For Want of a Good Night's Sleep

Ron Karpinski  2000


Captain Steve Ritchie of the U.S. Army stood six-feet, six-inches tall.  His great height, he claimed, kept him from getting a good night's sleep.  The standard single bed in his room fell about a foot short of optimum, in his opinion.

Steve lived in bachelor officer quarters at Kelley Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany.  His cramped apartment had only a small sitting room and a bedroom, connected by a tiny bathroom; the small bed seemed almost an afterthought.

One evening, over a glass of wine, Steve mentioned that Colonel Salee had a double bed in his room across the hall.  "Boy, I could sure use a double bed," Steve said.  "On a bed of that size, I could at least sleep diagonally."

The next day, Steve and I drove to Stuttgart and confronted the man in charge of issuing furniture.  He acted the typical bureaucrat.  By this time, in the fall of 1981, he had been entrenched in his current position for nine years.

"I want to exchange my single bed for a double bed," Steve announced.  A single bed is too short for me.  I haven't had a good night's sleep since I arrived here.

"We can't do that," the man said.  "The rules say single people get single beds.  With a double bed, you might sleep with someone else in your room."

"Yeah, if I ever get lucky," Steve quipped.  "Say, who are you to question my moral integrity, anyway?  What about Colonel Salee's double bed?"

"I don't know anything about a double bed in Colonel Salee's room.  It's not listed on the inventory; but, I'll look into your situation and see what I can do."

One evening, two weeks later, Steve knocked on my door.  "Ron," he said, "you have got to come over and see this."  I followed him down the hall.

A brand new bed sat in Steve's apartment.  It had been delivered during the day while we were away at work.  Some genius had stitched together two sections from separate mattresses, creating one long single bed . . . seven feet in length.

Back at the furniture office, Steve was livid.  "I appreciate your efforts," he snarled, "but tell me, just where am I supposed to buy sheets for this monstrosity?"

The next day, Steve tossed the new bed out on the front lawn; and the furniture folks retrieved it.  Foiled by the bureaucracy, he came up with a new plan.

A week later, an express package arrived in the mail, containing the vinyl pieces of a king-sized water bed.  For the next three nights, the post craft shop echoed in a cacophony of hammering and cursing, as Steve built a wood frame for his new purchase.

After work on Friday evening, Steve stood like a proud father before the finished product.  As he filled it with water, the huge vinyl mattress undulated gently, nearly filling the small bedroom.

Suddenly, the parquet flooring began to creak; then the boards buckled under the bed's tremendous weight, and the whole floor caved in.  Steve grabbed his head.

"All I want is a good night's rest," he sobbed.

"Come on Steve," I said, "let's go back to my place.  You can sleep on the sofa."


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