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Pursuing the dream of a good night's sleep

Sunday, January 15, 2012

(Photo)
Joe Sullivan
My wife and I have been on a quest for several years. We have been pursuing an ever more elusive good night's sleep.

Since all the mattress salespeople say reaching our goal depends entirely on finding the right mattress, we have given them plenty of business. We believe mattress salespeople to be honest and forthright. We have to. We don't know squat about mattresses.

Except that the ones we buy aren't comfortable.

Oh, sure, the pillow tops and memory foam and magic-finger coils and whatnot all feel wonderful when you test them in the store. But when you get them home, they don't feel so good in a couple of months. And they start to sag. You have no idea what a sagging mattress does to a couple of OCD sufferers.

Buying a new mattress has its moments. To get the right one, you are encouraged to ... well, go to bed. In public. In front of God and all those people shopping for lamps and coffee tables.

Ordinarily, going to bed is an experience you share maybe with one other person. Lying down on any mattress, no matter how comfortable and inviting, in front of a plate-glass window just isn't right.

My wife and I visited all of the area stores that sell mattresses. We learned a lot, and we can recite most of the sales pitches for this or that kind of mattress.

We finally settled, this week, on a mattress guaranteed to be "the last mattress you'll ever buy." We hope that guarantee is based on the comfort and sturdiness of the mattress and not on our age-advantaged status.

We paid a lot of money for this "last mattress." That's an indication of how desperate we are for a good night's sleep. It's also an indication of the awareness that we have been buying new mattresses every few years that aren't comfortable. So if this new mattress is truly comfortable, we will save money in the long run. Right? We'll see.

As it turns out, we paid more for this new "sleep system" than the gross income we reported on our first joint tax return in 1965. I know. I looked it up. Yes, I keep stuff far too long.

Of course, we were dirt poor in 1965. My cub reporter's salary was augmented by a beginning teacher's salary for less than half a year. Still, there it is. The new mattress cost us a year's pay in 1965 dollars. It had better be good.

We were so poor in 1965 that we rented a furnished apartment. We didn't own a car, so we relied on co-workers for rides to our jobs. We walked to the grocery store. We walked to the laundromat. We walked to church.

We also walked to Hallisey's after the bed in our furnished apartment fell apart. You can make all the jokes you want about newlyweds and a bed, but the fact is the bed was a cheap, wobbly piece of crap.

We went to Hallisey's, a store that had no pretensions whatsoever. Its full name: Hallisey's Junk Store. No claim to sell antiques or collectibles or objets d'art.

We found a replacement bed and negotiated with Mr. Hallisey himself. We got the price down to $7, which was almost half our weekly grocery allowance. Then we asked for free delivery. Mr. Hallisey said yes, but that was before he knew our apartment was in the attic of a two-story house, and you had to use the fire escape to get from the second floor to the apartment.

After returning from our mattress-buying expedition Tuesday, my wife and I recalled those early days. Our apartment was about the size of our current family room. And it had less furniture.

We asked each other: How did we do it?

We did. And we were happy. We didn't know any better.

What we know now is that this new mattress better help us sleep. We are not willing to pay more than our gross income reported for 1966. We have our limits.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

R. Joe Sullivan
R. Joe Sullivan