No rest for the thankful and weary

December 01, 2003|By Kevin Cowherd

AS I TYPE this, my back aches, my neck is sore and I seem to have developed a slight curvature of the spine.

This is because I've just returned from a Thanksgiving visit to my mother's house in New York, where I slept on her pull-out couch.

For three nights.

Three long, long nights.

Like all other pull-out couches - some people call them sleep-sofas or sofabeds - my mother's offers the illusion of a bed with absolutely none of the comforts.

It features your standard prison-bunk-thin mattress atop a mass of hard metal coils with all the give of concrete.

The metal coils dig into your body all night, and so does the thick metal bar that runs horizontally under the mattress, at a point which always seems to catch the middle of your back.

All in all, it's like trying to sleep on top of your stove.

My wife slept in the pull-out couch with me but reports fewer lingering symptoms, owing to the fact that she has a smaller body frame, could fall asleep atop a boulder and is not nearly as big a whiner as I am.

My mom's pull-out couch is supposed to sleep two adults comfortably, although this is, of course, a lie.

The only way two adults could sleep comfortably on this thing is if both had recently lived through a famine, and their combined weight now totaled 150 pounds.

At least if you're sleeping alone on a pull-out couch, you could position your body diagonally and get most of your legs on the mattress.

Otherwise, if you're of average height or taller, the bottom half of your legs will dangle uncomfortably over the edge of the mattress.

Then, at some point during the night, you'll awaken to discover that you've lost all circulation from the waist down.

Or you'll be forced to sleep in the fetal position, something most of us have not done since we were, well, fetuses.

When my mother bought the pull-out couch a few years ago, she announced that it was a "top of the line" model from some company no one had ever heard of.

"Come up and visit me soon," she said. "I want you to experience a pull-out couch that combines functionality and style, comfort and beauty, superior craftsmanship and durability."

You're reading out of the brochure again, I said.

"The space-age polypropylene fabric enhances the sleep experience," she said.

You should hear yourself, I said.

"A sleeping experience like no other," she continued. "Your guests will clamor to stay overnight more often!"

Oh, how I wanted to believe her.

But I have been around the block a few times and empty words from a slick color brochure don't impress me.

Sure enough, the first time I slept on her new pull-out couch, a particularly vicious coil system jabbed at me all night long.

Worse, one of the two legs of the bed section was bent, pitching the bed upward at a 30-degree angle, giving you the sensation you were sleeping uphill.

Not long ago, I visited a half-dozen furniture stores in the area and tested their pull-out couches, because I'd heard that tremendous strides had been made in the technology of these things.

Ha! Don't believe a word of it.

They were all just as uncomfortable as ever, wretched, lumpy things that all but guarantee a sleepless night for anyone who isn't loaded or knocked out with sleeping pills.

Well, let me qualify that.

At the La-Z-Boy store in Towson, I plopped face-down onto a pull-out bed and was struck by how firm and comfortable it was.

"What kind of game are you playing here?" I asked the salesman.

It's the mattress, he said.

The mattress, it turned out, wasn't the kind of standard low-rent mattress that usually comes with these things.

No, this was something called the SlumberAir Mattress System, which, according to the brochure, was a "4-inch thick innerspring coil base" topped off with "a fully adjustable, 6-inch cushion of air ... [for] a total of 10 inches of sleep comfort."

Apparently, you inflate the mattress with an electric pump and the firmness can be adjusted to individual taste.

So basically it's a mattress on steroids.

Which doesn't count at all.

Look, with 10 inches of mattress underneath me, I could sleep on a bed of nails.

Besides, how many of these horrible pull-out couches come with the Mercedes-Benz of mattresses?

Now if you want to talk the Yugo of mattresses, I can show you one of those.

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