Sweet Dreams

Damon Runyon

We think the greatest institution ever devised for human comfort is the bed. Let us talk about beds.

A man is usually born in bed, and spends at least half his life in bed. If he is lucky, he dies in bed. We used to think that the best place to die was on the battlefield, face to the foe, etc., but that was when we were much younger and more casual about dying.

Now we know that a battlefield is likely to be an untidy sort of place and much more lonesome for the purpose of dying than a nice clean bed, with the doctors and the sorrowing relatives clustered about, all wondering how soon they are going to get paid off.

However, let us not pursue those morbid reflections about beds. We prefer thinking of beds in their more cheerful aspects. We like to think of a bed as a place of refuge and rest—as a sanctuary against the outside world with its troubles and woes, where sometimes in beautiful dreams, a fellow can live a few hours in ecstasy.

Of course there may be a few bad dreams, too, but we always figured they are stood off by the pleasure derived from awakening to a realization that they are not true. Only the other night a bloke shoved us off a twenty-storey building, but we woke up just before we hit the ground and our joy on discovering that we were still safe in bed completely cancelled the few sweaty seconds we suffered while falling.

We claim to be one of the greatest authorities in the United States on beds—that is, on the sleeping qualities of beds. We have slept in beds in every State in the Union, and we must say good beds are fairly common in these days when the construction of springs and mattresses has reached a degree approaching perfection, and American housewives, in furnishing their homes, are properly placing more importance on beds than on any other items of household equipment.

We can remember when some hotel beds, and a lot in private homes, too, were pretty hard to take. Even now I occasionally run across a survivor of the times when a bed was commonly just a sort of rack with a lumpy mattress and creaky springs and skimpy coverings for a fellow to toss around on between suns, though in general Americans have become educated to the idea of complete comfort in beds.

The trouble with Americans about beds in the past was their theory that a bed typified indolence. They apparently did not realize that the better a fellow rested in bed, the livelier he was likely to be when he got up, and that the better the bed, the better his rest. It is our opinion that the energy of Americans generally has greatly increased since the improvement in beds.

We hold that many Americans owe their lack of appreciation in beds to faulty education in youth. Some parents send their children to bed as punishment. If they would reverse this procedure and send them to bed only as a reward, and keep them out of bed as a penalty, it would inspire in the kids a respect and appreciation for beds for which they would thank their fathers and mothers in later years.

It might be a good idea, too, to teach the youngsters right from taw that they should never take any worries to bed with them—that they should regard bed as a secure nest in which they should rest without giving a thought to worldly concerns. If you started on them early enough maybe they would grow up with the knack of disregarding the winds of worry rattling at the window panes, or the rain of adversity pattering on the roofs that disturbs so much adult peace of mind in bed.

We never cared much for that Spartan simplicity in beds that some fellows profess to fancy. A cot in the corner, or a crude pallet on the ground ’neath the stars is not for us. We went through all that in our army days, and you can have it.

We will take all the luxury with which a bed can possibly be surrounded—a gentle, yielding mattress, and quiet, cushiony springs, and soft, downy pillows, and snowy linen and the richest of coverings. A fellow gets little enough out of life under any circumstance without making his hours of rest too tough.

We like a bed wide and long that we can kick around in without falling out or stubbing our toes. As we have said, good beds are common enough, but a truly great bed—one that fits perfectly, and that sleeps good, is a rarity that a fellow should cherish above all other possessions. We have a bed in New York City that we think is the sleepingest bed in the whole world and would not part with it for anything, but of course another fellow might not like it. It might not just fit him. That is the thing—to get a bed that fits.

I realize, of course, that my appreciation of a bed is due largely to the fact that I am one of those fortunate chaps who sleeps fairly well, for which I am grateful to a kind providence. I can imagine nothing worse than insomnia. I am lucky enough to be able to sleep after a fashion standing up, or hanging on a hook, but in a good bed—say, that is when I really saw wood!