The life and times of an ethnically ambiguous little lady.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Sex in the Showroom

“I tried to be gangster, but I’m sorry, I just couldn’t do it,” Jamel, our Sleepy’s mattress professional said, smiling sheepishly. He was a big black guy, with a bald head, and he looked slightly uncomfortable in his button-down shirt and tricolor striped tie.

“I can’t even imagine how weird that would be,” I said, as my boyfriend, Elon, and I shook our heads in unison. And though I didn’t feel sorry for the guy, it did make me wonder about his life choices.

This was not how I had imagined my mattress shopping experience. But then again, I guess I hadn’t given much thought to the plight of these sleep experts. All day long they must paste on a smile while trying to help perfect strangers with their nighttime needs. They must explain over and over again why there is a Vera Wang-brand Serta bed. (Vera's a genius with fabrics, blah, blah, blah.) They must be courteous but forceful when attempting to stop children from running into the store and jumping on random beds like it’s their own personal Neverland ranch.

And there is indeed nothing stranger then a job that entails asking someone to lie down in a bed, in the middle of a huge showroom, and ask them to get comfortable and “pretend like you’re in your own home.” Should I actually sleep like I’m told I sleep: on my stomach, mouth open with most likely a little drool on the pillow, one of my hands gently cupping my own ass? Should I snore to simulate real life? Should we climb on top of each other to make sure the bed doesn’t squeak when we “pretend like we’re in our own home?”

Yet somehow, over the course of our shopping venture, Elon, and I, and our Sleepy’s tour guide transcended the customer/salesman relationship. We connected. And this was despite the fact that our new friend kept calling my boyfriend my husband. (This, of course, resulted in my getting a stern talking to by Elon. “Could you stop full-body twitching every time he says husband,” he said, in a loud whisper. “I mean, we are planning to do that at some point.”) This was also despite the fact that he said “axe” instead of “ask.” (What can I say? I’m an asshole.)

As we sat down to discuss finances, the conversation somehow turned to inappropriate conduct. Perhaps it was the fact that there were beds, or as I like to call them, “sexytime areas” all around us. Maybe it was the fact that all three of us just have dirty minds. All I know is that I liked the mattress our sleep professional had shown us, but I didn’t like the price. So being the frugal lady that I am, I tried to find out the best places to check out the competition.

“I’d say Sleepy’s pretty much dominates the industry,” Jamel reported.

“Yes, but who’s your biggest competition,” I asked, pressing him.

“I’d say Rockaway Bedding. No! We bought them last year,” he said.

“Okay, well, who else? 1-800-Mattress?” I said, hoping he’s just give up the goods already. I mean, wouldn’t it be rude to just come out and ask “Where can I get your product but cheaper?” My boyfriend rolled his eyes at me.

“Hmmm, I guess Macy’s…” he said, thinking intently.

“Jesus,” Elon responded. And while we’re at it where did you go to college? Have any kids? What’s your favorite color?”

I glared at him. So much for trying to be subtle.

“Ah, LaGuardia Community College, 1, and green,” our bed representative responded. “What? I’m here to answer any questions you may have.”

And I must say, the man was indeed honest. Somehow in the midst of all this conversation it came out that he had been married for a year but has a five year old. And that he met his wife five years ago while he was working at Foot Locker. And that he and his wife were both fired because they were caught having sex in the employee back room. I was really beginning to like this guy.

“So,” I asked, leaning in close, “ever caught anyone doing anything inappropriate here?” Sometimes I feel like I come off as one of those Midwestern stay-at-home moms desperately in need of a sex toys party to add some adventure to her life.

“Oh, I have some good stories,” he said, smiling. “The best one? That was when I worked at the Sleepys in Queens. They had a huge showroom and an additional one downstairs. I had just sold this crazy $5,000 mattress set to this couple. And they seemed to really take a liking to me so they axe me if I’m hungry."

I think at this point we both scooted to the edge of our seats.

“‘Go across the street and get us some food to celebrate and get whatever you want,’ the guy says. So I bring something back and I sit down and start eating my food right away, cause you know, I’m a big guy and I like to eat.”

My boyfriend nodded his head appreciatively.

“So I finish my food and bring it down to the other showroom thinking they’re still there and then I see them. Actually, first I hear them. The guy is making these weird guttural moans. It sounds like some kind of animal dying.”

“Like a cow?” I ask.

“Not exactly.”

“More of a goat, maybe?” Elon chimes in.

“Well, whatever animal it was, it’s not common in Queens,” Jamel says. And it’s loud. And then I see them. Not only are they doing it, but they are butt-ass naked. In my showroom! On my bed! So I’m not going to lie to you, I watch for a little while. For like 5 minutes.”

I have to say, I think I would have done the same thing.

‘And they’re not stopping!” he continues. “So I clear my throat. Nothing. I get a broom and pretend to clean really loud. They don’t even look up. Then I pretend to be talking to another client. I think they actually got louder.”

“You didn’t like tap them on the shoulder did you?” Elon asks, looking slightly disgusted.

“I’m not touching that! So finally, I just go upstairs. They come up 25 minutes later! No apologies. Nothing. The guy is all kinds of sweaty and they sit down at the table like nothing happened.”

“Seriously? Not even like a wink?” I ask.

“Nothing. So we go to sign the paperwork and the wife keeps looking at me and then back at her husband. And her husband is looking at her looking at me. So he goes ‘do you like him honey?’ And she nods her head. ‘You’ve never been with a black man, have you? Do you want to take him home?’ And she nods again! So they invite me to this party they’re having that weekend. I guess they’re swingers.”

“What? You’re like a 2-for-1 special with the mattress? Did you go?” my boyfriend asked.

“Yeah! I mean, I axed my wife first, but I was so curious. So I get there, and you have to leave you clothes at the door and there were drugs and alcohol and anything you wanted on the table. I tried to be gangster, but I’m sorry, I just couldn’t do it,” our Sleepy’s mattress salesman said, smiling sheepishly.

And I had to give it to him. I probably would have gone too. And I imagine I wouldn’t have been gangster enough to stay either.

“That’s some story,” I said.

“Yeah, I have a lot of them. And that’s why you should never buy mattresses that they’re selling straight off the showroom floor.”

“Done,” I said. For some reason I was kind of glad he wasn’t a swinger. Then we put down our deposit and shook hands. As we walked out of the store a little kid ran in the entrance and started ferociously frolicking on the beds and after Jamel’s story I couldn’t help but cringe. I felt like if I squinted hard enough I could see the STDs on the bed. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to take a shower.

We turned around to smile and offer our apologies to our mattress connoisseur even if he wasn’t our child. “I do love this job,” he said and shrugged as he rolled his eyes slightly. And the thing is, I really think he did.

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