The Hidden Meaning of Brown Shirts with Rainbow Collars

Six Carl’s Jr. fast-food workers stood ready to take on the problem: a home in disarray. I had too much to do in too little time. I was fretting. This team would help.

Actually, I don’t have an exact count of how many fast-food employees there were in the dream, all decked out in their brown shirts with rainbow collars. I didn’t make one. There were more than three, probably more than four. Crowded together, they were a team. Young men and women. All ready to help.

If this was somebody else’s dream, what would the fact they were Carl’s Jr. fast-food employees mean? Maybe the association would be something about food, like the dreamer was hungry or had been hungry and the workers were there to make lunch.

Maybe the dream would have something to do with the fried zucchini topped with ranch dressing. That’s my all-time, unique to Carl’s Jr., favorite side dish.

It goes without saying that the old Carl’s Jr. uniform is a symbol that isn’t in the dream dictionary. I can’t even find a picture of them, though they were in service for years. Probably nobody liked how they looked and didn’t want to take a picture.

Yet, apparently these old brown uniforms are poignant to me. They appear every now and then in my dreams, recurring.

The particular restaurant is absolutely important. I didn’t work at Wendy’s very long, maybe a couple of weeks. The location I was hired at was far from my house and I needed more hours. The Pizza Hut I worked at was very slow. They weren’t selling many pizzas, doing only a little more than $100 per night in business. If the workers were dressed in Wendy’s or Pizza Hut uniforms it would mean completely different things.

I worked at Carl’s Jr. for about two years, an eternity in a high-turnover fast food environment. It was the place where I learned about corporate culture, where I learned to work very hard. While I had other jobs and I worked hard there too, the hard work at Carl’s Jr. was different. Delivering the newspaper would be the same every day except Sunday. The number of subscribers didn’t vary too much. Sunday papers were very heavy and I had to make a couple of trips on my bike.

Selling coffee at bingo was the same pretty much every time. The crowd varied only a little each night.

At “the Junior” you had to step it up from time to time. The rushes could be somewhat unpredictable. We’d regularly get tour buses and crowds of hungry shoppers from the warehouse shopping club across the street at lunch. The crowd would only be heavy during the week and extremely heavy on the weekend.

I learned to count the number of people walking up in the lobby and drop one meat patty for every person. Though we offered steak sandwiches and chicken sandwiches, charbroiling the meat ahead of time would help get the orders out quickly. Almost everybody wanted a hamburger and because some sandwiches would take two meat patties, the meat wouldn’t be wasted. We’d also drop a certain amount of fries into hot oil based on the crowd in the lobby.

Therefore, the fast-food workers in the dream symbolize hard, sometimes ineffective, work. Why ineffective? You might drop a bunch of meat but the crowd surprised you by getting chicken and fish sandwiches. Then the manager would throw away the food because nobody wanted to eat a cold hamburger. Ninety percent of the customers would want hamburgers, however, so chances are that it wouldn’t go to waste. It was true often enough.

In the dream there’s a group of them, they’re ready to plow ahead, get the job done.

If I posted this on a dream interpretation board, it’s doubtful anyone would stumble upon this association. Maybe they’d mention how Carl’s Jr. used scantily clad female celebrities like Paris Hilton, Heidi Klum and Kate Upton to sell sandwiches in the early 2000s. They’d insinuate that sex was somehow at the root of this dream. Psychiatry father Sigmund Freud related a lot to sex after all.

Nope. Not for me. I worked there in the 80s. For me, this means stumbling ahead, physically working hard. Sex has nothing to do with it. Nobody looks all that good in a brown shirt with a rainbow collar. After work, I’d often be amazed at how well some of my co-workers would clean up.

When you dream, you’ll have these associations too. When you get stumped, you need to ask, “What does this make me think of?”

“What did ____ mean to me?”

Think about the emotion you feel and the place you were in your life.

You’ll find the answer more times than not.

When you don’t, remember it sometimes takes a little work. The answer is there, somewhere, tucked away in your subconscious.

Photo credit: Jon Fossdal