It's been a while since I posted one of Sam Allis' comumns. Allis writes a column called "The Observer" for the Boston Globe and it's just one of those columns you go out of your way to look for each Sunday.
What follows is this past Sunday's colum which revolves around the daunting task of purchasing a mattress - one of my least favorite things to do - enjoy.
I'll just sleep on itChoosing a mattress can be exhaustingBy Sam Allis, Globe Columnist May 6, 2007
No one sits bolt upright in bed and announces, "I feel like buying a new mattress today." No one.
In a world of college tuition and mortgages, mattresses rank somewhere south of andirons on the must-buy list. And in those rare moments when microscopic bits of disposable income surface, what are you going to do -- go skiing or buy a mattress?
Sooner or later, though, everyone caves. They have to. It's like a hip replacement. Some do it before the topography of the old mattress resembles Monument Valley. Others don't. Some are driven out by tiny insects. Others stay the course like George Bush.
I confess I've slept on the same mattress since late in Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House. I was faintly embarrassed about this until a friend from Wellesley told me she and her husband have slept on the same one since he was in medical school.
Unless you move or break up with someone, your mattress is apt to remain as invisible as your shoetrees.
Gary, my personal sleep technician at Jordan's Furniture, has seen people show up whose mattresses are 40 years old. (Gary wears one of those fab Marcus Welby M.D. white coats.) One lady boasted she'd had hers for 50 years, held together at one corner by duct tape. My kind of woman.
The Observer has been urged, strongly, to get a new one, so I motored into the wilds of Natick last week to find The Perfect Mattress. That's when I met Gary, along with John at Mattress Giant, Ted -- "Ted For The Bed" -- in the Sleep Zone at Bob's Discount Furniture, and Spencer at Sleepy's. I call this lineup the murderer's row of mattresses across scenic Route 9 from the captivating Natick Mall.
(Forgive me, the mall has a new name -- "Natick Collection." There also are condos being built behind it called "Nouvelle at Natick." Whoever dreamed this name up must be the same person who arrived at "Alero" for Oldsmobile. Can you imagine living voluntarily next to the Natick Mall? Maybe kick back and hum "Country Road" as you make coffee in the morning?) But I digress. The mattress showrooms are all unnerving. You think, "Maybe I've entered an Ambien sleep study." Eventually you gird your loins and try one. You pitch and roll and flop onto your stomach like a beached whale. There is no elegant way to do this. I know because I saw other shoppers who also resembled baby belugas on dry land.
What you look is weird. You're performing an intimate rite in public. In any other store, you'd be removed in four-point restraints. But after the third trial, you say, the hell with it. You become unembarrassable.
The first truth of mattress shopping is: The more you look, the less you know. If you're a conscientious little beaver like me, you bring a notebook to record reactions, model names, prices. But it's all for naught because you retain not one of the different joy rides in your muscle memory.
It's like having 500 TV channels. You end up watching seven. The answer is to have two kinds of mattresses in the showroom: firm and soft, like toothbrushes. What's in them is none of your business. If you like one, buy it. If not, get a futon.
I review my notes to find that I apparently liked the Beautyrest Atkins X Firm . Ditto for Jordan's own Tranquility Ultra Firm . Down at Mattress Giant, John steered me to a Kingsdown Monarch that eased my fevered brow.
He also showed me a Sealy Bellson that had cashmere on top. I can't remember why that's good, but how bad can cashmere be? John claims that a big hotel chain uses the Beautyrest Relaxation .
"Ted For The Bed" over at Bob's showed me the Serendipity Plush Firm that felt fine. His mattresses come with a non pro rated guarantee, which sounded ominous until he explained it to me. The comfy Bobby Bear was his best, but I could never sleep on a Bobby Bear.
Spencer at Sleepy's showed me a Serta Perfect Night I purportedly swooned over. I passed its Vera Wang line too. You can see where the woman is going -- first wedding dresses, then mattresses. Next has to be baby clothes.
You sink further down the rabbit hole with dialectics on foam. Memory or latex? You start believing your future depends on the right answer. There are, I learn, hypo allergenic mattresses. What do I do with that? I know dogs that are hypo allergenic. By the time I hit Sleepy's, I talk a good game. I go up to Spencer and say, "I want something firm, with plush, pocketed coils, latex, and some memory." He knows instantly I have no idea what I'm talking about.
The second truth of mattress shopping is that any decision you make after lying on one for two minutes is laughable. You need to sleep on it for a week, rendering this whole exercise worthless. Even if you do a mattress exchange in the first month, alpha neurotics will wallow in buyer's remorse for decades to come.
Today, I'm back where I started. I have no idea what to buy. Thank God I gave up on perfection back in third grade. Anything is better than what I have now. And, as the guy said who saw me leave Sleepy's in a fugue state, "It's a bed."
Sam Allis can be reached at email@example.com