Weekend visit goes from bed to worse, becomes extended vacation from sleep

March 13, 1997|By Kevin Cowherd

AS I TYPE THIS, I find myself in the advanced stages of sleep deprivation after a weekend stay with an old college roommate.

On the first night, Matt's wife uttered the five most frightening words in the English language: "You take the pull-out couch."

As usual, the bed had the same thin, lumpy mattress they give to heroin traffickers in Malaysian jails.

It also featured the standard-issue metal bar that jabs viciously into your back no matter what position you try to sleep in.

Finally, there was this interesting touch: Both legs at the bottom of the frame were bent, causing the bed to list downward at a 30-degree angle.

So the total effect was like bedding down for the night on the north face of Kilimanjaro.

The thing about people who own pull-out couches is this: They always act like they're doing you a big favor by letting you sleep on the damn things.

Just before we turned in, Matt said: "I think you'll be comfortable here. It's the best bed in the house!"

Right. If this was the best bed in the house, everyone else must be sleeping in the hall closet.

Anyway, on the second night, we had two more of our ex-classmates stay over. So Matt said to me: "Why don't you take the cot?"

The cot?! I didn't think anyone outside the Red Cross still owned a cot.

The only time I ever see cots is on the 11 o'clock news, when you see 500 of them set up in a high school gym in Kansas for tornado refugees.

Plus, when Matt finally dragged it out of the basement, this cot looked like something used on a troop transport during the invasion of Guadalcanal.

Still, I figured the cot had to be better than the pull-out couch.

Unfortunately (as with so many things these days), I figured wrong.

Let me tell you something about sleeping on a cot.

Within five minutes, you lose all sensation in your upper body, due to the fact that you're laying in a hump-backed position, with your shoulder blades practically touching each other.

Within 10 minutes, you can actually hear the blood rushing to your head, since no matter which end of the cot you lay in, your feet end up higher than your head.

This is my theory about cots: People don't actually sleep on them, they just black out for a few hours.

Which I guess is what happened to me. I must have regained consciousness around 4 in the morning, then blacked out again until 5, when I was up for the day.

Anyway, on the third night, we had even more company, so Rob said: "I think tonight we'll give you a sleeping bag."


Obviously, I had entered some sort of frightening parallel universe, a living hell where you weren't allowed normal beds, where the REM phase of sleep wasn't just delayed night after night, it was obliterated.

Let me tell you something about sleeping bags.

Sleeping bags are fine if you are 8 years old. Or if you have the build of Rice Krispies spokes-elves Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Otherwise, you're doomed to a night of interminable tossing and turning.

In the first place, sleeping bags offer zero padding, which tends to cut down considerably on the comfort level.

Trying to sleep on my stomach, I soon became aware of a heating grate stabbing into my sternum.

I don't know if you've ever tried to sleep with a cold piece of steel working its way into your breastbone, but it's very difficult.

Here's another thing about sleeping bags: The zipper never works.

No, check that. It works the first time you try it, which is usually in some fancy outdoors store, where they're trying to rip you off for $100.

But the first time you actually try to sleep in the sleeping bag, the zipper will break. Trust me on this one.

Oh, sure, you think you're going to zip that baby open, crawl inside where it's warm and snuggly, then zip it back up and go to sleep.


Forget it, pal. You have absolutely no shot of that happening.

Instead, the usual sequence of events is this: The zipper gets caught in the sleeping bag material. It won't budge. You tug on it and tug on it. Nothing happens.

Exhausted, frustrated, on the verge of wigging out completely, you give it one more mighty tug.

At which point ... the zipper breaks off.

Lying there in the darkness, cursing like a dock worker, you drape the thin, cold, flimsy folds of the bag around you and try to fall asleep.

But of course, it's no use.

Believe me, by the end of the night, you'll be praying for a pull-out couch. That thin, Devil's Island mattress and killer metal bar across your back will seem like heaven.

But it's a little late for an attitude change, mister.

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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