I have a disease. There is no official name for it, and it has never been diagnosed. I may be the only person on Earth who has it. I don’t even know what to call it. But I am compelled to search for the best pillow in the world. This compulsion nearly ruined my life. Here is my story.
It all started innocently enough. I was a child. My parents were responsible for providing me with a pillow to rest my head on at night. Since they were loving, thoughtful parents, they fulfilled this parental duty without hesitation. And my head rested easy on the fluffy pillow they purchased. On hot summer nights, I delighted in turning my pillow over to get to the cool side. It was one of the first pillow tricks I learned.
One Christmas, we visited my Grandmother, and slept at her house on Christmas Eve. My Grandmother had real feather pillows. Oh Danny Boy, what a treat. Although I was only four years old, I realized the difference. After some quick research using my Grandma’s encyclopedia set, I discovered that the feathers used in feather pillows are small and curved. This gives them a lovely spring-like quality. In fact, the feathers are stronger than carbon fiber, which hadn’t been invented back then, and still isn’t used in pillows today. Trust me, I know.
That Christmas Eve night, I became a pillow connoisseur. It was too late to petition Santa that year, as he had no doubt already hit the sky. But you can bet I wrote him a letter the following year pleading for a real feather pillow.
It was not to be. My relationship with Santa has been strained ever since. I forgave him, sure, but I still wonder how he could have denied me my one true desire.
Shortly after, I discovered down pillows. Which come from bird’s fluffy undercoat. Super soft, but not much support. I didn’t care. I had to have one.
By the time I was a teen, I had a collection of over 50 pillows. My parents tolerated my eccentricity, telling themselves it was better than being addicted to drugs. But this was the 1970s, people were stupider then. My parents didn’t realize that pillows were my drug, and I was Jonesing for every new model that showed up in the JC Penney catalog.
I got a job as a grill cook to feed my pillow habit. Every check went toward some new-fangled pillow technology. Buckwheat (plant-based) pillows. Microbead (often used in those silly-looking travel pillows that people strap to their necks when flying) pillows. I had to have them all.
Turn off the lights! Someone invented the Internet. By the 1990s, I could shop for pillows online. Fortunately, only a few pillow makers had an online presence, or I would have crashed AOL for sure.
My pillow accumulation was out of control by the time Amazon arrived. I wasn’t a pillow hoarder, I had a pillow disorder. It was madness. I had fourteen storage units stuffed with pillows. I would buy a pillow, feel excited for a moment, then, like B.B. King said, “The thrill is gone.” There was nothing to do but lay there and try to sleep it off.
Oh, sweet chemical lab of invention. Some genius invented memory foam. Which naturally made its way to pillows. I bought them all. I loved watching them expand. Then one afternoon, I was doing my hourly check for new pillow models. I saw that ACME Inc had just released a new memory foam model, the PJX765TW90-A. I smashed the Buy Now button and settled in for the two-day Prime waiting period.
Two days later, Joey, the Prime delivery guy, pulled up and said, “Howdy, Mark. Another new pillow, eh?”
“You know it. Thanks, big guy.”
“No problem. See you tomorrow.”
The pillow came in an impossibly small box. I was a little concerned. But I figured it was like those memory foam mattress toppers that expand for 24 hours. I was right. The instruction’s said:
Say, “That’s one tiny pillow.”
Set pillow in an unobstructed location for expansion.
Call any friends who enjoy watching foam expand and invite them over. Don’t forget snacks!
Wait 24 hours before using the pillow.
Really. Don’t use it early. You might get a crick in your neck due to expansion. Or you could diminish the size of the pillow. So just wait, Mr. Eager Beaver.
I followed the instruction to the letter, except for the call friends part. For some reason, I don’t have many friends, other than Joey, the Prime Delivery Guy. And Beth, the pizza delivery girl. Well, I wouldn’t exactly call her a friend. But she visits a lot.
I grabbed a couple of pillows from my Celebrity Pillow collection and went to sleep. The following morning, I checked on my new prized possession, and the pillow was huge. It was the size of a prize-winning watermelon in the North Carolina State Fair. Which made me hungry for elephant ears and grilled corn on the cob, but that wasn’t important at the moment. The pillow was still expanding.
I grabbed the instruction manual and leafed through the 1200 pages looking for the English page. When I found it, I located the support help number and immediately gave them a call.
“You have reached the ACME Inc support line. For anvils, select 1. For explosives, select 2. For rocket-powered jetpacks, select 3. For pillows, select 4.”
I didn’t wait for the rest of the menu, I hit the number 4 on my phone.
“All of our service representatives are currently enjoying a break. No doubt feasting on a tasty submarine sandwich or lounging outside with a cup of ice cream. Please stay on the line in the off chance that one of them decides to answer calls.”
Two hours later, a voice came on the line.
“This is [burp] excuse me, this is Tricia. How may I help you?”
“Yesterday, I bought a PJX765TW90-A pillow. Today it is still expanding.”
“He did it. I didn’t believe him. Sir, I am afraid you are the victim of a disgruntled employee in the chemical lab. Apparently, Lenny didn’t like the idea of making memory foam pillows. He thought memory foam should be used exclusively to store good memories, not weird dreams or nightmares. Management tried to explain to him that memory foam doesn’t actually store memories, it’s just a marketing gimmick. But Lenny was a teen in the 1970s. He’s not that smart. I encourage you to discard the pillow as soon as possible. Who knows how long it will keep expanding. We will send you a replacement immediately.”
I gave Tricia my shipping info and hung up. By the time I got back to the bedroom, the pillow had expanded to fill the entire room.”
I called ACME back and got on the caller waiting list again. Two hours later:
“This is Tricia, how may I help you?”
“Are you the only one working there?”
“No, Sir. I have been assured that there are other operators located in Malaysia. What is your concern today?”
“That pillow I told you about has filled up my bedroom.”
“Get out! Leave your house now. It’s not safe to stay.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Lenny once tried mixing the TNT recipe with the memory foam recipe. We are not supposed to talk about it, but there was no company picnic that year. I would get out of the house if I were you. Right now.”
I ran out of the house, just in time to see the roof of my house pull away from the walls. The PJX765TW90-A was growing, and it didn’t look like it would stop.
I called the police, who thought it was a prank. I promised them donuts if they would come and look. Five minutes later, four patrol cars pulled up. One of the five police officers looked at the pillow and said, “That’s a new one. You mentioned donuts, right?”
I gave them each a donut, and they called the FBI.
The FBI agent arrived a little later. By then, the pillow was as tall as my trees and still expanding. Agent Cleverlook said, “That’s a new one. Are there any donuts left?”
I gave him a donut. He called Washington, who called ACME, who gave them Lenny’s home address.
The FBI swarmed Lenny’s house and brought him in for questioning.
“Lenny, exactly how big is this pillow going to get?” Agent Credence asked.
“I don’t know exactly. With the expansion agents I used, maybe as big as Earth. Maybe a little bigger.”
“As big as Earth!” Credence shouted.
“And you didn’t see how this might be a problem?”
“I guess I didn’t think it through. I was disgruntled at the time.”
Agent Credence threw his donut against the wall. “Get me Washington on the line. And NASA,” he yelled to someone who apparently dialed his phone for him.
The engineers at NASA calculated the rate of expansion and how long they had before the pillow got too big to blast into space. It would be tight. They immediately hooked up a semi-truck to the pillow and dragged it to the Atlantic shore. There they hooked it up to several Coast Guard vessels and began towing it toward Florida.
In the meantime, NASA engineers reconfigured some left-over Space Shuttle rockets to handle the enormous pillow. Many of the tourists visiting the Sunshine State wondered why they didn’t just use Iron Man or Thor or the Millennium Falcon to fly the pillow into space. After informing them that they were both doing other movies, and that the Millennium Falcon was under contract at Disney, the clamor died down.
Well, it wasn’t pretty, but NASA got the pillow launched into deep space. Which, naturally, resulted in a loud eruption of applause and hugs in Mission Control. There is a little concern that the still-expanding pillow might knock Saturn out of orbit. But that is a problem for another day.
As for me, I have decided to abandon my pillow obsession and start something less addicting. Writing.
More lessons learned: