Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bed: The Most Dangerous Sport in America

Falling out of bed. Haven’t we all done this, either figuratively or imaginatively?
I would venture to say that we have. Beginning in toddlerhood. Ending in second childhood. There’s nothing unusual to be said about that.

Which is why I paid scant attention when some TV pundit reported upon some newly released statistics from some government agency or public commission or nonprofit something or other. FOX? CNN? I can’t really say who brought this up. Bicycles were the most dangerous contraptions in America. Beds were a close second.

No way, I protested silently as I went about whatever the business of the moment happened to be. Was I indulging the hazardous preparation of lunch? Risking my life the better to fold the socks? About to wrench my back while dusting sconces? Whatever it was I was doing at the moment I heard the latest inane pronouncement, I was aghast and indignant.

Motorcycle riding was the most dangerous sport on earth. Bicycles had to be number two, if they ranked at all. Not that my perceptions were biased by the fact that a certain young man who had been forewarned about the evils of motorcycling had taken a flying leap off a cliff on a Kawasaki over the summer and broken every rib that God gave him, plus a few he invented as he yowled in a hospital bed. I wasn’t biased against bicycle riders, sconces, or anything equally dangerous, so why pick on beds? Those havens of sanctity? Those blissful shelters we take to when things aren’t going well? Those sources to time travel and heroic adventure? How on earth can beds be the second most hazardous means of travel we possess?

I gave no further thought to this issue until a day or two later when I got a call from Barbara Oehlbeck. Now, if you happen to be among the two or three people in the State of Florida who don’t know who Barbara Oehlbeck is, I’d be happy to introduce her.

Barbara is the author of books about Florida plants, including The Sabal Palm. She’s a well-known columnist and Florida historian, whose most recent book, The Ranch, recently won top non-fiction honors from the Florida Publishers Association.

Of course, my perspective is somewhat different, since Barbara Oehlbeck is the godmother of my novel, The Serena Scandal. At any rate, we were talking about the forthcoming release of my first novel The Don Juan Con in a new edition, which Barbara had endorsed. I called her to update her attribution, when she began to tell me her tale of falling out of bed. This made Barbara one of the toughest people on the planet and a national statistic.

Just a day or two prior to my call, Barbara admitted, she had tossed and turned one night while attempting to gain a more advantageous purchase on her pillow. She had suddenly slipped and fallen from her perch on a very high bed. “You do know how high they make mattresses these days, don’t you?” Barbara said.

Barbara banged her head on her antique iron bedstead and then, as if that were not indignity enough, she bashed her head against the floor, awakening her husband, Dr. Lou. He's a pathologist, who, if things had gone badly, could have at least supplied an explanation as to what might have befallen his dearest beloved.

By this time Barbara was laughing, describing the lumps on her head and I was commiserating--with the floor. After all, Barbara being Barbara, we were talking about serious gashes in the floor such a hard-headed woman would have left there.

So, as statistic go, I have to admit that the government (or whomever) is correct, and yes, beds are indeed not only dangerous from the standpoint of our physical safety and well-being. Then I began to realize that beds are also dangerous in psychic terms, which is where the novelist enters in.

Bed, as we all surely realize, is fraught with danger. Bed, particularly the propensity to get into it with the wrong person, is a danger I feel certain was not included in the statistics. Perfectly sensible people do this all the time. For instance, I recall the story of the woman who woke up one morning and found herself in bed with a man she barely knew; and whom she had not only slept with but had gotten married to at some point in some hazy weekend. This happened in Las Vegas, I believe.

What impressed me most about this lady’s tale was not that she was somebody I’d made up; she was a respectable person and a licensed family therapist, who very sensibly got a quickie divorce and got on with her life. And let us hope she went into counseling herself.

Beds, I now realize are profoundly dangerous, not only from the “What on earth am I doing in here with him/her?” but also, “How come I just woke up and found my hands tied to the bedposts?”

In such situations it is the duty of the novelist to supply the hero or the heroine with the psychic underpinnings or the moxie which allows this person in distress to barter, buy, manipulate or otherwise find his/or her way out of trouble.

Now, I wonder what agency is compiling this second sort of statistics about beds? If we figure in all the psychic dangers of getting a good night’s sleep, then, indeed, it must be true that the bed is by all odds the very most dangerous place in America on any given night. And so, it is with that thought, my dear readers, I wish you all the best in pursuit of that most dangerous occupation: a good night’s sleep.