Bed Tech.
By Larry Mundy
Tuesday, 26th December 2006
After years of mandating new internet devices - in-room yogurt makers and titanium-anodized thresholds - many brands are now "getting back to basics" by mandating upgrades in bedding – mattresses, bedspreads, pillows, everything.  This is accompanied by the inevitable ad campaigns – "Sleep Right Through Your Important Morning Meeting" and "Feel Like You're Sinking to the Floor." On the surface this appears to be a very good thing.  Guests don't rent hotel rooms to watch TV or consume tasty beverages, or they would be checking into sports bars.  They come to sleep and awake refreshed, ready to take on their busy day.  Anything that helps this process (a quiet air unit, effective blackout drapes, shutting down the wild party next door) is by definition a Good Thing.

But sometimes we can get too much of Good Things, and I'm afraid there is some one-upsmanship taking us in that direction.  I stayed in one of the pioneer hotels adopting its brand's new bedding standards a couple years ago, a hotel that had previously impressed me with its fine, firm mattresses.  The new version featured a "pillowtop" cushion that conformed to my every nook and cranny, with which I am copiously blessed.  But the new bedspread had a density off the atomic scale.  Lying under it, I waited for the X-ray to be taken so the leaden weight would be lifted.  Gasping for breath, I kicked it on the floor, where it made a small crater.  I noticed all the housekeepers wearing back braces just to lift the silly things.  And a pillow fight with their new pillows could have resulted in fatalities.

The next hotel I visited had switched to patterned sheets, on the apparent assumption this was more "homelike."  The last patterned sheets I had at home featured Superman and Lois Lane, but I have to admit these were slightly more tasteful.  Their mattresses were crowned with some sort of Swedish memory-foam "developed by NASA."  I was wondering why on earth NASA would give our priceless memory-foam secrets to the Swedes, and luxuriating in what felt like the big Allstate hand in the insurance commercials, until I tried to get up.  Swedish NASA foam envelops you like quicksand (and makes a similar sucking sound when you are extricated, which requires a portable winch).  And for several minutes afterward, you can stare at your full-body mold in the mattress, which almost cries out for a chalk body outline, but eventually fades to become as flat as Arnold Schwartznegger's abdomen.  It's a weird reminder of your own mortality.

I've also sampled air-adjustable beds, which have a little air pump and remote control so you can set just the firmness you like.  The last time I tried an air bed, some sort of lizard crawled into my sleeping bag, but these are much more civilized, sort of like waterbeds but a lot less wet.  My difficulty was in deciding where to set the control – give me something infinitely adjustable and I'll spend hours, losing sleep, wondering whether I have the optimum adjustment.  This particular bed was separately adjustable on each side, but traveling alone I tend to sleep in the middle.  So after readjusting one side, I had to roll over and readjust the other to match, and so on.  I became the master of the lateral-roll movement.

I do think that hotels with "air beds" are missing a good thing by not filling them with helium, so the tiniest housekeeper could "flip" the mattress with a pinky finger, and not have to wear the back brace except to move the lead-lined comforter and medicine-ball pillows.  Sweet dreams.

Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person." Contact: Larry Mundy LJM2804@yahoo.com

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