Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When Furniture Attacks

It was the Eighties. It was that weird, in-between time right after the chaos
and insanity of the Seventies, and we didn't know exactly what we were
supposed to do. We really liked the idea of being Hippies, but we couldn't
because Reagan was president, but Just Say No and AIDS hadn't been
invented yet, so you still COULD be a hippie if you really wanted to, so I
decided to go out and try it...

I lived alone at the time, until Hannah showed up on my stoop.

Basically, Hannah had shown up on my stoop because she was pregnant, and
had realized that her boyfriend was a pig, and that once that baby was born,
she was stuck with him and nowhere else to go.

So she showed up at my place and asked if I could put her up for awhile
until she got on her feet again. I wasn't a pig. If I agreed to feed and house
her, I would do so, and she knew that. She offered to clean house and do
laundry, and even get a job, if she could find someone who would hire a 22-
year-old woman who was eight months pregnant.

Aw, what the hell, I never liked doing my own dishes anyway.
The sleeping arrangements became a hassle right away. She took the couch,
and I slept in the bed. My bed. My twin-sized mattress-and-box-spring
combo with no frame, to be precise. I'm not huge, but I'm not small, either,
and I have wide shoulders, and the idea of supporting myself and one other
and sleeping on the couch did NOT appeal.

Three days later, I happened to wander into the living room at four in the
morning, and discovered that she had been building a nest on the floor; the
couch's angle and support were TOTALLY wrong for a pregnant woman,
and she was waking up in the middle of the night in dreadful pain. She
would then get up, build a nest on the floor, and sleep on that; it meant she
would wake up in pain again a couple hours later, but at least the pain would
be somewhere else. She would then move back onto the couch for a couple
hours. Back and forth, all night.

So I let her have the bed. That night, I discovered that that particular couch
was not really well suited to a good night's sleep to a non-pregnant male
person, either – I‘d fished it out of a dumpster during the Magic Time
between semesters, when dorms and apartments are clearing out, and one
can obtain plenty free furniture if one isn‘t too choosy… and I hadn‘t been.
It was a fine couch for parking and watching TV, but not for a decent night‘s

...so we wound up sharing the bed. This led to some interesting
permutations. We could both sleep in the bed; neither of us was that huge --
but on Night One, I woke up in the middle of the night with her butt firmly
lodged in my crotch. My crotch, of course, had no problem with this, and in
fact was fully active and approving of the situation. I lay there for what
seemed like HOURS, thinking about dead puppies and train wrecks, hoping
that my crotch would shut up and sit down before she woke up...

...and the following night, she reported that she woke up in the middle of the
night with her butt firmly lodged in my crotch, and my hand around her right
breast. She lay there for what seemed like HOURS, wondering if she was
about to be raped or something, until she realized I was gently snoring in
her ear. I'd simply rolled over and draped my arm around her, that was all. I
was out cold.

The morning after that, I learned about morning sickness, and why one
should never get in the way of a pregnant woman, first thing in the morning.

I was very glad SHE agreed to do the laundry...

We were reasonable, mature, and forgiving people. By the end of the week,
we were still able to live together in one bed... but we agreed that a bigger
bed would be good.

So I went out and bought a waterbed.
There was a place in San Antonio that was selling king-sized waterbeds for
$100, which was a fantastic deal even back in 1984. There didn't seem to be
anything wrong with it, and the salesman swore that the boxed model was
identical to the display model in every way, except that mine wouldn't come
with sheets and blankets.

You know, putting together a waterbed is really a major construction
project... you have to put together this big giant wood pedestal thing... and
then you have to put together this big giant wood open-topped box thing that
sits on TOP of the pedestal... and THEN you put this gigaaaantic clear blue
baggie in the open-topped box, right? And then you run the garden hose in
the window, hook it up... and watch it go.

Watching it go can take quite some time. It took HOURS for that thing to fill
up. It finally did, though, and I had myself a really huge king-sized

The first thing Hannah and I did was to do like the couple in the TV
commercials, where they get on either side of the bed and fling themselves
into the bed, right?

We discovered this isn't the brightest idea in the world; this particular
waterbed wasn't waveless, and it promptly flung us upward again,
continuing along our previous vector, and we plowed into each other in
midair directly over the middle of the bed.

It was painful, but it was an excellent demonstration of Newtonian physics,

I also learned about the aphrodisiac effects of waterbeds on women.
Water beds take some getting used to. I learned that you can build up a
FEROCIOUS rhythm on a waterbed, because everything you do, the bed
does back at you a half-beat later... which makes STOPPING kind of an
interesting experience, too. If you've never done this kind of thing, I highly
recommend it.

It had its down side, though. I spent my first several nights on the thing
suddenly waking up and grabbing the bed, because I'd try to roll over in my
sleep, feel the bed MOVE under me, and wake up in a panic...

Now here's the thing: the room wasn't big enough to put the bed in the
middle of it. I'd had to put the bed in the corner to have any space at all
along the rear wall. This meant that only ONE of us could have an outside
edge to the bed, right?

Remember what I said about morning sickness? HANNAH got the outside
edge, and more power to her. This had led to a hysterical situation earlier
that week when she'd woken, felt that familiar "whoopsy" feeling, and tried
to get out of bed and go to the bathroom... only to realize that it is extremely
difficult for a very pregnant woman to get out of a waterbed in a hurry.

Think about it...

I'd heard the ruckus from the kitchen, and came in to see what was wrong,
and witnessed the spectacle of a pregnant woman frantically trying to get the
bed to stop moving long enough to grab the bumper bar on the edge and
lever herself out of the bed. She wasn't doing a very good job.

Hell, I didn't know she was sick. I laughed. This led her to begin roundly
cursing me while she attempted to wrestle the bed into submission, which
just made the whole thing funnier. I stepped forward to help, and she took a
swing at me, which made the bed go off and wobbling again, which made
her lose her grip on the bumper bar...

She was so mad at me she forgot to be sick.

I should have taken this as an omen of things to come.

It happened a week or ten days or so after we'd began sleeping in the thing...
and it began with my usual 4 a.m. bathroom stop. Upon returning to the
bedroom, I moved to the foot of the bed to get in, right? Wasn't going
to climb over Hannah, after all. This had become routine to the point where
she didn't even wake up when the bed moved when I got back in.

I put my foot on the footboard, and stepped up...

...and the footboard came off with a loud PONK noise.

...and my foot shot out from under me, and I went face down into the

Hannah woke up and went, "Huh--"

...and without the footboard there, there was nothing holding the mattress in
the big open-topped box. Furthermore, there was something heavy on the
end where the box was open. Me.

...and in just under two seconds, a half ton of giant blue vinyl water balloon
abruptly rolled over me like The Blob.

I had been on one end of the mattress. Hannah had been on the other. She
hadn't moved. The mattress had simply relocated, with her on it. Instead of
being up near the end, she was now in the exact middle. So was I, for that
matter... I think.

It had been so sudden, I wasn't even sure where the edge of the mattress was.
I didn't know where ANYTHING was, except the floor, the mattress, and
my girlfriend's butt (it was resting on one of my knees).

About then, it occurred to me that my face was covered with vinyl, and
weighted down with a half ton of water. I couldn't breathe.

I lifted my arm to push the waterbed upward, to get some space between the
plastic, and my face. Oh, wait, no I didn't. I couldn't lift a half ton of water. I
laid there very much like a gingerbread man under a ziplock baggie full of

Except, of course, the gingerbread man doesn't need to breathe. It occurred
to me that this could quickly become a problem...

I felt Hannah get off my knee, and struggle off the waterbed. I needed to tell
her to roll the bed off me so I could breathe. How was I going to do that? I
pondered that for a second or so...

...and then, fresh air. She'd realized the same thing I had, and tried. She
couldn't budge the mattress any more than I could, but had managed to jam
her arm under the thing, trying to find me, and had opened an air channel.

"DON'T TAKE YOUR ARM OUT!" I said, calmly and patiently.

"I'm gonna call the fire department!!!" she shrieked.


"I'm gonna call the fire department!"


"I'm gonna call -- why not?"

"Because in the time it takes you to get through on 911," I said, "I'm not
going to be able to get any air. By the time you finally get through, you
might as well be calling a funeral home."


"Just keep your arm where it is, so I can breathe. I can get out from under

"The HELL you can! You can't lift all that!"

"Don't have to," I grunted, wiggling slightly towards her. She promptly
poked me in the eye with a fingernail.

It took me an hour and forty minutes to flex, press, wiggle, flex, press,
wiggle, lather, rinse and repeat my way out from under that half-ton
deathtrap... an inch at a time... until finally, I had enough of me out from
under the thing to just pull free. Thank ghod for hardwood floors; I might
not have survived that much rug burn.

I spent the first half hour of that time arguing with Hannah, who VERY
BADLY wanted to call the fire department.

I finally convinced her that I would certainly suffocate in the time it took her
to get 911 on the horn, and she finally shut up and let me do it myself. A
good thing she was kind of panicky; it never occurred to her that the phone
was cordless... and back then, I still had a fair supply of macho to deal
with... and I was TERRIFIED at the idea of ANYONE ever finding out I'd
almost been killed by my own bed...
...plus, I'm quite sure that at some point, it would occur to her that she
couldn't greet firemen at the front door while stark naked... and I was quite
sure I'd suffocate before she could manage to get DRESSED to let them in...

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