My family and I embarked on many a road trip during my childhood years. From moving across country from Alberta to Ontario in a furniture truck with a cat, a dog, and a car in tow when I was eight to several trips down into the States on various vacations we put a lot of mileage on our family vehicles over the years.
Our trips were pretty much calamity free, though not without their adventures. The transmission literally fell out onto my father’s foot just as we were passing the only motel we had seen in hours, during the furniture truck move we ended up coasting downhill on the few vapors remaining in two empty gas tanks into a gas station which had stayed open late into the evening because someone else has phoned on ahead and asked them to, and we ended up getting bumped up to an executive suite at one hotel because we had pulled into town at the beginning of a long weekend filled with local conventions and that was literally the only room remaining in the entire city.
Things have always turned out well for us, though we have cut it rather close from time to time. I even found out that, unlike most folks, I am perfectly comfortable reading in the back seat. Dozens and dozens of books piled up beside all that mileage. It wasn’t always glitz and glamour. We had our share of messes and dives. One adventure involved a lovely little motel we pulled into just this side of midnight on one of our ‘cover as much distance per day as possible’ style trips.
At the dead end of night you often take what you can get in terms of rooms and such. The one they offered us was a rather decent size, a full open living room with a master bedroom off to the side. The somewhat greasy looking green shag carpet was a little off-putting but it boasted a ‘kitchenette’ in the description.
This turned out to be a small two-burner stove which had been wedged into the main closet with a smoke detector on the ceiling right above it. Neither the stove nor the smoke detector had been cleaned in a considerable time, if ever, and the moment we tried turning on a burner the closet immediately filled with smoke and the smoke-detector proved it at least had fresh batteries.
After a long day on the road we weren’t really looking to bask in the ambience, we really just wanted to wash up and get some sleep. The master bedroom had a large bed with what my mother loves to call ‘a box spring without the springs’. When the mattress makes a ‘bonk’ sound as you sit on it you know you’re in for a firm night’s sleep. For me it was the pull-out couch in the living room.
The grey weave fabric of the couch was more than a little thread-bare and what little foam there was in the cushions had long since lost its sponginess. The frame didn’t creak too alarmingly as we unfolded it and while the object within already dressed in thankfully fresh smelling sheets wasn’t much more than a lumpy extra comforter when combined with the cushions from the couch it was almost a mattress. Almost. And I was almost dead tired so at that point pretty much any surface was going to serve.
We wished each other good night and my parents were just about to close the door to the master bedroom when I sat down and then laid back on my piecemeal bed to take a few deep breaths before climbing all the way in. There was no reaction when I first sat down but the moment I laid back the dual purpose device decided to go back to being a couch. With me inside it.
With some squeaking from the frame and a surprised yelp from me the bottom half refolded and the lumpy bundle of cushions, blankets, and me rolled half back into the bottom of the couch.
I imagine it must have looked like something out of a cartoon, the jumbled mass of cushions and bedframe with my legs sticking out. I imagined this because of the rather explosive laughter which suddenly burst from the area of the master bedroom. I can’t say as I blame them, I likely would have lost it at the sight myself. And to be fair due to the combination of shock, extreme exhaustion, and the mental image of what it must have looked like I wasn’t far behind them into the laughter.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to unfold a half-folded pull-out couch with a person trapped inside it but I can confidently testify to the fact it doesn’t go very well when all three people involved in the endeavor are laughing to the point of crying.
It took several attempts. We almost had it then someone helpfully commented on the fact that the chunk of mottled orangey carpet which had been wrapped around the base of the frame, either as a grip or pad against the floor, was ‘squishy’ and the ensuing resurgence of laughter sent me back into to bowls of the couch. At one point I was willing to concede defeat and just make myself comfortable until morning when we could tackle it fully rested but we did eventually manage to free me from my lumpy prison.
After taking several minutes to catch our collective breath and wipe our eyes we returned the pull-out to ‘bed’ configuration and stood there examining it skeptically. Moving the ‘mattress’ to the floor was proposed as was refolding it into a couch and then sleeping on that. Neither the green shag carpet nor the meager lumpy padding of the cushions alone felt terribly appealing so I eventually vowed to give the bed one more try.
Easing myself onto it and gingerly sliding into a flattened out position like I was Tom Cruise lowering into the vault above a motion sensor the frame creaked a couple of times causing all three of us to flinch and prepare to rescue me a second time but I managed to find a stable stretch in the middle. I laid there for a few moments with my parents half poised to leap to my aide but there were no further squeaks or movements from the frame beneath me.
Eventually we agreed the coast was likely clear and we once again bid each other good night. My parents did peak back out once more just to be sure all was well and I won’t deny I had every expectation the devilish contraption would wait until we were all just about to fall asleep before once again springing its trap but I was able to fall asleep safely and used extra care climbing out in the morning lest it try a last minute gambit to prevent its prey from escaping.
We headed out on the road the next morning without any further incident from the couch or going anywhere near the ‘kitchenette’. And I haven’t fully trusted any pull-out couch since. It was funny once….