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Being somewhere else

I dream very small and have never dreamed much -- at least much that matters. In my time in college there was a lad on the floor above who dreamed in feuilleton, English style, and could go to bed in the evening and pick up where he left off last night. He slept a continued story; his days were but bookmarks. He used to tell us about some of his better episodes, and he had one sequence in his junior year that he set down in a Ms. (pronounced mizz) and sold to a science fiction magazine. Once a week or so some of us would go to the cinema to see a new Evelyn Brent, but he would never go with us. Saved money by going to bed. Since I wouldn't have a dream in a 'coon's age, I was taken by this lad's built-in entertainment, and the only upmanship I could offer was that when I did dream, I dreamed in color. He, he admitted, was strictly in black and white.

Just the other night I had one of my rare dreams, and for once it was good enough to relate. I dreamed that my wife and I went to the movies. (We have not been to a movie in fact since New Year's of 1962, when we attended a museum showing of a Pearl White production in 10 episodes, accompanied by a Fatty Arbuckle, so I can't enlighten anybody about this stuff dreams are made on.) But in my dream we went again, and the theater was lighted when we went in and for a moment we watched folks arrange themselves. Then the lights went out, some music played, and on the screen I read:

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As the words faded, a kaleidoscopic pattern followed, and from the jumble of color came the next line: By Walt Disney

The I woke up.

On the morning of Saturday, November 8, 1980, I would have gone to Rockland to see several people I trade with now and then, and I made out a list. Unsure of the Saturday situation, I decided to telephone first, and after four calls I had essentially the same response four times: No, Mr. So-and-so is not in today. No, he isn't expected until late next week. So I didn't go to Rockland, and along in the afternoon I woke up on that one. Finally I figured it out.

Some years ago a conglomerate considered a manufactory in Maine and, in the best new-day fashion, engaged a research firm to evaluate the matter. A considerable team of experts arrived in the state, and began to accumulate the data. It was an exhaustive study. They took several areas, and fine-toothed each in every pertinent particular. Schools, taxes, recreation facilities, automobiles per family, telephones per home, mortgage frequency -- everything and anything went into the computer. Then when the button was pushed, output wrote a book that projected the picture for the conglomerate. The factory did get built.

But in the welter of detail, the computer included an interesting statistic. Maine has the highest rate of absenteeism of any state in the Union: there is an industrial and business hazard in the fact that workers fail to appear at their machines and their desks and their stations, and every business must allow for this costly oddity. I had, by my four telephone calls to Rockland, tuned in on this, and for no reason whatever (except as hereinafter explained) four men were in absentia.m I smiled, because I knew why.

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But the conglomerate didn't know why, and one of the decisionmakers who was studying the statistics became curious. Maine absenteeism, he found, is seasonal, and the two most arrant periods come around Memorial Day and around Armistice Day. At other times, things go rather smoothly. The man from the conglomerate queried the research team, but the experts said they hadn't pursued beyond the fact, and couldn't give a reason. So the man from the conglomerate put in a long distance telephone call to our statehouse, and somehow got plugged into the governor's office, where His Excellency's secretary easily explained. No great puzzle about it at all, she said. That's the Maine way. Along about Memorial Day the fishing season gets under way, and along about the first week in November the law goes off deer.

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