When I was a kid, I had a surefire scheme to supplement my allowance. My friend, Pat, and I would dig under all the seat cushions in the living room looking for spare change. Dad’s recliner was usually the jackpot. When we tipped it backwards, coins would usually pour out of it like a slot machine in Vegas. Our pockets jingling with, say, a dollar or two in change, we’d race to the five-and-dime to get some Fritos and a coke.
One day, while we were counting our winnings on the front lawn, we heard a thrilling proposition from a neighbor across the street. “Hey,” he shouted. “You kids want to make a couple bucks?”
A couple of bucks? That would fund a major splurge! Sure, Pat and I were skinny twelve-year-olds who barely had the strength to push a lawnmower. Still, lured by the thought of making some real money, we nodded at each other confidently, flexed our muscles and hustled over to check out the situation.
“I need to move my waterbed,” the neighbor explained as we followed him upstairs.
Waterbeds were wildly popular for a very short period back in the 1980s. One out of every four mattresses sold then was a waterbed. The novelty wore off quickly, though. Pat, my neighbor and I were about to learn why.
All three of us eagerly tackled the squishy waterbed with all our might, but it was like trying to move a whale stuck inside an oven. Which is what it felt like in the master bedroom that steamy afternoon in July. Air conditioning hadn’t yet come to my neighborhood.
Despite our best efforts, the waterbed wouldn’t budge though it would sway and gurgle. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. A queen-size waterbed might weigh as much as a ton.
After struggling for a half-hour, my neighbor decided to lighten the mattress by draining some water out. He attached the hose to the bed’s discharge valve, but the connection apparently wasn’t tight. Water gushed all over the bedroom floor.
Eventually, he managed to secure the hose and emptied what seemed like hundreds of gallons of water onto his front lawn, which now looked like a swamp. Soaked with sweat with water sloshing around our ankles, we tried again to move the bed. It didn’t move an inch.
After an hour or so, the neighbor got fed up. “Drain the damn thing and throw it out the window!” he said, throwing in a few expletives for good measure. We wrestled the rubbery blob out of the bed frame and shoved it out the window. It landed with a thud on the front lawn, after crushing a few shrubs for good measure.
Disgusted, my neighbor peeled a couple of dollars from the wad in his pocket and shoved them at us.
I hadn’t thought about that in years until last week. That’s when I overheard a customer in one of our stores say that he wanted a bed frame so he could pull his old waterbed out of storage and set it up again. He looked like he was in his late 50s or early 60s.
Maybe he wanted to relive the thrills of his bachelor days. Maybe he imagined it would relieve the ache of aging joints. Who knows? I wanted to warn him, but I didn’t. Some of life’s hardest lessons you just have to learn for yourself.