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Friday, May 16, 2003  

Sleeping on Air

Trash and I have never had particularly sterling luck with air mattresses. Some people say you make your own luck in this world, and I would agree with them in general. With that in mind, I’d have to say that Trash and I have never had particularly sterling luck with air mattresses.

Let me just clarify that I’m not talking about those inflatable rafts that are supposedly designed for relaxation in a pool or a lake, but which I’ve never seen serve as anything other than hotly contested floating real estate in aquatic battles royal. I’m talking about a mattress you fill with air and stretch out on for a good night’s sleep. In theory.

For instance, there was a long period when we could find the air mattress, or the pump we needed to inflate it, but never both at the same time. I’m here to tell you, when circumstances call for one to use one’s lungs to inflate twelve cubic feet of rubber to 35 PSI, one really appreciates the wind capacity one developed in the course of having played the saxophone throughout one’s formative teen years. Unless one didn’t, in which case one is screwed. And even if one did, watching the air mattress being deflated and rolled up for storage the next morning is like watching the death of a child to whom one gave birth through one’s trachea.

Then there was that late morning in September of 1999 when Trash and I, along with Kraftmatik and The Krank, were hastily packing up our rental minivan in hopes of getting to the Badlands to set up camp before dark. Trash directed me to stuff our rolled-up airbed into one of several drawstring bags that held our camping equipment.

“But this bag is full of poky things,” I protested.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, thinking I was worried about getting our bed dirty. In her defense, the rental company had been late getting the van to us and daylight was burning. We had more important things to worry about than the fact that a soft, inflatable item was crammed in among our corncob holders, cooking knives, campfire skewers, tent stakes, spare axe heads, Ninja throwing stars, caltrops, and a set of severe tire damage spikes we brought along in case of emergency. That’s all the defense she gets though, because that night in the Badlands I inflated, patched, and reinflated that mattress four times without diminishing the chorus of whistles from its multitude of leaks by one note. Trash is lucky we had the pump with us, because Badlands National Park is among the ten best places in the country to dispose of a body.

We spent a couple of nights with nothing between us and the cold, hard, South Dakota ground but our pajamas, sheets, sleeping bag, and tent floor. Hardcore campers scoff at our wimpitude, but if we were hardcore campers we wouldn’t have needed a van in the first place.

A couple of days later we found a hardware store in the Black Hills having a We’re Selling Off All Of Our Shitty, Seventies-Vintage Merchandise Because Right Now It’s The Only Thing Keeping Us From Shutting Our Doors Permanently And Burning This Hateful Little Town To The Ground Sale, and we bought a shitty, seventies-vintage air mattress. Our newly ventilated air mattress, which at that time was resting in strips at the bottom of a National Park Service trash receptacle some ninety miles away, had been a hunter-green Coleman™ with a flocked top and air chambers that simulated the springs of a Sealy Posturepedic™. Its replacement was an all-vinyl eyesore with brown, orange, and white stripes and the friction coefficient of snot. A week later, when we were sleeping at a campsite in Colorado and the most level spot had a two-degree slope, Trash’s incessant pre-sleep wiggling had us both sliding downhill and making the Sisyphean horizontal return climb over and over again until I deliberately slid her halfway off the mattress because a) stop the damn wiggling already, and b) whose fault was it that we were on this inflatable skating rink in the first place? We laugh about it now, but it was a good thing we’d run out of shuriken in Arizona. As it was, we woke up to find ourselves using the mattress as a pillow.

We replaced that mattress with another decent one shortly after returning home, which was good, because the next time we inflated the ugly one, the inner straps that bound the bottom to the top and kept the thing shaped like a mattress rather than a lozenge snapped, leaving us with a lozenge-shaped air mattress that would have been impossible to sleep on for any living thing save moss. We still have the new mattress, and houseguests find it quite comfortable. We store it in a drawstring bag along with the air pump, a fleece blanket, and old, soft sheets that are folded in such a way as to not have any square corners.

Deniece’s parents have a similar air mattress, and that’s what we sleep on when we visit them in Iowa. Sadly, during this last visit it was no longer up to the task. If you’ve ever woken up on a twelve-cubic-foot air mattress that contains two cubic feet of air, you know what I’m talking about. The first morning, the sun found us resting on just enough air to provide buoyancy to one limb at a time each. The next night, we woke up at four-ish with carpet prints on our backs, reinflated, and once again found ourselves sprawled out on a giant, empty Hefty™ bag a few hours later.

I certainly don’t mean to impugn our hosts’ hospitality; these things happen, and I’m sure they’ll have the thing either patched or replaced by the next time somebody visits them. Do me a favor, though—don’t tell them Trash went to bed with a pocket full of caltrops. That’ll be our little secret.

posted by M. Giant 3:07 PM 0 comments


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