Last September, after sleeping on futons and egg crates for countless years, I
broke down and bought a mattress. Not used, but new. Arriving not strapped to
the roof of a friend's car, but in a legitimate delivery truck that read
COMFORT CONNECTION across the side. I couldn't believe it. After long
maintaining that a good mattress was a luxury I could do without, that my body
was young and spry enough to withstand the lumpiness of hand-me-down futons, I
found my foot firmly lodged in my mouth: I regularly woke up sore. I found
myself begging friends and family to dig their elbows into the massive gnarls
beneath my shoulder blades. When they grew weary of my requests, I fantasized
about rubbing up against blunt objects to relieve the pain.
It was time to go over to the other side.
I never intended to spend a month's rent on a sleep-support system, but
Gunther, the middle-aged German owner of the mattress store I wandered into one
day, had perfected his craft. Wild-haired and rumpled, Gunther didn't look like
your conventional salesman. But his sales theatrics made up for it: walking
from mattress to mattress describing coil structures, he would fall,
stuntman-style, onto his favorites.
"This one, this is a very good mattress," he would say, sprawled on a Komfort
King. By the time he got around to a mattress called the Crown Jewel, I was at
"Let me tell you something," Gunther confided. "With this mattress, you will
wake up every day happy. Happy with you, happy with me, happy with the Crown
Jewel. This is the mattress you want."
"I'll take it!" I exclaimed. I expected Gunther to look pleased too. Instead,
his face grew serious. He leaned in.
"You have to flip and rotate the mattress every month -- I rotate mine every
two weeks -- or else you will damage the mattress's coil structure," he said.
"And it will be ruined." No problem, I thought, giddy with my purchase. Happy
with me, happy with Gunther, happy with the Crown Jewel.
It's been almost a year now since I bought the Crown Jewel, and it has more or
less fulfilled Gunther's prophecy; I've looked back on my years of
futon-sleeping and wondered how I could have been so deluded. But I haven't
heeded Gunther's warning: the Crown Jewel hasn't moved since the day it was
delivered. Lately I have begun to worry about this, mostly because -- like many
single people -- I am in the habit of sleeping neatly on one side of the bed,
as though expecting someone to join me. Sometimes I wake up and feel a well
developing under my body -- a sure sign of damaged coil structure. A sure sign
I have no real explanation for my failure to flip and rotate. True, someone
would have to help me manage it, but I have neighbors, friends, even a
roommate, who are up to the job. There just seems to be something
. . . private about a mattress. For me, I think it goes back
to that old sit-com Three's Company, which was structured entirely
around a co-ed living situation that was -- get this -- platonic.
In one of the more memorable episodes, the trio's landlord comes into the
apartment and hears his tenants in the bedroom moaning, "It doesn't fit!" and
"I can't get it on!" The gag is that the roommates are not actually
fornicating, but struggling to get a stubborn fitted sheet to stay on the
mattress. Outside the bedroom, the landlord is horrified, thinking his property
is the scene of some depraved sexual romp. Though the misunderstanding is
revealed by the end of the episode, the show left me equating bed-making with
potential sexual misunderstanding and embarrassment. I'm convinced this episode
should be shown at religious schools in place of Abstinence and You; if
it left normally hard-to-embarrass me with a mattress hang-up, its potential is
The prospects for the Crown Jewel, on the other hand, seemed bleak, since I was
disinclined to lure an unsuspecting neighbor into my bedroom to rotate and
flip. But Gunther's face kept hovering, Oz-like, before me. And then, suddenly,
it was obvious: I wouldn't have to rotate and flip the mattress if I rotated
and flipped myself. Each night I'd sleep in some previously uncharted
corner of the bed, giving the coil structure in my usual spot time to heal. The
plan seemed not only practical but symbolic; I mean, I bought this great big
mattress for me, because my back wasn't feeling so supple
anymore. So why was I sleeping in this thin little corridor? For whom was I
preserving those virgin coils, anyway?
Sadly, the plan wasn't the instant cure-all I'd imagined. The first night of
body rotation, I lay on the hump, that no man's land between my usual spot and
the other side; I woke up in the middle of the night sweating, unsure of where
I was, the sheets kicked up around my knees. The next night was no better. This
time I tried the far side, but by morning my upper body had migrated back to my
usual spot, leaving my feet, like abandoned furniture, in the opposite corner.
After a week of sleeping terribly, I decided to take a hiatus. Live
dangerously, risk ruin: sleep wherever I pleased.
That night I settled into my usual corner. It's not that I'm saving that
side for someone else, I thought, or that I don't like sleeping alone.
It's just habit. The path of least resistance. Fuck Gunther.
The next morning I woke after eight hours of uninterrupted, satisfying sleep,
once again happy with me, with Gunther, with the Crown Jewel. Damaged coil
structure or no, I would enjoy this mattress. But as the sleep-haze lifted, I
noticed that my feet had strayed from their usual place near the mattress's
edge to its far corner. You might even say I was lying diagonally across
A fluke? A particularly restless dream? Probably.
But who knows? I may yet avoid ruin.
Rebecca Wieder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue Date: September 28 - October 4, 2001