17 01 16

about two years ago elly and i decided we needed a new mattress        or maybe elly decided it        because i didnt pay much attention to the        problem        we had an old mattress wed had it for years and the salesman        wed bought it from had assured us it would last us a lifetime        and it        was getting older and lumpy or lumpy in some places and hollowed out        in others and        i just assumed it was part of a normal process of aging        it was getting older we were getting older and wed get used to it        but        eleanor has a bad back and she was getting desperate to get rid of        this mattress        loyally        that had lived with us for such a long time and so        that i thought i knew all its high points and low points        its eminences and pitfalls        and i was sure        that at night my body worked its way carefully around the lumps        dodging the precipices        and moving to solider ground whenever it could

but maybe eleanor        sleeps more heavily than i do        i have a feeling that i spent much of        my life at night avoiding the pitfalls of this mattress that i was used        to        and it was a skill id acquired over the ten or fifteen years of this        mattress’ life        so i felt there was no reason to get rid of this mattress        that had been promised to us by a salesman who said it would last the        rest of our lives        i figured we were going to live long lives i didnt        think we were anywhere close to dying        so neither was the mattress        but eleanor kept waking up with backaches

still i figured it was a good mattress and that elly just didnt have        enough skill at avoiding the lumps        mattress was at fault        it never occurred to me that the        so i didnt do anything        and elly didnt do        anything because shes not into consumer products and hates to go        shopping        but by the end of a year elly convinced me        because she has a sensitive back and i dont        that she had a more accurate        understanding of this business than i did        so i said sure eleanor        lets get a new mattress        were rebuilding the house        as long as were going to have a new house        we may as well have a new mattress        but eleanor said how will i know its a good one        i dont want to get        another mattress that gets hollowed and lumpy and gives me backaches        when i wake up        how will i know how to get a good one

i said well open the yellow pages and well look up mattresses and        therell be several places that sell them        point a finger at one of these places        and ill close my eyes and        and it will be a place that has        lots of mattresses where we can make a choice as to what constitutes        a good one by lying on them

now elly really knew that you cant just walk into a place and buy        a mattress        she knows this about american consumer goods        and she knows that these places would be equipped with rich delusional        capabilities whatever they might be

we would go to a great warehouse with subdued lighting where        they played somniferous music that encouraged you into restful        comfort while people would be heard talking in hushed voices walking        about examining the mattresses or testing them by gently reclining on        them        “oh are you buying that one        my aunt sylvie had one just        like it and practically lived on it”

thats a wonderful mattress        my uncle everett suffered for        years from lumbago that never let him sleep        and slept like a baby ever since”        she knows that these places would be equipped with rich delusional        he bought that mattress        “my aunt agnes had asthma and        she used to wake up every hour gasping for breath        sleeping on that mattress she sleeps like a log        since shes been        she rises fresh every        morning and plays three sets of tennis every afternoon        and shes        seventy-three”


we drive out to the one on miramar        and its in one of those        little malls with a vietnamese restaurant a shoe store and an aerobic        studio for women        and theres a big empty looking storefront that says        THE MATTRESS WAREHOUSE        its encouraging i say        theres a big truck outside filled with        mattresses        elly says yes        but the place looks as blank as a tire store        it doesnt look very impressive        i said well        the mattresses are all        lying down on the floor and youre looking in the window

so i get her into the store and we start looking around trying to        figure out where to start        and there is a helpful little man        an        elderly irishman with freckles and gray hair and very laid back and he        wants to know if he can help us

can you tell me where the better mattresses are asks eleanor
it all depends on what you want my dear
i want something eleanor says thats firm but comfortable
no i said        eleanor you want it to be more than firm        every        time you talk to me about a mattress you want it to be hard because        youre afraid youll sink into it


but what if its the wrong one she said        well get used to it i said        but seriously she said        what if its the wrong one ?        i said what would be the right one ?        eleanor forget it        it doesnt matter        you know what luther said when he was confronted by the        disciple who wanted to know what to do if he wasnt sure whether or not        he was in a state of grace ?        he said “sin bravely”        i said dammit we        dont know if we got the right mattress we dont know if we got the right        mixmaster        we dont know if we got the right anything        theres no way        to know        let us live cheerfully in our ignorance        and we went home        


so now were sleeping on the great mattress that eleanor selected        so carefully for us        and she still has back troubles        but theyre not as        bad as the ones she used to have        so either this is the best possible        mattress for her and for us        or not        and this is the situation that i        think best describes our postmodern condition        i believe in taking descartes’ advice        if youre lost in a forest and you        have no idea which way to go        with respect to which        go for it straight ahead        its not likely to be any worse than anything else

« the theory and practice of post-modernism »
i never knew what time it was
University of California Press 2005
p. 1–10
choix descartes forêt grâce/déréliction perte profusion