changed and this information was communicated during the last lecture, which I did not attend. That particular prof would have shown me no mercy, I remember being quite rattled when starting the exam but I must have passed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ouch, missing that class could have been bad – it was fortunate that you got the right info.

      That sounds like a much higher-stakes version of the ten question quiz that both Marianne and I took (at different schools in different cities) in our grade school years – the one that started with “Read the Instructions” at the top, and at the end of the instructions was “Do not answer any of these questions.”

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    • The whole thing? It would probably require heavy equipment. Although I’ve seen it done with a condo development, too. Which kind of ruins the game for the next foursome.

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  3. My dream (nightmare) is that I have signed up for a course at college, taken just the first couple of classes, been given a major research paper to hand in, and watched the weeks roll by as the assignment laid untouched. Until the very last week, when I hadn’t started the damn thing and came to the realization I was not going to make it, and fearing the worst.
    This dream seems to last forever, and consumes hours of my precious sleep.

    In the comics this past week, Jeremy Duncan has had a difficult time awakening in the morning. Everyone tries to help him but without success. He should read this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, yes – coming wide awake is easy with this method. If only it could be controlled.

      And dreaming of procrastination in something like real time – that is one I have not experienced. Maybe it is because I practice it so well in real life. 🙂

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  4. I’ve never had dreams about classes or exams, but since I retired, I’ve had sporadic dreams about being at work – it’s never a workplace I actually worked in or people I know – but I’m definitely at work dispensing, and then the crunch comes when I suddenly realize I said yes to a shift but I don’t actually have a license to practice anymore, and then I’m in a panic because I’ve done something illegal and what if they find out, and when I wake up it’s sheer relief. It’s almost as bad as dreaming about losing your purse, or being in a car accident. The subconscious mind works in strange ways. The golf thing was funny.
    The Simpson thing actually took place in a John Grisham novel – well it was the premise of a whole book, where a rookie lawyer who knew nothing about a case had to argue it in court…..he took on the case never thinking it would get that far. I think he lost. I can’t remember the name of the book though, as he writes so many.

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    • It is funny that I have never read a Grisham novel, but I could see that being the start of a great yarn. And the fear of being caught working without a license is a good one for a dream.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha! I’ve never had such dreams, but I lived a real nightmare of my own making back in high school.

    I am about the least artistic person ever born, and I dreaded the art/music requirement in high school. So I just never signed up for any of the classes. Ever. It was simply procrastination at first, since I didn’t REALLY think I’d be able to get away with it for four years, but no one questioned me about it, so I kept avoiding that requirement. But late in my senior year, I became terrified that the school administration would notice that I’d skipped a requirement… I of course I was afraid I wouldn’t graduate. I remember the immense sense of relief when I actually got my diploma in hand; a huge burden was lifted off of me.

    I like your golf story. Recently I read a biography of ad executive Fairfax Cone (I read it as part of my Edsel research), and he had an even more dramatic version of that type of story. He had attended the University of California in the 1920s, and avoided the physical education requirement just like I avoided my high school art requirement. Except that he got caught just before graduation. Cone’s academic advisor tried to persuade the chairman of the phys. ed. department to be lenient and pass Cone anyway, to which the phys. ed. chairman replied “over my dead body.” Fairfax Cone therefore didn’t graduate — he just started his working career anyway, eventually becoming very successful. 20 years later, Cone received a diploma in the mail — turns out the old phys. ed. chairman died, and someone at the university (Cone never found out who) must have remembered the kerfuffle and decided to do the former student a favor and give him his long-overdue diploma.

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    • That Fairfax Cone story actually happened to someone I know. This guy studied ag economics at a large school known for agriculture. He was from a family of farmers and planned to continue that line. When it was time to graduate he was already married and working, and then he was told that he was missing one credit required for graduation – music appreciation. He called the advisor and told her that with all of the excess credits he had and for all the money he had paid that school, if they were not going to give him his diploma they could take it and, well, use your imagination. About a week later his diploma showed up in the mail.

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    • Is there such a thing as bad pizza? I am not sure I have come across one. I have experienced plenty of pizza that is meh, or so-so, or not great, but I am not sure I ever remember a bad one. Or maybe my standards are just too low.

      “I took a golf course” is kind of fun to think about. What I did with it after taking it would be the hard part to explain.

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  6. You’re getting old J.P.! I’m “retired” , and have harrowing dreams about work all the time! Weirdly enough, they’re never about the worst places I’ve ever worked (or even the recent), for some reason my subconscious has made peace with that insanity. They always seems to encompass working for one of the best places I worked, that “went bad”, through a series of buyouts and mergers. My longest time employed too, ten years, and I, and many others, had to quit to save our sanity. Three days ago, I had a dream I was given my senior vice-presidents car to take care of, and was driving it around in a snow storm with parts falling off it!

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    • Haha, the boss’s car dream is a great one. I am a car nut and have had lots of dreams about cars, but the really weird part is that whenever I get offered the chance to drive something really interesting I wake up before I actually get to drive it. I feel cheated. I also have one where I discover that the car I had during college is sitting somewhere and that I forgot I had it, then I put it back into daily service. Because what could possibly prevent a 1971 Plymouth Valiant with 145,000 miles on it from starting right up and operating normally after sitting unattended for 30 years.

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  7. I’ve had the “having to take an exam I am unprepared for” dream a few different times. It is indeed always a pleasure waking up from them. A related set of dreams that cause similar stress during / relief afterword have been “something terrible happened to my car” dreams. Examples include my car sliding into Lake Erie, going off a bridge, and getting taken and hidden by an acquaintance after we were both involved in a shootout. Having lost cars in real life (one just this past September), I suspect this is my subconscious trying to work out unresolved trauma.

    Thankfully, I never overslept for an exam in college (the same cannot be said for classes in general, however). I did have a couple of near misses freshman year, though. The first was when I completely screwed up the location of the exam (thought it was in the normal lecture hall when in reality it was in a completely different building). Luckily, I happened to arrive early enough to notice no one else was there, check online to see the location, realize I was in the wrong place, and go to the right place all before the exam started (if I had been my normal, lazy self, I would have been SOOL). Had a similar situation the next semester in which I thought a final was at 11:00 AM, but after double checking the location right before I went to sleep, found out it was actually at 7:00 AM. In one of my other classes that same semester, I received an F by mistake. When I saw the grade, and knowing it was not mathematically possible given my other grades for the course, I ended up calling the professor on his home phone (looked it up online) and explained the situation to him. Thankfully, the matter was resolved within a day or so.

    During grad school, I never overslept for an exam, but once almost missed giving out the final because I did not realize that it was my (the lowly TA’s) responsibility to administer the final instead of the professor. It was only because another TA came to me the night before to ask me a question about where we were supposed to administer the exam that I learned I needed to be there for it. If I had missed that, I suspect it would have cost me my TA position.

    More than anything, these sort of situations make me realize how many guardian angels I have had in my life, and how lucky I am that, overall, I have not had to suffer too much from my worst impulses.

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    • Isn’t that the truth – how many real-life situations we have been rescued from. It is like these dreams are a way of showing us how bad it could really get and making us appreciate when things go better than that.

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  8. You are clever indeed JP – you wrote a recent blog post while achieving CLE and now you have admitted that “it was a point of pride for me that I was able to earn my six phys ed credit hours without once donning a pair of gym shorts or athletic shoes.” We enjoy reading about these mischievous adventures on your part. 🙂 Why don’t I remember dreaming anything? I must not fall into a deep enough/REM sleep cycle as I can’t remember the last dream I had and it seems I’m into a deep sleep once my head hits the pillow.

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      • JP – I have to say that even when I’ve had things on my mind through the years – exams at school or other concerns, I never lost my appetite and could always sleep. I have always thought that made me somewhat of an oddity. After my father left my mom in early 1984 and first taking all the money out of the bank and leaving my mom penniless, (luckily the house was free and clear many years before), my mom had horrible nightmares every night. She dreamed a man with a hat pulled down low on his forehead, wearing a dark trench coat and wielding a butcher knife was going after her. She could not see the man’s face.
        Just as he reached her, my mom screamed and turned on the night light, shaking like a leaf, tears streaming down her face, heart racing. She did not want to go back to sleep. She woke me up too and I’d go sit with her. She would lay in bed, afraid to go to sleep and didn’t want to take any type of sleeping pill. I convinced her to have some warm milk, put on a heating pad and I got her a white noise machine to help lull her to asleep peacefully. The dreams finally stopped, but she was terrorized during that period of time and the blood-curdling screams were both scary and worrisome to me.

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  9. You’ve never read a Grisham novel? (Sorry, got distracted there.) My real comment is, nightmares of this nature are clearly tailored to our individual experiences. My own involves my architecture degree thesis, carried out the first semester of the fifth of five years. It is the most difficult, comprehensive aspect of the degree – a complete project and presentation requiring untold hours to finish. The nightmare kicks in the week the project is due, with the drawings yet to be started. An impossible task, and I always wake up with heart-a-pounding. Fascinates me – forty years on – I can still have that nightmare. The experiences of college must hit our brain at a time when absorption rate is at its most effective. Also, I kick myself for not even checking to see if my college offered golf as a course back then (“golf course” – love that). Golf would’ve served me better later on in life than some of the classroom electives I chose instead.

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