Anne Horrigan Geary: Sleeping unlike a baby in a strange bed


DALTON >> As a card-carrying member of the Goldilocks Fan Club, I agree with her high standards in the search for a perfect bed. Whether at home or on the road, it is often difficult to find a bed that is "just right." The television ads for mattresses only complicate matters because sleeping comfort is a very personal thing.

At home we have a queen-size bed with a mattress purchased for the support of aging bones and finicky spines. We also have a sofa bed with a pillow-top, twin beds with two different mattress types, and one really old and comfy sofa. The sofa is the ideal nap venue, and I have been known to prop myself up on pillows there when a stuffy head makes it difficult to sleep lying down.

The problems begin when, as Goldilocks knows, one is needing sleep far from home. Motel mattresses vary wildly in their support and comfort. Given a choice of accommodations, we usually opt for a deluxe room with a king-size bed, a firm mattress and lots of fluffy pillows. Unfortunately, when we are traveling to more obscure locations, such as Virgilina, Virginia, the choices are limited. We have spent our share of nights sleeping poorly on lumpy or sagging mattresses in dimly-lit and poorly-ventilated rooms.

Visiting friends and relatives for longer than a few hours, gives rise to guest bedroom syndrome — a chronic event where you are staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. wishing you were home in your own bed. Often, the beds are narrow and the pillows hard, the bed covers are too hot or too skimpy, and unfamiliar sounds or lights make falling asleep nearly impossible.

We bought an air mattress for our first night's sleep in the Dalton house, and subsequently donated it to our son when he bought a house. We have slept on it several times in its new location because we preferred its second floor location to the third floor guest room, which is too far removed from a bathroom for our nightly needs.

One night we failed to completely inflate it, so by the time we had to exit we were perilously close to the floor. Unable to pull myself up to a standing position, I had to roll over onto the floor, crawl to a nearby chair, and use that to haul myself upright. All of which was accomplished with the sniggers and giggles of Prince Charming, who was waiting for me to stand up so I could help levitate him from the mattress of doom.

Long-distance train travel is an option we both enjoy for seeing new places without the discomfort of being shoe-horned into the sardine cans that pass for airplanes these days. We opt for the Amtrak "roomette" which is a tiny sitting and sleeping space. Two comfy seats face each other near the window. There are cup holders and reading lights, along with a reasonable amount of legroom.

It's after dark that the fun begins. While we are at dinner, the room steward will arrive at our location, wave his magic wand, and turn the tiny space into an even tinier bedroom — or so it seems. The two seats slide forward into one bunk, which is then covered by a thin mattress and the bedding. A second bunk drops down from the ceiling, decreasing the headroom below by half. The loser of the coin toss has to climb an irregular set of steps upward and crawl into bed, remembering to keep his head down. The winner has to bend over and crawl into the lower bed with the same admonitions.

It's hard to turn over in these beds, and the temperature is usually too hot or too cold; but like Goldilocks, we know there is a bed that is "just right" and it is at home, where we will return someday.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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