My back hurts. It always has some level of ache going on, but today it hurts. That’s because we’re on vacation. When you’re on vacation, you sleep somewhere other than your own bed, and for the over-forty-year-old male human, that usually means back pain. Or neck pain. Body part pain of some kind, anyway.
Vacations, in that way, are a conundrum for us over-forty males. We enjoy getting away from the day-to-day routine, but we know it’s going to hurt. So far this summer my family has been camping twice, where I got to sleep on a nice comfortable layer of stones and twigs, to two vacation homes where I got to sleep in little miniature versions of actual-sized beds, and to my in-law’s house at the beach, where the bed is almost life-sized, but about as comfortable as sleeping in or on my car.
All this rest and relaxation may just kill me. I’m starting to make groaning noises every time I transition in or out of a chair, and if I could figure out how to stay upright, I would seriously consider trying to sleep standing against the wall while we’re away from home. This is not to say that our bed at home is perfect. Far from it. It causes aches and pains, too. It’s just that it’s the home field, and I know how to play it. Our mattress is made out of an acceptable blend of coil springs and padding, whereas all the other mattresses I have slept on recently, in hotel rooms or people’s guest rooms seem to be filled with either 100% marshmallow cream or a mixture of rocks and scrap metal. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
Our mattress at home is relatively new. Or, should I say, relatively pre-owned. About a year ago, when our old mattress finally developed two sleep valleys so deep that we could not see each other over the middle hump, we decided it might be time to get a new one. We went to Sleep Train, which, much to my disappointment, was not located on an actual train. We went into the boring, completely motionless building and lay/sat on about eight different mattresses while our three boys jumped/tackled each other on the remaining thirteen. Many of the mattresses on the showroom floor seemed very comfortable, but they all cost roughly twenty thousand dollars each, or thirty thousand if you wanted the matching box spring. After reviewing the pricing, I decided we would just have to suck it up and sleep on our couches. The manager, sensing my hesitation at spending more for a bed than a new car, suggested we might want to look at some of their used mattresses.
I was interested, but my wife balked at the idea, citing the fact that we bought our last mattress new, and she didn’t understand what my problem was. I tried to explain to her that just like a new car, a new mattresses will lose over half its value the minute we drive it off the showroom floor, and nearly every mattress we have ever slept on has been “used,” but she remained unconvinced. The manager, with his years of mattress selling experience, kept her from running out the front door by asking me politely to shut up, and telling her that “used” meant the previous owner had it for less than two days, and returned it in like-new condition. Sleep Train (which, as I mentioned before, is incomprehensibly stationary) had then cleaned the returned mattress, just a precaution, mind you, with rubbing alcohol – apparently the universal pre-owned precautionary mattress cleaning agent - and offered it at a drastically reduced price, which was more in the range of what one might pay for a late model used car.
I was sold. My wife begrudgingly went along with the transaction, and we had our like-new mattress delivered that day. I slept alone in our new used bed for a week or two until my wife was sure that I hadn’t contracted any diseases, venereal or otherwise, then she finally joined me. While this mattress is still much better for my rapidly disintegrating body than any surface I have encountered this summer, it is not exactly perfect, as I mentioned. The other day while we were at home, I woke up with my hip hurting. I limped for two days, but I had gone to bed that night feeling just fine. I had just slept “funny.” That’s not right. Sleep is supposed to be a time of rejuvenation. There is something very wrong with getting hurt while you sleep. It seems unfair.
Getting old is rough. I didn’t used to have these problems. When my wife and I got married we were thirty years old. I could sleep anywhere on anything. We started out with my old bed from college which consisted of nine springs under a thinning sheet of quilted fabric, held together with lint and duct tape. When she wanted to replace it I seriously questioned why. I saw nothing wrong with it. I would bounce out of that bed every morning, ready to take on the world, not an ache to be found.
We just had our twelve year anniversary, and things have definitely changed. Now I wake up more sore than when I went to sleep. That’s probably not a good sign for the future…
Oh, well. It’s been a great twelve years otherwise, and my wife sure is lucky. A little over a decade later, and she gets to sleep in a newish used bed soaked in rubbing alcohol with an old man who smells like Bengay. Happy anniversary, honey!
I guess if she ever gets nostalgic for our twelve-year-old bed with the worn out springs and the deep sleep valleys that we purchased new, she’s in luck. It’s right down the hall in our guest room.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen
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