Dar­ing to dream of a bet­ter world

San Francisco Chronicle - - DATEBOOK - Nick Hoppe’s col­umn ap­pears Tues­days in Date­book. Email: Nick­Hoppe61@ gmail.com

I got an email the other day from a reader who wasn’t happy about the sub­jects of some re­cent columns. “Our coun­try is a mess,” she wrote, “and you’re writ­ing about plumbers and Easter egg hunts? Dis­grace­ful.”

Thank you. While I throw in a se­ri­ous col­umn ev­ery once in a while when mo­ti­vated, I pre­fer to try to cre­ate some smiles with the lighter stuff. And so, in honor of this dis­grun­tled reader, I will be writ­ing to­day about the fluffi­est sub­ject imag­in­able: pil­lows.

That reader (and oth­ers) may not think pil­lows are that im­por­tant in the great scheme of things, but I do. How are we expected to cre­ate a bet­ter world if we can’t get a good night’s sleep be­cause we can’t find the right pil­low?

I know I’m not alone be­cause I’ve dis­cussed this with many peo­ple. There are good pil­lows and bad pil­lows, and 99 per­cent of pil­lows are bad, at least for me. They just don’t fit right, ei­ther too hard, too soft, too lumpy or too flat. It’s a con­stant bat­tle.

There are two com­po­nents to the pil­low prob­lem: home pil­lows and travel pil­lows. Both are wor­thy of dis­cus­sion, and I will start with the never-end­ing bat­tle with ho­tel and mo­tel pil­lows, or any for­eign pil­low.

Nine times out of 10, it’s a disaster. The main prob­lem is I’m a two-pil­low guy. It’s es­sen­tial to have a flat pil­low un­der­neath, topped by a fluffier pil­low (but not too fluffy). This is a com­bi­na­tion that is rarely avail­able in strange places. And so I’ll whine.

“This is not work­ing,” I’ll report to my wife, who is try­ing to sleep next to me and doesn’t have quite the same prob­lem. “Let me try your pil­low.”

This usu­ally doesn’t go over well, es­pe­cially if I ag­gres­sively tug her pil­low out from un­der her in frus­tra­tion. When I ex­plain that I’m sort of like the princess in the “Princess and the Pea” fairy tale, it usu­ally makes matters worse.

Her pil­low is usu­ally no bet­ter. The prob­lem is that in most strange places, all pil­lows are iden­ti­cal, mean­ing one pil­low is not enough cush­ion and two pil­lows are too much. I need to have the combo pack­age, and it’s sel­dom avail­able. So I suf­fer, and I let any­one within earshot know.

If I’m in a strange house, I’ve been known to wan­der the hall­ways look­ing for the right com­bi­na­tion. Oc­ca­sion­ally, I’ll be successful, but it’s rare. I’m usu­ally doomed to toss and turn all night, never reach­ing that bliss­ful comfort level of the per­fect pil­low.

The sit­u­a­tion is bet­ter at home, but it’s never per­fect. I’ve got the combo pack­age, but I’m al­ways look­ing for im­prove­ment. Just re­cently I heard the ad­ver­tise­ment on the ra­dio for MyPil­low.com and shelled out a stupid amount of money for the two-for-one spe­cial. When my pil­lows came a few days later, I ea­gerly ripped open the pack­age in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the per­fect night’s sleep.

I woke up at 2 a.m. with a very stiff neck. Too lumpy. Time to move on. I went back to my old combo, which was tol­er­a­ble, but not per­fect. Then last week my wife came home from Costco and, bless her heart, threw a cou­ple of new pil­lows my way.

“Try these,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get lucky and you’ll stop whin­ing.”

Costco? Who buys mir­a­cle pil­lows at Costco? I checked out the pack­age: 20 by 28 inches, 350 thread count, 600 fill power, 100% damask stripe cot­ton, medium den­sity for all sleep­ing po­si­tions, cer­ti­fied by the Amer­i­can Down & Feather Coun­cil.

Cer­tainly worth a shot. When I went to bed, I cer­e­mo­ni­ously threw my old ad­e­quate pil­low to the floor and placed one of my two Costco pil­lows on top of my sta­bi­liz­ing flat pil­low and then laid my in­cred­i­bly sen­si­tive head down to sleep.

Im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions are worth­less. Only time could tell. And sure enough, when I woke in the morn­ing, there wasn’t a whine to be found. My wife had found the per­fect pil­low, and I would be eter­nally grate­ful.

The combo was just right. Not too flat, not too lumpy, just the right amount of girth. I now wake up with a smile on my face, ready to solve the world’s prob­lems and make that dis­grun­tled reader just a lit­tle bit less crit­i­cal — just as soon as I fin­ish the col­umn on the per­fect bath towel.

The main prob­lem is I’m a two-pil­low guy. It’s es­sen­tial to have a flat pil­low un­der­neath, topped by a fluffier pil­low (but not too fluffy).

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