Betty Duffy

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


(Caveat: If you're highly sensitive to misuse of the words "lay" and "lie" you might want to skip this post.)

Long ago, when my husband and I realized there would be very small children in our bed for many years to come, we bought a king-sized mattress off my husband's Great Aunt Ruth for fifty bucks. It was already old when we bought it, with its gaudy 1970s style floral print over a yellowed background, but it was a Beautyrest with a lifetime warranty. Aunt Ruth died shortly thereafter, and twelve years into its second lifetime, my husband and I have decided to put the mattress out of its misery, mainly because its misery has worn off on us, or on our backs anyway. We went mattress shopping, for real, not in a relative's basement, but in a department store.

Our first salesperson was anxious to discern our sleeping preferences: "Are you a side sleeper or a back sleeper?"

"Side sleeper," I said, my left side--a holdover habit from pregnancy days.

"And you, Sir?"

"Uh, my back?" said my husband.

Our salesperson led us to a giant mattress surrounded on three sides by flatscreen TVs that formed a room around it. He told us to take our coats off and lie down on our backs--that this special mattress would take some measurements and help us deduce the right mattress for our particular body types. He typed our heights and approximate weights into a computer along with our sleeping preferences, then told us to lay still while the computer collected data.

This was a very awkward procedure, something like a mattress cat scan. Once on our backs, we could see that another flatscreen TV was over head, and when the lights dimmed, this TV came on, and a womanish computer animated voice said, "Hello! You are here because you have made a decision to purchase a mattress."

Thank you for telling us.

"Your sales representative will return in just a moment. Your patience is important while we help identify the right mattress for you." A few high tech dots scrolled across the screen which became graphic male and female figures compressed in a computerized mattress. Deep within the bowels of the mattress below us, we detected a movement.

"Uh oh, something's happening," said my husband. It was like one of those massage chairs from Sharper Image, moving up and down the length of our bodies.

"I think it's measuring the divot my butt makes in the mattress," I said. "It's feeling me up."

The computer spoke, "Now turn into your preferred sleeping position while we take one last measurement." I turned to my side. My husband turned to his side.

"I think I might have made a mistake about being a back sleeper," my husband said.

"Yeah, I was sort of surprised to hear you say that. I don't usually think of you that way."

"How am I supposed to know if I'm asleep?"

When our salesman came back, he handed us a computer printout that assigned my husband and I two different colors. My color, indicated that I need a softer mattress, while my husband's showed he needs a firmer mattress. Our salesman raised his arm over the showroom, "Look for mattresses marked with your color; those will be the best ones for you."

"I'm Green," I said.

The sales guy winked at my husband and said, "You didn't hear it from me." Snicker, snicker.

So we set off, towards the showroom, where fifty or so other people were lying down on the floor models simulating their preferred sleep positions while salesmen were standing by.

"This is so weird. You see what everybody looks like when they're sleeping." One guy in jeans and a stocking cap was on his stomach with the side of his face pressed into the mattress and his hands tucked under his thighs. A woman all in black with high heels on, curled up on her side in a fetal position. Everywhere, people were prostrate, but only for a few seconds, before jumping up and moving on to a different mattress. My husband and I would lie down back to back, then flip over face to face. We'd both turn to our backs, then get up and move on. It was like musical chairs, or speed dating, or a slightly off-kilter mix between the two.

New mattresses are expensive, thousands of dollars. Firm. The salesmen insist that terrible things will happen if they come down on the price. So when we went from Kittles to Mattress Firm, and my husband saw a mattress that he knew we both liked for about 700 less than we'd seen it at the other store, he said, "I'm going to go see if Kittles can match this price." This is precisely where I zoned out of the mattress shopping adventure and started reading an old copy of Atlantic Monthly I'd swiped from my parents' house with a jaded woman on the cover saying, "What? Me Marry?"

My husband ran into Kittles, and came back out a few minutes later. "Our guy said he can do a hundred less than Mattress Firm."

"Great. Let's do it."

"I want to see what Mattress Firm has to say about this first. I'm going to dicker with 'em." We drove back to Mattress Firm. They said they would throw in delivery and taxes for the same price, which meant that the final ticket price was approximately three hundred less than originally advertised at Mattress Firm and a thousand less than the ticket price at Kittles. Very firm, these guys are. I was starting to wonder how low we could go, so when I went into Mattress Firm with the wallet to make the sale, I teasingly suggested he knock another hundred off.

The guy looked at me warily. He was sick of our sh*t. "To be honest, I'm only making twenty-five dollars on this sale, and the only reason I'm giving you this price is because I need it out of the warehouse by tomorrow night when we do our inventory."

Alrighty then.

Yesterday, our mattress was delivered by a 19-year-old Italian-sounding feller with greasy hair, who asked at the door before entering, "Do you want me to wear booties?"

Do you want me to wear booties? Booties? It took a minute before I realized he was talking about those little plastic galoshes you put over your shoes, and I waved my hand to dismiss the notion that my home was clean enough to require booties. I showed him to my room, where Aunt Ruth's mattress lay on the floor, as it has these twelve long years, only now, stripped of its sheets and mattress pad so that the voluptuous but faded hot pink hibiscus print looked naked. "Here she is," I indicated the mattress to be removed.

I have to admit, I was a little sad to see her go as they folded her in half and carried her out the door-- even though she'd caused me pain. I probably don't need to mention how many babies were conceived on that thing.

We had downgraded from a kingsize mattress to a queen, which made both my husband and I a little nervous. What if we touch each other in our sleep? Sure enough, our first night on the new arrival, he rolled off of his back, side sleeper that he is, and butted me out of the center of the mattress with his rear end. I butted him back, and so forth, until finally we settled on a spooning position, which, you know, could conceivably result in more children. I tell you this only to note that the downgrade is truly an upgrade.

My husband is making the bed itself, our first actual bed rather than a mattress on the floor. It's a cannonball bed with shoulder-high posts, made out of walnut. In a month or so, it will all come together. Until then, goodnight.


Karyn said...

I had no idea bed shopping was so high-tech. We bought one four years ago -also to accommodate little ones - but we just picked one out online. I'm curious if you'll notice a difference; my sleep is always bad but I don't know if it's due to the mattress. Well - sweet dreams! The proposed bed frame sounds lovely!

Melanie B said...

Some family members chipped in together and gave us a gift certificate for a new mattress at our bridal shower. So my fiance and I went mattress shopping together in the weeks leading up to our wedding. The place we went didn't have one of those body scan things, thank goodness; but the experience was still more than a little uncomfortable. Laying down on beds together trying to imagine whether the mattress would work for us when we had no idea how we would work.

Made all the more uncomfortable when the salesman started telling us something about the bed he shared with his girlfriend. Or something like that.

We made one of the worst mistakes of our lives and let the salesman talk us into a pillowtop mattress. One that is so fat it won't take regular sheets so I have to find the expensive extra deep sheets. And we can't flip the mattress over because pillowtops aren't meant to be flipped over. And they aren't supposed to be very safe for bed sharing and of course now that we're on baby number four the baby pretty much just sleeps in the bed with us most nights. I can't wait until we are lucky enough to be in a position to replace it with a nice new king size mattress. I don't even care if it's firm or soft or whatever.

Erin said...

This post had me laughing out loud. "It's feeling me up." I have never heard of such a contraption, but I'm not a bit surprised. And way to go, Husband, for getting a darn good price! Happy sleeping.

BettyDuffy said...

Oh man, Melanie, I could have given you Aunt Ruth's mattress! We tried to pawn it off on my brother-in-law but nobody wanted it. We got a pillow top mattress, and were immediately struck with buyer's remorse. We went home and read the reviews on our mattress, all of which were terrible. Of course, it occurred to me that the people who liked it were in bed asleep. Anyway, I tried some queen sized sheets on it, and when they didn't fit, I put our old king sized sheets on it, and they worked perfectly, so I get to take the new sheets back. That's at least a little bit of savings. This really is a quandry, the pillow-top thing. I do think they're easier on women, but that durability thing ...

Anyway, I didn't sleep at all last night. Hopefully, it's new bed jitters.

Kimberlie said...

Wow! that was some negotiating even Dave Ramsey would have been impressed with.

We got talked into a pillow top, latex foam mattress that was comfortable for about 1 year. It's been giving me back problems ever since and that's 5 years now. We also use king sized sheets because even the deep pocket queen sized sheets don't fit (argh!). Now we are hoping to get a plain old serta or sealy, no pillow top, no frills so we can sleep in a bed that isn't molded to our forms anymore creating a huge hump in the middle of the bed because while I like spooning as I am starting to sleep, when I actually fall asleep, I don't want him anywhere near me. :)

Melanie B said...

It never even occurred to me to try king size sheets. Maybe I can find some of those on sale cheaper than the deep pocket queen size.

Initially I do think it was easier on me. But now we've worn two ditches in the thing and the magic has gone. Long gone.

I am jealous of your new bed frame, though. We've wanted one since we got married but it's never been in the budget. How handy to have someone who can make one to order.

And speaking of woodworking, I love your new header photo. Intriguing.

And on

Lizzie said...

What a great start to my morning - I laughed out loud all the way through this. I can't say I have any comparable experience although I would love a comfy mattress. I'm currently on an IKEA day bed with a thin foam mattress - one good thing is that I definitely don't want to lie-in each morning and am up fast to greet the new day...!
Happy New Year Betty - blessings to you and yours.

BettyDuffy said...

OK, I have made a resolution to quit fretting and love my mattress for a minimum of twenty years. We have thirty days to change our minds, but I can't see that that's enough time to foresee the issues I'm hearing will most likely arise with our pillow top. Should we back out now? Damn.

Melanie, the header photo are the ornaments my oldest son made for Christmas. He had some help with the lathe, but as you might guess, the designs were all him.

Dorian Speed said...

We, too, bought a pillow top, and greatly regret doing so. It may be that we just bought a crummy pillow top, but we did spend a lot of money (by my standards) on it. I don't know how you're supposed to know how you will actually like a mattress based on a 10-second "demo" at a shop.

mrsdarwin said...

We're all bonding here -- ten years ago we bought a pillowtop against our better judgement, when what we really wanted was a mattress we could flip. It hasn't been a bad mattress at all. In fact, it's quite the coziest bed in the house. I'd hold my ground next time, though, and get the mattress I want instead of the one being pushed.

We've always had a queen-size bed, and I can't imagine moving up. On the rare occasions we find ourselves at a hotel on a king-size bed (with the kids on the next one over, generally) it feels like wallowing in a pool of mattress.

Looking forward to seeing some pix of the new bed frame when it's complete. Mr. Duffy does a good job.

BettyDuffy said...

THANK YOU Mrs. Darwin! I am happy to hear from someone who likes their pillow top mattress. As a matter of fact, I now charge you to go leave a positive review on the mattress you purchased at one of those angry sites we've been reading. We read the reviews of competitors to the one we bought, and even they had angry reviews. It looks sometimes like no one in the world likes their mattress.

Maybe this is a larger issue concerning the quality of sleep people have come to expect vs the actual sleep they receive--and the mattress is just the scapegoat--a very convenient scapegoat if you're a mattress salesman.

BettyDuffy said...

I should also add that the mattress we just ditched was not pillow top, and in all of our time with it, we never, not once, remembered to flip it. Maybe that was its problem. Or maybe I just need some Ambien.

Kris Livovich said...

this post made me so happy, I don't even know why. Am sitting here smiling like a moron.

We have a mattress given to us by my brother in law when we got married because it hurt his back. Ten years later it's starting to hurt mine too. We'll give it another ten, just to be sure.

StephC said...

What amazed me most about the whole new-mattress experience was watching 2 young, strong men wrestle a king-sized memory foam up the stairs, around the 180 curve in the landing, and into the bedroom. Sheer artistry!

You say you have 30 days, Betty? Don't settle - send it back if you both are not happy!

Emily J. said...

I'm impressed with Duffy Offspring #1's talent on the lathe. I thought that Mr. D had carved those up for the kids. Can he make one for me next year?

BettyDuffy said...

Of course!

INcidentally, we're sending back our mattress. When we're both on it, I fall into a deep chasm in the middle and spend all night clinging to the edge trying to pull myself out. It's not working. Very glad for the return policy.

ElizabethK said...

No, no, no pillowtop. Here's what you do: Get a featherbed. Live with it for a while, like we have, then realize that would make it even more awesome is down-alternative mattress cover over the featherbed. Soon it will be like the princess and the pea around here. Love the king-size sheets tip.

And I cracked up reading this post--especially the conversation about your husband being a back sleeper, or not.

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

How was this so funny? It just was. So, so, so entertaining. I know you're already sending it back, but yes, please send it back. Pillow top is evil. Memory foam is evil. Our first mattress ever was a plain old medium-firm sealy or whatever that could be flipped and rotated and it was the best ever. Since then we've been slapping each other for trying to get all fancy with the mattresses. Just say no fancy mattresses!