Monday, April 11, 2011
Zen and the Art of Air Bed Maintenance
These days, I spend a surprising amount of time and mental energy on my bed. I don't mean while on my bed—I mean the bed itself requires a certain degree of involvement. When I moved to LA, I folded the seats of my VW Golf down and packed up the entire contents of my bedroom-to-be, including the brand-new queen-sized double-tall air mattress my parents had recently bought as extra sleeping space for their cabin. Nearly six months later, the air bed and I are hanging in there, still experimenting with degrees of firmness, concepts of object attachment, and the ideal conditions for avoiding puncture wounds (or not). I think I've learned a few things about air bed life:
- Inflatable things need, or at least cause, constant monitoring. Air bed ownership (borrowership) is a constant fact-finding mission. Is the bed losing air? Is the bed sitting on top of any cords? Is the bed too close to the wall, and rubbing against it? Is the air bed anywhere within the vicinity of pins, needles, or anything else that might cause it grief? Is the bed too firm or too soft, causing neck pain? With the air bed, change is bad.
- Inflatable things get holes. It's hard to express the irrational sense of doom that came over me the first time my bed sprang a leak. It's not like I had no other place to sleep; there are no fewer than four full-sized couches, one love seat, and one totally unloved gigantic armchair in my house. But because air beds aren't made for activities other than being perfectly horizontal (more on that in a moment), the odds of detecting a leak before it's four a.m. and your head is resting on the ground are slim—and somehow, that particular exchange with gravity is, at that time of the night, the very worst thing imaginable. These days, the occasional hole isn't such a big psychological event (so far they've all been located on the sleeping surface, and easy to find—and I pray daily that the side seams never give out); outdoor stores sell air bed repair kits, but I've had plenty of success with a Sharpie to mark the hole, a glob of Super Glue to close it up, and a triangle of hot pink duct tape to keep everything in place and looking classy. Because I'm nothing if not the paragon of good breeding and high standards: my bed is, after all, a double-tall.
- Inflatable things are not immune to mildew. When combined with a foam egg crate, mattress pad, flannel sheets, down comforter, two pillows, and a human being with functioning endocrine system. Ask me how I know!
- Inflatable things are not for sitting. This is perhaps the worst thing about having an inflatable bed: real mattresses don't "crush" around the edges, making them ideal for sitting on, say with a laptop. Like, to write. Or watch TV. Or read without putting one arm to sleep. Not so with the air beds, which will leave a person V-ed against the wall without a second thought, and then possibly spring a leak just for the sake of revenge. (Enter the ugly fold-up camp chair I also appropriated from my parents, which stands in for my beloved antique armchair but is simply not the same.) It's distressing.
- Inflatable things need love, too. Let me clarify something: I have a bed. A real one, a queen-size with a modern sleigh-bed frame and the world's most comfortable mattress. With springs and everything! I adore that bed, and I live daily with the bright and shining hope that we will be together again some day. In the mean time, let me also assure you that it is quite possible to get attached to an air mattress. With the right sheets and the proper level of exhaustion, that blissful moment of flopping (or, in my case, crawling gingerly, taking care not to stress the structure of the mattress; see above) down with a great sigh of "MY BED!" is absolutely possible. Never mind that it's a glorified pool toy. In that moment, it's the most glorious pool toy.
Some day, I imagine I'll be reunited with my beloved, sittable, non-mildewing, non-hole-prone bed, and I will be a grateful and slightly more happy-go-lucky girl on that day. However, I've developed a strange affection for the air bed. It's served me well. And in case of emergency, well, you probably won't see anybody else bringing their beds along.