septembre 11, 2002
Once upon a mattress . . .

Well, guess what I did last night? It's not exciting at all, really. I bought a mattress & box spring. But, as per (usage??) my discussion with my dear friend Polly and her boyfriend last night, mattress dealers are the shadiest characters in all of retail. Polly's boyfriend kept saying that they were shady even at Macy's, which we all respect as a fine, upstanding department store. But it's true. It's so weird. I went in there, and wandered the long length of the store, fingering the edges of expensive mattresses. The store was L-shaped and at the corner of the L was a little desk with a computer, a couple of phones, and a pair of husky, ineffectual men. They were both wearing long-sleeved white shirts and they both had crew cuts and baby faces. One had a slightly babier face than the other; he was standing up and had olivish skin. The other one was seated and he was floury-pale. He could have been Irish or Polish. I advanced ever-closer to their desk, and their features and the short barking of their voices became clearer and clearer, and I expected them to bark something to me across the store but they mostly ignored me. I glanced nervously at the jumble of numbers on the stickers on every mattress. There were at least six to eight numbers on each sticker and all of them were too high for me: 1199, 899, 1399. Some were in red marker and some were in black. Some seemed to designate the price of the headboard, which baffled me even more, because I wasn't looking for a headboard.

You may think that I'm used to mattress shopping, but I'm not: I've always got them from some heavenly place before. I received a splendid feather-mattress as a wedding gift from my grandmother & slept on it through most of the post-college years, until my second wedding, which was nothing if not lucrative: in the rapturous months preceding our nuptials, Dougie and I swept through the housewares departments of various bigshot New York and Parisian magasins in a shower of dollars and francs. We literally did that thing that Winona Ryder does in Great Balls of Fire, where she points at things and giggles and flops around on things and they all pack it up for her. I would put on a little scarlet or cream-colored sheath dress with matching shoes and jacket and a little hat and gloves and he would be wearing his typical gorgeously-tailored suit and we would saunter arm-in-arm through the lobby and into the elevator and onto various showroom floors, kissing and billing like a couple of wealthy, intoxicated doves. A lot of heel-kicking was done by me. Anyway, someday I'll tell you more about that period of my life, and how we picked out the bridesmaid dresses & my going-away dress and various terrible favors and accessories at one of the bridal shows at Au Bon Marche (my dress, of course, was custom-designed, as yours should be, too!) & how many copper cooking pots a woman can really own, and how many unusually-shaped ashtrays and telephones can be purchased from chic downtown designers, but for now I will tell you that we bought the most impossibly luxurious canopy bed from a pixieish, quirkyish neo-neo-Regency furniture artisan who had just graduated from RISD, and that when that marriage dissolved (I suppose we weren't quite as infatuated with one another once the house resisted further embellishment. And there was the smoking/spectacles thing) I did get to keep the bed. Because what, pray tell, is an ubermasculine, hot-shot, bastard magazine editor to do with a neo-neo-Regency canopy bed, no matter how fucking stylish he is?? I spose it'd make a nice love nest for seducing winey interns, but how much is that worth?

ANYWAY my current situation is such that I can't pay ten thousand dollars for a bed anymore; nor can I spend five thousand dollars for a mattress. And when I moved into my new place the wedding bed wouldn't fit through the door, and I slept on the mattress for a while but then it got infested by crickets and I'd been sleeping fitfully on a little pallet on the floor that I borrowed from Eowyn for a few months now, and I'm quite tired of it. And I can't in good consience spend much money on a new one at all, what with the wedding bed frame being "kept" for me by my old landlady (she sleeps in it with her kittens, I'm sure!) and the original child wedding bed languishing in feathery softness in my childhood bedroom at the family homestead in Louisiana. My current financial situation makes it pretty impossible to ship that cream puff up here, and anyway, what would I do when I came home to visit Momma and Daddy? Sleep on the sofa?

Thus the trip to the mattress store, and thus my extreme frugality and poverty and idiocy. Finally, after ten awkward minutes of not-so-cheap-mattress-feels, I approached Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee, who were not wearing beanies. The whiter one looked up at me from his phone call. He had startling little blue eyes peeking out of his doughy cheeks. "What can I do for you?" he said. His voice was thick as well as barky. He was obviously in charge.

"I'm looking for a very cheap mattress," I said, and he asked me how much I was willing to pay, because he had mattresses as cheap as $59. Heartened, I said I could pay up to $300. Full or twin? he said. I said, maybe twin, but really I'd prefer full. I said it timidly, because I'm used to salespeople scoffing in my face at my shameless cheapness, so I always try to make it shameful cheapness instead.

"That's including tax and everything?" he said, incredulous, as I had expected.

"Well, maybe not," I murmured.

He ordered his little swart twin to show me the blue mattress close to the end. Dutifully, Tweedle Dee led me around the corner, into the other arm of the L. We walked haltingly past a few mattresses, and though I was positive that Tweedle Dum couldn't possibly see us from behind his desk, he barked directions at Dee: "not that one . . . no, not that one . . . three down . . . yeah, that's it." I was confused because it was two twin mattresses smooshed together, but then I realized that you could order them in any size. On the side of the mattress were two large stickers, explaining the cost of the set if bought separately and the price of mattress & box spring individually. It seemed to come to $700 or something. I turned to Dee and said it was outside of my price range, but all he said was that I should lie down and see which one I preferred. One had a little plush pad sewn onto the top, and I liked that one better. I don't like a firm mattress: my waking hours are firm enough for me.

Dee disappeared to the other side of the L, while I bounced nervously on the mattress & inspected the stickers. I realized that there was some kind of sale and that my mattresses cost $529 as a set. It was still too expensive. I flopped on some other mattresses, and found that I was terrible at evaluating them. Dee emerged with a figure: $360.

I tracked down Dum. "Does that include tax?"

"No," he said. "With tax and delivery it's $400."

"Oh," I said. "That's more than I wanted to pay." Then I said, "Maybe. Do you mind if I call someone first?" I dialed my friend Eunice, who is practical, and also my mother. Neither of them were home. "Shit," I said to myself. I was standing outside at this point, being asked to vote for someone. It was beginning to get dark and the store was supposed to have closed fifteen minutes ago. I went back in and lay on the mattress some more.

Dum was making a deal of some kind with someone. Lots of figures were being barked back and forth, and a sleigh bed was mentioned. The sleigh bed made me sad, because I thought that maybe they were making a deal about me.

I reappeared at his desk. "Do you think you can take the littlest bit more off?" I said, kittenish. He said, "Wait till I finish this deal. We'll work out a price for you."

I lay on the bed for a little while longer, until I heard Dum say to Dee, "Go get that girl in here. Where's that girl?" I came back, feeling vaguely like a prostitute. Dum had some guy on speaker-phone whose voice was similar to his own. He introduced me. "Steve, say hello to my customer." Steve said hello, gaily. I said, "Hello, Steve."

Then Dum put Steve on hold and connected some girl, who had a Brooklyn accent and a shy, giggly voice. She could have been a hooker with a heart of gold. She giggled at everything Steve said. Steve was ribbing Dum about his salesman skills. He kept asking me whether Dum was giving me a good deal, and telling me that he had taught Dum everything he knew. Back when Dum worked at Burger King. To irritate Steve, Dum liked to press a number button on the phone for a long time. It was what I used to do to my friends when I was, like, five. The girl thought everything that was being said was hilarious, but she was also cynical, as hookers-with-hearts-of-gold ought to be. She and Steve had a good repartee. In the midst of their repartee, Dum and I worked out a deal: he typed "300" into his database and nodded at me, and I nodded back -- it wasn't too bad. With tax and delivery it was $360, and it didn't include the frame. I kept trying to ask him questions about whether I needed a frame, but he kept just asking me different things and bullshitting with his little conference-call pals. Finally I got my question in, and he told me propping it up with cinderblocks would break it. Then he gave me my receipt and said goodbye. I left happy that I had a mattress, but feeling that I had been swindled in some strange way: there was a sign out front that said they were having a big sale, and that things were 50% - 75% off, and I thought I could have gotten the set for, like, $250 or something. I mean, they didn't even blink an eye at $300.

Whatever. I have a goddam bed now. Now I just need some lovers to share it with. Not all the time, mind you -- having people in my bed is distracting, and I'm not a cuddler. But there's no point in having a full bed unless you occasionally make use of the extra space. I suppose I could store something in it, like underwear. I also need a new dresser, as this guy left a sandwich in one of the drawers at the last party we had, and the dresser is now infested with ants. Just the dresser, not the whole apartment. Which is odd. Can that even happen?

Posted by anonymousblonde at septembre 11, 2002 12:34 PM
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