Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Unboxing the New Casper Wave and Foundation

In my last post, Tom and I shared the news that we, as middle-aged people, had happily just bought a mattress that came in a box.

When we originally decided to order the Casper bed, Tom and I were planning to spring for White Glove delivery. This add-on meant that someone else would put it together for us.

Now, Tom and I are no strangers to furniture that you have to assemble yourself. We've put together tables and chairs over the years that have tested the limits of our joint spatial reasoning skills. Our current TV stand is a glossy white modular system from IKEA. Enough said.

Still, a bed and foundation seemed a little too heavy and cumbersome for us to handle on our own. Unfortunately, White Glove service wasn't available for the mattress that we wanted. The Casper Wave was too new, and the White Glove vendor in L.A. didn't have any in stock yet.

It was the curse of being an early adopter.

"But if you're worried about it," the Casper rep said on the phone. "Just get a task rabbit."

I tried to sound nonchalant because this friendly, nice man was making it sound like of course everybody totally knew what a task rabbit was.

"Yeah," I said. "Okay." And then I hung up and googled it.

(Turns out that Task Rabbit is kind of like an Uber for doing chores and projects around the house. You can hire someone to come over immediately and assemble your furniture, or clean the kitchen, or lift heavy objects, or mount a TV...but that is a story for another post.)

In any case, Tom and I didn't wind up getting a task rabbit. In a burst of excitement and bravado, we decided to do it ourselves.

The Queen sized foundation's box was taller than Tom. When he opened it, we saw a bunch of neatly padded pieces. There was one piece for each of the four sides of the bed, and they slid neatly together into these ingeniously cool corner grooves. You couldn't make a mistake. There was only one way to attach them. It was like Lego had engineered the next frontier of home design.

No tools were needed at all. No screws or washers. Not even that little metal twisty wrench that these things usually come with. Instead, there were simple arrows on each piece to show you which way was up, and four large pegs to hold each corner together.


After step one, the grey foundation supports were all solidly sitting in the bed frame. Next, we took out two rolled-up pieces of beige fabric. They were each filled with wooden slats. Tom unrolled one and I took the other, and we nestled them each on top of the frame.

And then, all that this expertly assembled foundation needed was an awesome new mattress to top it off.

The box that held the Casper Wave weighed in at around 100 pounds. We slid it into the bedroom, and discussed fulcrums, leverage and the best way to get this heavy thing out of the package.

But first, we opened the top flaps of the box and peered inside. There it was, compressed in sheets of plastic, the rolled-up Casper Wave -- and with it, all our hopes and dreams for a better night's sleep.

We wound up tipping the box against the middle of the bed. I held it steady while Tom pulled at the plastic packaging from the other side of the bed. The mattress actually slid out pretty easily. We took a step back, wondering if it was going to suddenly spring open, now that it had been liberated from its cardboard case and all. But the rolled-up mattress held its shape -- a hefty Queen-sized sausage.

Turns out, there are two layers of plastic wrap to remove at this point. The first layer is not sealed, so you just unwind and unroll until you get to the end of it. We tried to do this on the bed, which didn't work very well, because the slats on the top of the foundation started rolling around too. So in hindsight, it would be better to do this step on the floor, which is precisely what the instruction booklet recommends.

The second layer of plastic is sealed, so Tom delicately inserted a pair of scissors into a corner, making sure not to snip off any bits of our much-anticipated major purchase.

Once the seal was broken, the mattress was ready to unroll. We tore away pieces of plastic wrap in a mad frenzy of mattress-freeing abandon. And just like that, we had a new bed.

In a future post, I'll give you an update on the 100-night sleep trial. Casper offers free shipping and free returns, so we have about 95 more nights to decide if our new darling is a keeper. Spoiler Alert: So far, we kind of love it.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

We Bought a Mattress in a Box

Middle-aged people are not used to the idea of buying a mattress in a box. 

We grew up in an era when mattresses were displayed in giant warehouse stores where THIS WEEKEND ONLY they would be blowing out Serta’s at rock bottom prices.

The last time that I bought a mattress, I went to a traditional showroom full of innerspring pillowtops, because that was good and proper in the olden days circa 2006. I remember lying down, trying to get a feel for a mid-range Sealy Comfort-Pedic. 

As I self-consciously considered factors such as back and neck support, a salesman hovered over my prone form and asked intrusive questions about what kind of sleeper I was. “Back or side?” he said with a smile. “Alone or with a partner?” It was all very awkward, and vaguely upsetting.

I did, however, have some specific sleep concerns on that trip to the mattress store.

I’ve had a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis (A.S.) for a long time. It’s an inflammatory condition that causes pain and sometimes fusion in the spine and other places in the body. Basically, it’s an autoimmune disease that pretty much sucks. And it makes finding a comfortable way to sleep feel like an eternal struggle.

In 2006, I didn’t want to share the personal details of my medical history with a mattress salesman that I’d just met. At the time, most people had never heard of A.S. Things are different now, though, thanks in large part to a twenty-something lead singer named Dan Reynolds.

This GRAMMY-winning frontman for Imagine Dragons is talking openly about his experience with A.S. to raise awareness. His willingness to give voice to the pain and struggle that he had endured in isolation is now empowering people around the world, including me, to do the same.

I don’t know what kind of mattress Dan Reynolds sleeps on when he’s not on tour, but after countless hours of web research, I can tell you which one I ordered for me and Tom: the Casper Wave.

Here it is, before we unpacked it. Our new Queen-sized mattress arrived in a box. UPS delivered it to our door, along with a matching foundation. The foundation, for middle-aged readers, is what we used to call a box spring, back at the turn of the millennium, when these kinds of things all still had springs in them.

In my next post, I’ll show you what it looked like when Tom and I unpacked the new bed and foundation, and put the whole thing together. Spoiler Alert: It was easier and more fun than you might think.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Max the Floater

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a skinny black bug skitter across my desk. I jumped. But when I turned to look at him again, he was gone.

Then he showed up on my laptop screen, along the left margin of a blank Word Document.

The insect had a dark circular body and two curved legs, one on each side. When I tried to stare at him directly, he’d skitter around, like a water bug skating across the top of a pond. Then, he’d disappear.

“I have an insect in my eye,” I told Tom, and explained what I was seeing.

“It’s a floater,” Tom said. “I have tons of them.”

Tom has a condition called Krukenberg's Spindle. He explained that it causes his eyes to shed pigment, which then floats around his field of vision in various shapes. As we grow old together, Tom’s eyes will get lighter and lighter, slowly turning baby blue.

Tom seemed confident that my floater was no big deal, but I was still nervous.

That night, when I was turning down the sheets, I watched half of an insect run across my white pillowcase. I screamed and Tom investigated. There was nothing there.

“This sucks,” I said.

“You’ll get used to it,” Tom said.

I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. My floater danced along the porcelain.

“YOU again!”

The flitting bug said nothing.

I looked up water skippers on Wikipedia, and was redirected to a page about the Gerridae family of insects, also called pond skaters. These crafty creatures have literally learned to walk on water. What chance did I have in battling something like that? Obviously, I had my work cut out for me.

I went to the eye doctor and told her about my problem. She dilated my pupil and peered inside, examining my retina.

“Your eye looks fine,” she said. “It’s just a floater.”

Everyone seemed totally okay with the fact that an aquatic predator had taken up residence inside my left eyeball.

“This is the new normal,” I told myself.

Since the scary shape was here to stay, I figured we should get better acquainted. I named the floater Max.

The next morning, Max appeared in the shower.

“This is my private time,” I said. “You’re not welcome here.”

Max ignored me.

After a week of heated one-sided discussions, it became clear that I was fighting a no-win battle.

I changed strategies and tried to make peace.

“I guess we’re in this together,” I told him, staring at the sunrise.

Max flitted along the horizon. There were no words.

I tried to put myself in his position. If I were a pond-skating floater stuck inside the vitreous fluid of someone’s left eye, what would I want?

I made several sincere attempts to foster the relationship. “What would you like to see today?” I’d say calmly.

But of course, he would never respond.

In researching pond skaters, I learned that it takes 60-70 days for them to reach adulthood. Since Max was only a few weeks old, I had clearly been trying to talk to a nymph, which in human terms is similar to trying to strike up a two-way conversation with a sullen teenager.

I would just have to be patient and wait for Max to mature. I couldn’t take his behavior personally.

After a month of frequent daily exposure, I got used to having Max around. Despite the silent treatment, there was something uniquely comforting about having a constant companion, a witness who was intrinsically a part of you.

“Did you see that?” I said, pointing out a particularly impressive kite boarder at the beach.

Very faintly, I heard an answer. “I’ve seen better,” he said.

As we grew closer, I asked Max where he went when I couldn’t see him.

“I have places to go, people to see,” he said. “It’s not all about you.”

It seemed that Max, a skittery floater with two legs and an attitude, had a much more active social calendar that I did.

One night, when Tom was at an orchestra rehearsal, Max showed up on the side of our white lacquered drop-leaf table.

“I would like to see the full moon,” he said.

So we put a leash on our Pomeranian, Phoebe, and walked out to the grassy area next door. The eerie bright orb in the sky was magnificent.

“Thank you,” he said, hopping around on a crater.

A few weeks later, Max started to fade.

“Sometimes floaters go away,” my Mom said.

I asked the eye doctor about it.

“Your brain learns to disregard them,” she said. “They’re still there -- you just don’t see them anymore.”

The whole thing struck me as profoundly sad.

I’d read about the migration patterns of pond skaters. Sudden increases in salt concentration can trigger a biological urge to move on. I had been sad about my multiple eye problems over the past few years. Now I wondered if my tears had literally pushed Max away.

Several months have passed, and every now and then, I’ll still catch a glimpse of him, the shaky shadow of his former self. Sometimes I wonder if he’s still floating around in there, silent and unrecognized.

When Max is gone for a long stretch, I try to imagine him off in the ether, having a wonderful adventure, seeing the world from a million different perspectives and doing whatever makes floaters feel happy and content.

Still, sometimes late at night, I think about Max and hope that he’s not lonely -- that despite what the ophthalmologist said, he will resist the urge to fade away. That despite being tethered to a brain that might eventually dismiss his entire existence, he will find a way to make his presence known and refuse to disappear.