Jerry Nelson: Waterbed woes

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum

Whenever I see a New Year’s Mega Mattress Markdown or an Independence Day Bargain Bed Blowout or a Year-End Please, Please Buy Our Beds We’re Really Desperate Sale, I feel a twinge of chagrin.

This is because I have fallen prey to such an advertisement. Not just any ad, though; I went for the worst kind possible. Yes, it’s true: there once was a time when my wife and I owned a waterbed.

My farming career began when I rented a rundown dairy farm. The condition of the farmhouse didn’t concern me in the least. I wanted to farm so badly, I would have happily lived in a mud hut.

The dilapidated old hovel was empty when I took possession of the farm. I didn’t own a stick of furniture at that time, unless you want to count the cinder block and plank arrangement that I had constructed for use as a coffee table.

My first priority was to purchase a bed. This was based on my experience that sleeping is an essential, albeit unproductive, activity. Or rather, inactivity.

I was broke, so my only option was to buy a used bed. I went to a secondhand shop, selected a likely mattress and frame combo and spirited it home.

The bed was comfy enough, but it had a major downside: it squeaked like a herd of stampeding mice. If Goldilocks were to visit my farm to perform a surreptitious bed test, I would have been instantly alerted by the cacophony of squeaks emanating from the bedroom.

But that wasn’t the old bed’s only problem. After we got married, my wife and I discovered that its mattress had a deep hypergravity valley running down its center. Anyone who got into the bed couldn’t help but roll to the middle. This might explain why my wife got pregnant shortly after we were wed.

“Wow, I’m really beat! It’s been a long day and just want to get some sleep… Well, hello there!”

The bed’s squeakiness and the crowded conditions at its middle created an untenable situation. We decided to bite the bullet and purchase new sleeping equipment.

This was at a time when waterbeds were THE thing. Swept up by the idea of getting the sleep of our lives every night, we purchased a new waterbed.

Some assembly was required. In fact, all of the assembly was required. It took most of a Saturday afternoon, but we somehow managed to put the bed and its frame together without consulting either the instructions or a divorce attorney.

The final step was filling the mattress with water. I hooked a hose to the kitchen faucet and started the process. I turned on the hot tap and quickly emptied our 50-gallon hot water heater. It took several hours to fill the mattress, which held approximately the same amount of water as an Olympic swimming pool.

It was quite late when the mattress was finally topped off. Our puny hot water heater had done little to temper the cold well water. There was an electric heating pad under the waterbed’s mattress, but we learned that it would take days for the feeble heater to warm the water.

Exhausted by the bed assembly process, we were ready for a restorative slumber. We placed numerous blankets and quilts atop of the mattress and crawled into bed.

Despite this insulation, the chill of the water found us and sapped all of the warmth from our bodies. It was like trying to sleep on a giant Ziploc bag full of ice water. But we had expended all that time and effort and were committed to a new set of monthly payments. We were going to sleep on that waterbed whether we liked it or not, by golly!

“Oh, baby!” exclaimed my wife through chattering teeth, “We’re having fun now!”

It was somewhat surprising that we survived that first night. Not because of the hypothermia, but mainly because the floor of that rickety old house should have collapsed under the waterbed’s weight. I can imagine the headlines: Local Couple Drown in Farmhouse Basement! Clueless Husband Knew Nothing About Structural Load Analysis!

Once the waterbed’s heater caught up, there was an issue regarding its temperature setting. My wife wanted it warm enough to boil an egg while I preferred it somewhat cooler. So we compromised and set the temperature where my wife liked it.

We got rid of the waterbed after we awoke one morning to discover that the mattress was leaking like Old Faithful. My wife and I will put up with a lot, but we draw the line at a bed that wets us.

Jerry Nelson