I’m editing a story for The New York Times (if you’re going to dream, dream big.)
It’s a story about COVID, as most stories are these days. But it makes no sense.
On the front page, it’s a bunch of gibberish. When I go to the part of the story on the inside pages, it’s a bunch more gibberish. This may be fine for the OshKosh B’Gosh (I’m almost certain that’s the name of an actual paper), but not for us here at The New York Times, a paper so Fancy that even the The is capitalized. Except, of course, when it’s the The before the The.
I call the guy in charge of the story. We at The New York Times are old school, using the phone rather than those new-fangled text messages.
Answering the phone, rather than saying hello, he says “Knock Knock.”
Who’s there? I respond.
COVID who? I ask.
Don’t answer the door! It’s COVID! he says, and hangs up.
I don’t know what to make of it. Was it a clue? Is he trying to tell me the story is intentionally gibberish to emphasize how much we don’t know about the coronavirus? Is he having fun with the new guy on the desk? I call back.
Knock knock. Who’s there? COVID. COVID who? Don’t answer the door! It’s COVID! Click.
I hang up the phone. We at The New York Times eschew the cellphone in favor of the beefy desk phones with lots of buttons and a rotary dial. We also use words like “eschew.” Because we are The New York Times, and You Are Not.
I sit and stare at the story. No idea what to do. In hindsight, I suppose it’s a metaphor for living with the virus these days. In real life, I spend a lot of time staring at COVID stories with no idea what to do.
I’m on deadline, and I’m stuck. I can’t edit it, I can’t ignore it, I can’t do anything. Except call again.
The phone rings again. The guy picks up again. Knock knock, he says again.
And then, I wake up.
Mo rolls over. “Why were you screaming in your sleep?” she asks.
I want to respond simply “knock knock.” Instead, I say, “work dream.”
She nods. The cat yowls.
I sip my morning coffee while reading a COVID story on the New York Times website. None of this makes any sense. I have no idea what to do. I don’t call anyone.
The dream is over.
The nightmare is not.