Air mattresses have come a long way. Back when I was a kid living at the lake, an air mattress was a narrow plastic raft, just large enough for one. We’d spend half an hour blowing one up, huffing and puffing into the little blow-up tube, then tossing the mattress in the lake, and trying to lie comfortably on it and paddle around.
Now air mattresses are portable beds. They come in twin, full, queen and king sizes, can be inflated in a couple of minutes with an attached electric motor, and stand almost as tall as a traditional bed.
We’ve had such an airbed, rolled up in its knapsack, just in case we ever need an extra bed for guests. A few years ago, my brother slept on it once.
Sweetheart Al proposed sleeping on it last Friday and Saturday nights.
We’re getting a small place for occasional weekend escapes over on the other side of California (north of San Francisco and close to the Pacific). We decided to paint the bedroom Friday, and move furniture and other stuff in during the Memorial Day weekend. Bedroom furniture was scheduled for delivery Sunday afternoon.
I thought we’d get a motel room while we painted and moved in, but Sweetheart said, "Why don’t we use that airbed and just stay in the place. Save driving back and forth to a motel."
That sounded good to me, so I added sheets, pillows and a couple of blankets to the packing, and we were set.
We left early Friday morning and drove across California – through ranch lands, along the delta, past wind farms with their slowly turning windmills, along the tide flats above San Francisco Bay, and through the vineyards of wine country until we pulled in at our destination.
We were so jazzed, that we quickly got to the painting project. We masked and taped with gusto, stretching the wide blue painter’s tape along windows and baseboards and closet doors. We spread out the drop cloths. Then we poured the paint into our pans. I worked the roller, and Al did all the detail brush work. We smoked! And we actually finished the entire room before dinnertime. From a bright canary yellow to a mellow peachy-gold, the whole bedroom looked fresh and beautiful, and we went off to celebrate with a Japanese feast.
After soup, salad, sushi and salmon teriyaki with sticky rice…we wandered back to our little place. The evening was cool, we were beginning to feel the achy satisfaction of hard work, and we were soon ready to sleep on our air mattress bed.
Al plugged in the pump, and the bed quickly rose, its padded top inviting us to stretch out and sleep. We made it up, took a nice hot shower and then slipped between the sheets. The mattress was a little firmer than I’d thought it would be…. but not for long.
Sleep came immediately. But soon, I awoke with a slippery, collapsing feeling. The mattress was too soft. Our hips were sinking floor-ward as the strength and size of the bed shrank. Al turned over and my side of the bed collapsed completely, tossing me onto the floor.
"Oh, sorry," Al mumbled.
"It’s got a leak," I said. Waaaaay back in my half-asleep brain I remembered my brother saying something about a leak.
Al punched the pump and the mattress promptly filled with air until it was firm and bedlike again.
I crawled under the covers. Back to sleep.
I was awakened next when the rubber mattress wrapped itself around me and caved in. Sweetheart and I bumped heads as we rolled together. He punched the pump again, and the mattress resumed its bed-like shape.
We clung together in the center of the mattress, arms and legs entwined in some reptilian-brain-stem belief that we could stay asleep and on top of the mattress if we were together in the middle. Within moments we were deeply asleep.
And then, suddenly, we were plunging as the mattress sagged beneath us. "What the…" Al’s eyes sprang wide as we fell to the floor with a thud. At least we were in each other’s arms.
"It’s the bed from hell," Sweetheart said.
"I’ll sleep on the couch," I said, grabbing one of the blankets as he punched the pump again. "Maybe you can get some sleep if you’re the only one on the thing."
I cocooned myself in the blanket, on the living room couch, and promptly fell asleep.
We actually slept late. That’s what an afternoon of hard physical work will do for you – enable you to sleep in the most impossible of situations.
Over coffee and toast the next morning, Al described how the bed treated him. Instead of collapsing at the sides and dumping him onto the floor, it sagged at the top, so that his head sank while his feet and other parts stayed elevated in a comical, undignified manner.
We devised a plan: go to the furniture store and beg them to deliver the bedroom set today, instead of Sunday.
So I begged Chris Michna (firstname.lastname@example.org), the store’s managing partner and even though it was Memorial Day weekend, he rounded up a helper and brought us the bedroom furniture a day earlier than scheduled.
Saturday night, we had a real bed. It was new, beautiful and comfortable beyond description. We slept like babes in dreamland.
And the bed from hell? Dumpster fodder.