Friday, March 03, 2006

Travelling With A Water Bed

At the end of my fourth year stationed in England, we moved from the big farmhouse in Saxmundham, Suffolk, into Air Force military family housing on Royal Air Force (RAF) Woodbridge, near Ipswich. Not long after we moved into our new house, Marilynn’s parents, Dean and Priscilla Miller, traveled from Vallejo, California, to visit us. We drove to Heathrow Airport, near London, to pick them up. When I remarked that one suitcase was very heavy, Dean explained that it was a water bed.

Among other things we talked about as we drove home, I mentioned that I thought it was really odd to travel with a water bed. Dean and Priscilla couldn’t agree with me in the least. They told me how much they now loved water beds, and how they just couldn’t bring themselves to sleep in a regular bed more than a day, or two days at the most. They were visiting us for almost three weeks. Much too long to sleep in anything but a water bed.

When we got home and unpacked the water bed suitcase, I was not surprised to discover that it was not a complete water bed. They had brought a plastic liner, a heating pad and thermostat, and a water bed mattress. The rest of the bed we would have to buy locally and build ourselves. Since as far as I knew we were about to have the first water bed in England, we would not be able to just get what we needed from a British water bed shop.

“How soon do you plan to be sleeping on this water bed?” I asked Dean.

“Tomorrow night.”

Then we got really busy. Our first stop was a building supply store, where we bought about 30 feet of 2”X8” boards, two 4’X8’ sheets of ¾” plywood, and 12 concrete blocks. Next we visited the Woodbridge Air Base scrap yard, and found some sheet metal which we bent and drilled for corner braces.

Armed with the necessary materials, the actual assembly went very quickly and smoothly. We measured and cut the boards to form the frame for the mattress, then joined the boards with the corner braces. Next we cut the plywood to the dimensions of the bottom of the mattress frame, and fastened the plywood to the frame. We stacked the concrete blocks to form four pedestals, and then put the frame on top. The heating pad went into the frame first, then the plastic liner, then the mattress.

The last part, filling the mattress with water, seemed to take a long time, probably because we didn’t have much to do except keep checking that the mattress filled evenly and didn’t bind in the frame. The step that took the longest by far was also the easiest – heating the water to the proper temperature. Dean assured me that, as wonderful as water beds were for sleeping, you would have a most miserable night in them if the water wasn’t warm enough.

The water bed was ready for use their second night with us, as planned, and Dean and Priscilla slept in it with no problems for the rest of their stay with us – except for the two nights we slept in our fourteen foot trailer when we took them to London. There was no way that water bed could have gone in that trailer, although I’m sure Dean thought about it.

When they went back to Vallejo, they left the water bed with us. Soon some of our friends, other young Air Force couples, heard that we had a water bed, and hinted they would like to sleep over and “check it out.” I think their interest in trying out the water bed had less to do with getting a good night’s sleep, and more with rumors that water beds would add new dimensions to their sex lives.

I must confess, I thought the water bed was a complete waste for all purposes, but I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t feel motivated to change. Since expectations can determine outcomes, those who expected significant improvements in their sleep or whatever in a water bed have a much better chance of finding it than those who don’t.

It didn’t take long before my boys started arguing over who got to sleep in the water bed, so we brought it with us when I was transferred to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. By then my middle son Scott claimed it as his, and having it soon came in handy when Dean and Priscilla visited us.

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