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Such stuff as dreams are made on

Let me tell you about a news story I reported on once.

I was out and about in the town where I was working at the time, and I heard the city was going to try to close this neighborhood park.

See, the park was located right on the line between the county jurisdiction and the city jurisdiction – and actually, it was a park this family had built in their front yard. It had a fun playground, and all the children in the neighborhood would come play on it.

The county government was fine with this park, but the city was not. The city council had determined that particular area of town was not zoned for a neighborhood park, and they could not allow the family that built it to continue to operate it.

You might think this sounds a little strange. I did too.

I walked by this park, and it seemed nice. It was a bright, sunshiny day, and I could see that the park was clean and well kept, and the playground equipment was all in good order.

A couple of people standing nearby were talking about how the city was threatening to close the park, and I found out there was going to be a committee meeting at the town hall to determine what course of action to take.

So, I headed to town hall to get the scoop.

When I arrived, there were about a half dozen people gathered around a conference room table, about to discuss the issue.

They got a little squirrely when they saw the lady from the paper.

It happens. You learn to deal with it.

“You can’t be in this meeting,” one of them told me. I guess he was the chairman. He noticed I was holding my phone. “And you can’t record in here,” he added, a bit panicky.

It didn’t occur to me, at the time, to wonder if they were in violation of the Open Meetings Act by kicking me out, but I assured them I was wasn’t recording. “I need to write a story about the park, though, and what y’all decide,” I said. “When will your meeting be over so I can come back and interview you?”

Sideways looks at each other. Like I said. Squirrely.

“It will be about three hours,” the chairman said finally, in a tone I could tell was meant to hopefully dissuade me from bothering.

“Fine,” I said politely. “I’ll be back.”

I don’t remember remember how I passed the intervening time, but I do remember the moment later that day, as I was walking down the street, when I noticed the committee members were standing on the corner being interviewed by the editor of the other newspaper in town.

“Oh great,” I thought. “The meeting ended early, and he’s going to get the story before me!”

I hurried over, even as some of the committee members had started peel off and head home. I cornered the few who were still there and began my own line of questioning as the other newspaper fella wrapped up his interview.

Oh, I had lots of questions for them. Did they themselves have children who enjoyed the park? Why was having a park there a problem? Couldn’t they just grandfather that park in, since it already existed, and just enforce the zoning against any future parks?

They were uncomfortable with my questions at first. I could tell. But as we continued to talk, I was able to set them at ease.

I asked, weren’t they worried about community backlash if they recommended the city close the park?

They were – which is ultimately why they had decided to recommend the park be allowed to stay open.

I remember I rushed back to type the story and get it online. It was getting late – almost 8 p.m. My in-laws were coming over to bring dinner, and I needed to get that story out first.

That’s pretty much where it all ends – because that’s when I woke up.

I dreamed nearly a whole day of work, and I woke up exhausted – just in time to work for real.

Am I the only one who dreams about my job? I’d love to hear from you, if you have your own story of nights spent “sleep-working.”

And I’d also love to know – can I clock those hours on my timesheet this week?

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