We arrived in Seattle for a wedding, knowing that we were to share a two-bedroom apartment with my sister-in-law and her husband, knowing that we were to share a queen-sized bed rather than the king we used at home. I was not thrilled at this arrangement. So my dear husband promised me he would sleep on the floor if the smaller bed was a problem, and I envisioned adding a roll-away to our room, which was available according to the rental’s website. I wanted both of us to sleep in comfort.
But when we arrived at our apartment and saw our bedroom, all visions of roll-aways or sleeping on the floor, any vision of sleeping in comfort disappeared. The queen-sized bed so filled the room that neither option was an option. We were going to be in a queen for five days. Together. Ugh.
The night we arrived in Seattle, we had gained three hours in our day, and so our bedtime of midnight Pacific Time was 3 a.m. back home. We were overtired. Like a toddler, I practically have to be driven around the block in a car seat to lull me into sleep when I have missed my usual bedtime. We had no car — plus no one was offering to carry me up to bed if I did fall asleep. With my early-to-bed, early-to-rise habits, our bedtime that night was six hours too late. Overtired plus overcrowded in this bed gave me no illusion of sleep, though I knew I needed it. My husband found the middle of the bed and settled in, and I tried hanging onto the right-hand side of the bed for my night’s sleep. We both dozed but didn’t sleep well.
What complicated our situation was that the apartment didn’t seem to have air conditioning, only heat, and the only bedroom window with the ability to open seemed to be a fire escape — from the 14th floor to ? I had no idea, but I didn’t open the window. The comforter, unfortunately, was attractive but didn’t breathe, and when one doze took me deeper than the others, I jerked awake in a puddle of sweat. Steve never had even that luxury that night.
The bed simply filled the room. On my side, the far side of the room, was a night table, but on my husband’s side was a wall, then a closet, then the bedroom door. The bed frame included a leather-lidded chest that served as the dresser and extended, literally, to within six inches of the other wall. I could walk to my side of the room sideways, or I could walk one leg while dragging the other knee along the top of the leather lid to get there. Doing this in the dark made life interesting.
I hope I don’t sound unappreciative. The apartment was a corner unit, hence the odd dimensions, and offered an amazing view of Seattle downtown — including the Space Needle, which I only saw from that distance, unfortunately. It also had an amazing view of a construction site, complete with “Honey Buckets” and death-defying construction workers who performed balancing acts on slender beams of steel while building in the rain. From our bedroom, we had a view of McDonald’s, which played a huge part of our time in Seattle and prevented me from ever desiring or experiencing true Seattle coffee. (To make up for that mistake, I purchased Seattle’s Best K-Cups for my Keurig upon my return.) But at bedtime, I didn’t want a view, I wanted sleep, and it didn’t come easily.
In the midst of my selfish lack of appreciation for this queen-sized bed, I walked the streets of Seattle, which was littered with hundreds of people attempting to sleep. The first night, when I was greeted with such a sight upon exiting the train tunnel, I was afraid of these crowds. But the next night, when walking back from a family dinner at a restaurant many blocks from our apartment, I saw people I didn’t fear, preparing their sleeping bags along the storefronts as the businesses closed for the night. It would have been a miserable night in a tent, let alone the open air on the sidewalk. It was wet and chilly, not a problem while walking but certainly uncomfortable for someone trying to sleep — certainly more uncomfortable than merely settling for a queen-sized mattress when you would prefer a king.
I’d like to say the image of those sleeping on the sidewalk made me toss and turn that night, but, no, I slept poorly because of my own discomfort, a bed too small, a comforter too hot. How quickly I forgot the contrast between my discomfort and theirs. But the next morning, when my husband and I sat down in a warm McDonald’s with coffee and hot breakfast in front of us, we saw the homeless, coming in to purchase a small item so they might buy time in the warmth. They came bearing their possessions in bags, looking haggard and chilled. The restaurant had signs declaring its right to refuse service and stating its intolerance to loitering. It locked its bathrooms to force customers to request permission to use the facilities, another effort to bar the doors to would-be, non-paying guests. Still the homeless came, making a small purchase to earn the right to a warm seat.
In comparison, I did live like a queen for those five days — with a mattress beneath and a roof over my sometimes sleeping head, with food in my belly, and family by my side (close at my side, thanks to the small mattress). This trip to this beautiful city was an eye-opener, not just because I didn’t sleep well but because I saw how others had to sleep. Too many people are sleepless in Seattle.