Living the Dream

I was over 30 years old by the time I finished my college, medical school and residency training.  One of the most joyful aspects of this feat of endurance was the realization that I would no longer be subjected to standardized tests.  The guiding philosophy of the medical school I attended was not to train you to be a good doctor, but instead to train you to pass the medical boards on the first try.  Therefore, all tests were in the style of the medical boards consisting of a dreary procession of multiple/multiple choice questions on isolated medical factoids. 

And with all this testing came the periodic nightmares that have achieved the status of urban legend among college students, who just refer to “The Dream.”  The dream consists of some sort of variation of anxiety over the final exam.  A frequent version is the panicky realization that you have forgotten that you had signed up for a course and are totally unprepared for the final exam.  My anxiety dreams tended to be more organizational.  For example, I would dream that I had a pencil box full of No. 2 pencils, but none of them would have an eraser, or all the pencils would have jumbo erasers but be unsharpened.  In other instances, I would be rushing around dark unnamed corridors desperately trying to find the right classroom, or there would be some sort of veil over my eyes so that I could not find my way through the corridors.  Anxiety about public speaking was an odd variation of the dream, where my mouth would inexplicably accumulate some sort of debris.  In the dream, I would attempt to discretely scoop all the material, and then struggle to find someplace to dispose of it, all the while the debris was accumulating again.  With the formal end of my academic career, I thought that these dreams would vanish.

But my anxious dreaming mind quickly found a new anxiety theme – getting to the airport on time.  I would dream that I couldn’t find the correct suit case, or my clothes or the ticket would be missing, the car didn’t have any gas, the keys were gone.  Perhaps these dreams were built more on actual experience, since each one of these events has occurred in isolation.  But then one day last summer, all aspects of the dream came true in one epic trip to the airport to pick up Ned and Susie.  I knew this airport pickup was going to be slightly more complicated than usual in this post 9/11 age, since neither of us had cell phones, but I felt confident that I could get to the airport, park and meet them in baggage claim. 

At the appointed hour, I went to the garage to get into the car, and was aghast to see that both of our cars were gone.  We had recently moved into the neighborhood and I did not feel comfortable in asking for this somewhat aggressive favor from our swanky neighbors.  I then hopped on my bike and madly pedaled over to my father’s house, assuming there would be an idle car, particularly since he no longer drove.  As I huffed and puffed into the driveway, I was stunned to see a totally empty driveway and house.  I was seriously running late at this point, so I took a big gulp and decided to call my parents’ life long neighbor Mrs. Reed.  Now I have come to know Mrs. Reed as a generous and loyal friend, but growing up, she was a figure of imposing authority, and somewhat persnickety in her tastes.  I was afraid of her then and those feelings had lingered for over 40 years.  I remember once saying to her, “Mrs. Reed can I ask you a favor?” and her response was, “Well you can always try.” 

Mrs. Reed immediately responded to my plight and minutes later I was on my way in an immaculate Volvo.  I wanted to return the car to her in the exact same condition, so I mentally noted which radio station was on, the position of the seat, and the gas gauge.  My perilous situation seemed to have righted itself – until I reached the first toll booth and realized that the Reed’s car did not have an EZ pass and I did not have any change.  Now normally I would just blast through the EZ pass, which I have done several times in my mother-in-law’s car, but I did not dare to do it in Mrs. Reed’s car lest she get a ticket in the coming months.    I then resorted to a strategy that I had often used with the kids.  I figured that no matter what I did, I would always be an embarrassment to them, so why not do something that truly deserving of their embarrassment?  Therefore, whenever we were at a toll booth, I would stop, open the door and pick up the loose change abandoned by people whose errant toss had missed the toll booth.  I would point out to the kids that some people were willing to just throw money out the window, but not this family.  The kids would roll their eyes and slink down in the seat as I picked up dimes, nickels and the occasional quarter.  Now this strategy came in handy.  The toll at this booth was about a buck, so I had to park the car at the side of the road, and scrounge at several different toll booths until I got enough change.

I breathed a sigh of relief as now I was in sight of the airport, and only about 15 minutes late.  As I drove toward the parking lot, I was horrified to see that for the first time ever, the parking lot was full, and all cars were being directed to remote parking, which required taking a tram back to the terminals.  I had erupted in a nervous sweat at this point since I had no way of communicating with Ned and Susie, and decided to try my luck at the international parking, which was much closer than remote parking.  However, mine was not an original thought, and I joined a competitive sea of cars jostling and milling around trying to nab the first open spot.  I almost got side-swiped in the precious Volvo as someone aced me out, so I decided to try a more focused strategy my mother had once used.  I drove to the spot where people were exiting from the terminal and spotted an overburdened and bleary eyed couple and offered to give them a ride to their car if I could have their spot.  Success!  I raced into the terminal, wild eyed, sweating, and disheveled, to find Ned and Susie peacefully waiting for me.  I relaxed as well, and we turned around and headed back to international parking.  However, as I stood on the sidewalk, I suddenly realized that in the rush of getting to the airport, I had neglected to notice the color, style or license plate number of the Reeds’s car nor could I remember what row I had parked it in… 

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (like spot, post, stop) and the number of asterisks indicate the number of letterse.  One of the missing words will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers. 

If you have a huge gap between what you need and what you’ve got

You might not care if your tossed coin misses the toll booth ****

But for **** of people, throwing money out the window is the epitome of waste

And typical of Americans whose wanton excess is in such poor taste.

So if you want to participate in a most lucrative **** and found

Just open the door next to the tollbooth to find coins strewn upon the ground











Answer:  slot, lots, lost

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