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The money-changer and the would-be thief

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I try not to make this too much a dream journal, so I'll spare y'all the long unhappy dreams from the other night. I've been kinda stressed about some stuff at work, and it bled through into a couple of dreams.

But in the second one, there was one charming bit that I thought was interesting enough to recount:

I was in a highway rest stop, in a big room that was sort of flea-market-like, only most of the vendors were there to make change for travelers' money. I kept having a hard time getting them to give me change, for various reasons.

(Some people feel that dreams are full of puns, and might be inclined to note that frustration over inability to make change can have multiple meanings. But I don't think my dreams tend to use that kind of pun; maybe I do that enough when awake that my subconscious doesn't see the need, or something.)

On my fourth or fifth attempt, I went up to a sensible- and friendly-looking woman, roughly somewhere around my age, and handed her my $15 and asked for change. And then I noticed a disaffected teen girl, with long bangs and possibly a nose piercing (at least she looked like the sort who might have sported such a piercing, even if she didn't), reaching into the money-changer's nearby open suitcase to steal a nice-looking glove. (Why a glove? No idea. Dreams. Go figure.)

I grabbed the glove and called attention to the thief. She stepped back and stood there glowering sulkily at me and the rest of the world.

The money-changer stepped around the end of the table she was sitting behind and started talking with the girl, whom she had evidently never seen before. The girl responded sullenly. The woman continued talking with her, gently, and reached out and brushed the bangs out of the girl's eyes, in a sort of a friendly/fond way.

The girl clearly did not want to be approached in a friendly or motherly kind of way, and continued to be sullen.

The woman kept talking with her, and then something happened that made sense at the time but got lost in my transition from sleep to wake a few minutes later, to the effect that the woman was offering to take the girl on a ride on a dragon.

The girl immediately brightened up; her sense of wonder had clearly been engaged. And apparently in the world of the dream, dragonback rides were quite plausible, although the world was, in every other respect that I saw, a mundane and modern world.

The two of them ran off together, talking cheerfully and bonding. I had the vague impression that the woman had always wanted a daughter, and the girl had been missing the attentions of a kind mother.

I spent a few seconds pleased at how charming and heartwarming the whole scene had been.

And then I realized: the woman had run off with my $15.

And I had absolutely no idea whether the whole thing had been honest and she'd just forgotten she had my money, or whether the whole thing had been a scam, a scene played between (for example) a mother and a daughter for my benefit in order to take my money.

In the dream, I was very upset, especially when, moments later, all the other money-changers went on dinner break and I was left unable to get change.

But after waking up, I was kinda pleased with the storyline. I have, once or twice in person and at least once via a true story told by a friend, encountered con artists who told fascinating and detailed stories of their hard times in order to acquire money. And although I don't approve of cheating people, I do approve of good storytelling.

So one way of looking at the dream situation is that, even if it was a scam, I paid $15 for a well-done piece of theatre that made me feel good, which is something I would be happy to do if I knew it was theatre.

(I can't resist noting in passing, even though this is completely irrelevant, that the abovementioned true story was told in response to a roomful of people (my college sf group) calling out "Tell us a story, Daddy Crustacean!" There was context that made that line make a certain amount of sense, but I won't bother to try to reconstruct it.)

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