In Search of the Perfect Sofa-Bed
Now, however, I am vicariously learning all about this underappreciated piece of furniture, because John, who recently moved back to San Francisco, is determined to find one. Since two of his bedroom walls are covered with bookcases, one of them has his desk and a closet, and the other will have a piano, his plan is to put a sofabed in front of some of the books.
This is not, I admit, what I would have recommended, but I know better than to expect anyone to decorate his bedroom according to my advice. My friends, John included, sometimes do ask my advice about such things, but I am sure that this is merely to cement their own notions. Personally, I would never put my bed in front of a bookcase (kind of hard to get at the books), nor would I conclude that my ideal bed ought to spend its waking hours as a couch (too much assembly and disassembly), but I have my own domestic quirks and John has his own opinions about them. I take the view that to each his/her own.
Initially, John imagined he would buy a used sofa-bed. After all, he is a grad student on a tight budget. Examination of the available offerings, however, prompted him to think about new ones. If the used sofa-bed was not in dire condition, its construction was cheap and its mattress did not meet his standards.
John judges the present-day sofa-bed by the one he used to sleep on at his grandmother's. This sofa-bed, he asserts, was a solid piece of furniture with a thickish, firm mattress.
Not having slept on his grandmother's sofa-bed, I would not dream of disputing its perfections. On the other hand, she may well have bought it back in 1940 or so. I am sure that large-scale commercial furniture-making practices have deteriorated over time. After all, when you consider the popularity of Ikea's particle-board offerings, which fall apart at a moment's notice...
John has visited the furniture department at Macy's, where he was advised that better quality could be found elsewhere. He has examined the offerings of discount furniture outlets, whose quality and aesthetics nauseated him. He has learned all about the many consumer lawsuits filed against Jennifer Convertibles. He has announced himself the foe of anything whose cushions are sewn to the back of the couch or whose cushions are only upholstered on one side.
Last week I offered to take him on a tour of East Bay furniture purveyors, although I did have to air out the car a bit in order to do so (you don't want to drive around on a warm day with a dead rabbit in the car, but after all, I had to keep Cami somewhere safe until she could be properly buried; the garage had to serve for a few hours instead).
We saw some possibles at the very first store, which was not far from the house: solid-color, full-size sofa-beds of decent quality. John was not sure, however, that the mattresses were ideal. In his view they were too thin and soft. It transpires that the mattress in a sofa-bed has to be relatively thin so that it can fold up inside the sofa. The foldable aspect may also affect its firmness.
We made a sort of grand tour of San Pablo Avenue (home of many furniture venues), detoured to Berkeley's Fourth Street where one can find Peet's Coffee if not actual sofa-beds, and proceeded onto Ashby.
We (or, I should say John) interrogated numerous sales people about mattresses and where the perfect sofa-bed might be found.
It is clear to me that the average sofa-bed purchaser does not buy one in order to sleep on it, but on the off-chance that someone else might. This was especially clear after John lay down on one of these beds and, although he is not unusually tall, I could see that he was longer than it was. Still, it is not for me to tell John that he should not sleep on a sofa-bed. If I were to do that, he might conclude that he should simply continue sleeping on the floor, which meets his standards for firmness. I am not unwilling to sleep on the floor, but I am really looking forward to having a place to sit other than the floor and the piano bench, neither of which is congenial to my back. I would put in a vote for an armchair and ottoman so that I can lounge at my ease while he sits at his desk or paces the floor.
Our friend Cesar is less interested in sofa-beds and appears to regard the search for them as a sign of mild insanity that Jeff and I are merely abetting by driving John to additional furniture stores. Cesar recently expounded on Time Management to me (I had not realized this was a topic of interest to poets, but Cesar is not your average poet) and stated that spending a day looking for a sofa-bed was a high-effort, low-yield activity, thus a poor use of time.
I said that although I had my doubts about the existence of the ideal sofa-bed, I did not think the search should be categorized in terms of time management. After all, one seldom needs to search for a sofa-bed. If one plans to sleep on one every night, it is better to find a model that will be satisfactory. You do not want to buy some piece of junk, spend a third of your time sleeping on it, and regret it for years to come. Some people will always buy the cheapest thing they can find in order to save money, which is often penny-wise and pound-foolish, while other people save their money and try to find something that will last years and serve them well.
Perhaps we should inquire among John's relatives to find out who inherited his grandmother's sofa-bed. If it is still in Colorado, we could entreat my parents to bring it back when they go there to visit my aunt. Then again, it may have gone to relatives in Nebraska or some other state. It may even have been sold. But you never know until you ask.
The true grad student can always come up with a new ploy to put off writing his or her dissertation.
Note: John has since found and ordered a sofa-bed.