Wondrous & Strange

I often buy things for myself out of shame. I bought a new couch only when it became obvious that my musty, sagging, slip covered old one was about to achieve sentience. When I realized that I’d be in public promoting my book I finally decided to replace the worn, ill fitting “funeral and wedding” suit hanging in my closet with new blazers and slacks. And, when I realized that I was forty years old and had never bought myself a television set, I replaced the dusty 27 inch cathode ray tube box my parents gave me in my twenties with a sparkling 50 inch plasma. I have shoes in my closet older than some of the people reading this sentence. So you can imagine how far I let my mattress go.

My mattress is thirteen years old. I know its thirteen years old because the delivery men who hauled it up to my apartment in 1995 asked if they could watch the O.J. Simpson verdict being announced on my television. After O.J. got acquitted the men thanked me, left, and the dust mites and I got on with our lives.

That mattress saw me though four apartments, two presidential administrations, several women, Wall Street booms and busts, a dog, more than a few jobs, and writing one book. It cradled me when I recovered from double pneumonia, spun like an LP when I had too much to drink, and held me when I cried on 9/11. I read hundreds of books on that mattress; napped, daydreamed, listened to music, had sex, not had sex, woke up in pain, tossed and turned with anxiety, suffered nightmares, had flashes of inspiration, made life changing decisions, felt love and hate, hope and despair, talked to God and sometimes to the other fellow. I had a lot of fun in that bed – but I also spent many nights wondering if I’d die alone in it. If I had conceived a child on that mattress the day I bought it, it’d be a bratty teenager by now.

Sleeping in hotel beds over the past two months made me realize how much my old mattress had deteriorated. It’s sagging in spots, creaks, and I’ve been waking up sore for almost a year.  On Wednesday, motivated by the desire not to be a forty year old guy with shitty bedding, I bit the bullet and went mattress shopping. Let me tell you, shopping for a new mattress is more complicated than buying a new car. After visiting several stores, testing two dozen models, and listening to salesmen bullshit me out the wazoo, I settled on a new queen size model with some bells and whistles. Of course the money hemorrhage is just starting. My old mattress was a full, so now I have to replace all my sheets, comforters, and buy a new headboard. Then again some people are sleeping on dirt floors, I should consider myself lucky. At least I’ll be comfortable sleeping into my fifties.

Then on Friday one of those little coincidences that make life interesting happened. Orenthal James Simpson was convicted of kidnapping and burglary thirteen years to the day he was acquitted of criminal charges in the murders of Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson. Exactly thirteen years after my old mattress was delivered. Some of the reporters covering the trial in Vegas were in grade school when O,J. walked in ’95.  During my old mattress’s lifespan O.J. was a free man and I stumbled though a bunch of jobs, became a waiter, and  ended up becoming a writer. My old mattress is going to the dump and The Juice is going to jail. As I lie in my new bed, I gaze up at the ceiling and wonder what life has in store for me. Who knows?

The world is wondrous and strange.

77 thoughts on “Wondrous & Strange”

  1. Aeva says:

    I suddenly feel like I get all your stories on a whole new level – I became a server about two months ago and these past two days have gotten the best and worst tips of my life.

    I have only this to ask: why, why, WHY do people have the unmitigated gall to write $0.00 on the tip line?!

  2. Molita says:

    13 years to the day!? That is CRAZY. Coincidences… Have fun with your new mattress.

  3. The Nurse says:

    That is a strange sort of karma.

    It’s good to see a regular posting. I hope you are feeling better. Did you have your surgery yet or is the mattress in anticipation?

  4. Mitch says:

    Congrats on everything waiter, love the blog and your book, good luck on the next one!

  5. Annapolitan says:

    Do yourself a favor and invest in a memory foam mattress pad to go on top of that new queensize mattress. I paid top dollar for a pillowtop mattress a few years ago, but the memory foam mattress pad topper I purchased on eBay for $100 made it a thousand percent better. In the morning, I wake up in the same position I fell asleep in. I never have any aches from pressure points; there is no need for me to shift frequently to get comfortable.

    Memory foam mattress pads are better than sex.

    (Okay, well, almost.)

  6. Dr. Electro says:

    No, wait. Memory foam mattress pads ARE better than sex! Think about it: sex leaves you tired and sleepy. Your memory foam mattress pad leaves you rested and refreshed. Yes! A revelation! There really is something better than sex!

    Ok, so I’m old and arthritic and don’t enjoy sex the way I used to. I still love my new pillow top mattress and memory foam pad.

    I also like the way you write, Steve. Is your writing a direct extension of the way you think normally? If it is, you must be a hoot to hang out with.

  7. JDMDad says:

    I agree with Dr. Electro. I started reading Waiter Rant to learn about the waiter’s side of the house, but your writing keeps me here. I mean, when I got a new mattress, big whoop. You make it sound so interesting!

    I agree with how complicated it is with all the salesmen. Most of them kept saying “Get the best price and bring it here, we’ll beat it!” I bought from the person who gave me the best price, and DIDN’T tell me to bring in another offer. (he beat them all hands down anyway)

  8. Sophia says:

    I am one of those who are younger than your mattress. Still, I can identify (my mattress has been with me since I was 2). Great work! I was wondering when the regular posting would be back and I just wanna say I’m glad it is!

  9. Lizzy says:

    Interesting little coincidence you had there. It’s interesting how our material objects see us through the years. They never really change but we certainly do.

  10. Marie says:

    I will forever associate OJ with this mattress story. Brilliant!

  11. jimster says:

    well, you are back in full form after your illness and battles with fame. bravo!!!
    please forget about any other career than being a writer, i don’t think you will ever find anything that will allow you to express yourself in a fashion that will satisfy your need to communicate.
    …and on a selfish note, i don’t want to loose your wit, dry humor and pains either.

  12. 50_Dave says:

    You need to buy new pillows to truely enjoy your new found spinal bliss.

  13. Decorina says:

    Congrats on the new mattress. I’ve sold mattresses and they are mostly hype. With the exception of Tempurpedic, they are all springs and were invented during the civil war. They may have foam on top, but still springs. The memory foam topper or a feather bed will change your life even more than the new mattress.

    Your blog is wonderful – I’ve read it since it began and am happy to see you published and in new territory writing about life.

  14. Lara says:

    Great story! I can’t wait to hear you read/speak next weekend at the Food & Wine festival!

  15. mousemonkey says:

    After following your story for so long now, I’m very happy to read that you’re getting to reap some of the sweeter fruits of your labor! You certainly deserve all of the good fortune your success has brought. I wish you continued happiness and more fabulous lifestyle upgrades!

  16. Alex Schoenfeldt says:

    Ok, that is just weird. What is going to happen to that poor man (as if) next time you buy a mattress?

  17. muttz says:

    Maybe they decided that since your mattress was going, O.J. had to go too…

    I’m older than your mattress by 3 years, and I can kind of identify. I need to get a new mattress (mine makes a lot of noise) but I’m fine with the one I have now. Never mind that my parent’s new one is so much comfier…

  18. Mary says:

    You’re so funny. Don’t feel bad — I replaced my mattress and box spring in 2005, and I had had both since 1987 (yes). I had been unfolding myself from that thing for at least a year before I finally got a new one. And yes, shopping for one is way more complicated than it used to be. I tried the Tempurpedic, but it felt like being a canoe. Plus I’d heard that they hold the heat, which would be great for winter, but not so great for summer. I bought two Tempurpedic pillows, though, which for $125 each should wow me more than they do.

    I went away at the end of August and the hotel room had a TERRIBLE mattress and box spring. I didn’t realize what a good one I had until then! My whole body was sore from insufficient rest and support.

    Loved your book and love your blog. Keep writing!

  19. Suebob says:

    I love coincidences. They make like more fun and mysterious.

    My advice: get some dang good expensive 600 thread count sheets. They make life so pleasant. I wake up and immediately give thanks to God for letting me live in a world where such things exist. Honest.

  20. The Waitress says:

    Wow! An actual post!! 😉

    I’ve missed these and I’m glad to see you writing here again.

    Oddly, this story has put me in mind not of mattresses, but where I was that day in 1995. I was the rookie waitress at my very first restaurant, slinging mozzarella sticks and shitty coffee on the weekends at Perkins, and I remember everybody clamoring to watch the verdict in the office.

    And that makes me feel old and just a little burnt out.

    On the subject of mattresses, though, it could be worse. My mattress was already old when I moved in with my husband several years ago and now has a Waitress-shaped dent on one side. I suspect it’s older than I am, and I’m not that young.

  21. Bekah says:

    Glad to see a real update! Although reading all these comments is making me inordinately sleepy.


  22. anon says:

    50″ plasma…the cheapest one i could find on walmart’s site was $975…my guess is you didn’t go to walmart..fame must be nice..and it must be nice to not be affected by the current financial status of the average man waiting tables.

  23. GothamiteCount says:

    The above comment made be think of Chris Rock’s reply when the audience reacted to his telling them he lived in a multi-million dollar house in Alpine, NJ.

    “Don’t hate the player,” he said. “Hate the game.”

  24. April O says:

    When I first moved out of my mom’s house (a little over 2 years ago when I was just turning 18, yeah, I’m a youngin’) I was sharing an apartment with a girl that I’d been best friends with since 7th grade. Kendra was, even before she moved, somewhat of a furniture collector. She set up her room with the bed in the middle and this old dumpy mattress on it. Apparently she’d had that mattress since about the time that we first became friends, about 8 years prior to this story. Not only did the mattress live through 8 years in multiple houses with her somewhat dysfunctional family, it had been used when she got it. No one knows how old it is. I should also note that Kendra had scoliosis in two places in her spine, and was quite tall for a girl (about 5’10” or so), so it frustrated and confused me that every night she’d lie down on this tiny twin size mattress, wake-up with soreness, and refused to even put a pad over the mattress when she slept. We don’t live together now (and hey, it’s her birthday today! Happy 21, Kendra!), but as far as I know she still has the mattress. She’s sentimental, I guess.

  25. Joy says:

    I’ve got a theory; karma, now she’s a bitch. But she’s got this cousin, irony. Irony is a cunt. I love to see the two of them working together like a well-oiled machine.

  26. john says:

    It’s really nice to read that you’ve finally made it! Bravo!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Yep, waiter you gotta do what you gotta do. I just got rid of a king size set with a complicated black iron four poster thing going on. What did I do? Offer it to a bunch of young cooks and it was gone within a couple of days. So I helped out a young kid just starting out instead of putting it out to the trash. Yard sale people dont want to give you shit, so I would rather give it away to someone that I work with, and makes the food that I serve to my customers. It’s a karma thing. And karma really does go around.

  28. Robin in Ohio says:

    Yay! A real post for a change! 🙂

    Good mattresses are very important for a decent night’s sleep. I wish for you many sweet and pleasant dreams for the future.

  29. lala says:

    so what happens when you buy a new mattress next time? OJ gets out again? 🙂

  30. Amy says:

    Unreal, 13 years to the day… Maybe you should have done us all a favor and got a new mattress years ago 😉 SO happy to know the ‘Juice’ is going to the CAN!

  31. Pookha says:

    Hmm. I was moving into a new house that day. The movers and I were watching the verdict on TV. (Have moved again since–new houses are fun, job location changes aren’t) My mattress is older than yours: I got it ’89 or ’90. The frame is even older, part of an Art Deco suite that Mother bought second-hand for me when I was 3. I learned to love the Art Deco style because of it. The mattress is still in brilliant shape, though I’m going to put a memory foam topper on it this winter.

    Glad to see you reaping the rewards of your hard work! (HD TV is where it’s at.)

  32. Mrs. Greg House says:

    Water pillow, my friend. Plus, with the sheets, it’s not just about the thread count. Pima cotton and egyptian cotton are good but I just found the most amazing organic bamboo sheets. Not sure where you’d buy them in the US but if you’re coming to Canadia, stop by The Bay. Hell, stop by my place and you can try out mine 😉

  33. Jess G. says:

    Embarrassing: Waiter’s old mattress is younger than mine. I’d better get a new one too now.

    Answer to Aeva in Post 1: I leave $0.00 for a tip on the credit slip when I charge a meal ’cause I prefer to tip CASH. Unless ye waitstaff prefer credit? [Apologies if I am hijacking the thread / blog posts here.]

  34. Matt says:

    “If I had conceived a child on that mattress the day I bought it, it’d be a bratty teenager by now.”. Don’t want to be too much of a smart-arse, but she/he would actually be 12 years and three months of age… 😉

  35. trsh says:

    To Anon poster (#20) – i just bought a 47″ tv for my boyfriend who bought a house- it’s called SAVING YOUR MONEY. Most waiters live on too much booze and partying; if you live within your means and budget well you can afford things. So lose the attitude- just cuz someone has a modicum amount of success you gotta take it out on the guy? Go screw yourself.

    P.s. – congrats on the good fortune, you’ve EARNED it.

  36. eric says:

    I need to bite the bullet and take inspiration from you. My mattress has seen far better days and when I wake up with a back on fire, I resolve to replace it, but then I put it off to another day.


  37. Lisa says:

    People do not tip because they are assholes….period.

  38. muppetwoman says:

    You had girlfriends sleep over on a full mattress? Wow. That’s a toughie. Love the OJ tie-in…karma, karma, karma.

  39. Jackie says:

    Let me add that I am also glad to again read your posts. Congrats on the mattress. Did you ever see that Oprah show where she talked about pillows? Some people keep pillows longer than they mattresses! Ever since that show I replace my pillows about every two years. Ironically, the firm ones from Target are outstanding and only $10. It’s a well-kept secret.

  40. Cosmo's Human says:

    I bough a new King-sized bed from a place that makes their own bedding. “The Original Mattress Factory” My parents buy from them, it must be good. It is the best bed I have slept on. Even those deluxe jobs in Vegas don’t compare.

    Wow, 13 years, that’s erie!

  41. Stephanie says:

    Maybe instead of trashing the old mattress, you could send it to OJ in jail.

    Not that I’d want to insult the poor mattress, though.

  42. kitpic says:

    amazing isn’t it?–the kind of world we live in…

  43. Renee says:

    Love your blog…I am a server in Atlantic City…check out my blog and tell me what you think.

  44. Michelle S. says:

    Interesting post. Gotta have a good mattress. Our last mattress had a 10 year guarantee on it, and just past 10 years it started to lose it’s firmness. So we bought another one with a ten year guarantee on it. I don’t think that’s a bad investment! Congratulations on your purchases and keep posting!

  45. Sarah the Second says:

    God, your writing is beautiful. You need to publish novels, Waiter! (I know it’s Steve, but I’m fond of calling you Waiter)

  46. Thomas says:

    Then again some people are sleeping on dirt floors,

    This is my take on most of life. Whenever someone bitches to me about how hard their job is, how expensive fuel has gotten or how frustrating some minor aspect of their life makes them, I have to wonder why most people are so intent on enumerating their grievances with the world rather than counting their blessings.

    We don’t live in a war zone, crouching in our bathrooms for fear of shelling. We aren’t being ravaged by plague. We don’t have to kill to avoid starving to death.

    Really, most have no idea how good we’ve got it.

  47. hot coffee girl says:

    I have to nut up and replace my mattress soon, too.

    I wonder whatever happened to Kato Kalin. He probably still has a better mattress than me.

  48. M Wms says:

    We’ve had ours 17 years, at least. It’s not great but mattress shopping just seems too difficult.

  49. Goldie says:

    My mattress turned 10 this year. I conveniently forgot to throw a birthday party. And we still have the TV set that we bought when we first came into the country 11 years ago. I test-drove a few mattresses when we were buying new ones for the kids. If I had to choose any one I wanted, it’d be Sealy Posturepedic. Don’t ask me why, it just felt goooood. It is way out of my league though.
    Interesting how your mattress ended up being connected to OJ’s life. My furniture keeps pretty much to itself.

  50. Fancy Schmancy says:

    Funny, I was just looking at a Reader’s Digest and came across “thirteen things your waiter won’t tell you”. As I’m reading, I realize it seems incredibly familiar, sure enough it’s from your book. Congrats!

  51. Marsha says:

    Good insights, good writing. Nice to read.

  52. Lala says:

    I’m 19 and my mattress is 13 years old too. But I don’t feel the need to change it… I dunno, it just seems to work fine? I work as a waitress (still) and I am so used to waking up tired with back aches. I don’t think a change in mattresses will help much.

    Or maybe I’d rather save my hard-earned money for other things…

  53. Michelle H says:

    How funny! I am a former server and a current sales manager in a Specialty Sleep Shop. Put simply: I sell mattresses! My company is more about being helpful and educating the customer, but I know you have some sleazy salespeople out there.

  54. Kumfoo Kim says:


    Probably…because the service sucked?

  55. kgrrrl says:

    It’s karma. 13 years later, he got what he deserved. Unfortunately I remember that day – as a sick feeling came over me as me and 35 other students (yep, grade school, grade 11 I guess) sat in the library listening to the trial. The boys rejoiced (really not sure why, guess it’s a guy thing… well at least for them) and the girls were upset.
    I’m glad you got a great new bed. I’ve had a wonderful bed for years now, and it was worth every penny!

  56. SEA says:

    I used to work at a hotel and shortly before I quit Kato Kailin and his girlfriend stayed with us. I happened to be working the front desk when he came by on a sunday afternoon demanding to know where his girlfriend could get a massage… In Little Rock, that’s hard to come by so we spent a good hour looking for a place just to please him. The smug little guy actually stood at the counter and waited until we found one!

    Smug is definitely a good word to describe him and “tiny” as he wasn’t much taller than me and I’m 5’2″.

  57. kelliebrat says:

    My husband and I got our old full size mattress and box springs from his grandma’s guest room 15 years ago. 3 months ago we got a new king size set and I cannot believe that we slept in that tiny full size bed for so many years. Congrats Steve and enjoy reaping your rewards!!!
    As for O.J. and 13 years to the day….Karma is a bitch aint it!

  58. DABCT says:

    Amen Thomas…

  59. Morning Waters says:

    Watch out for those memory foam pads and pillows. They out-gas terribly and many people need to avoid them due to allergies. Myself and my husband are both allergic to them, it is insidious though, you just feel rotten, cough, sneeze and do not realize how much they are effecting you until you trash them. I would recommend hypo allergic anything else.
    Sleep tight, dont let the bed bugs bite!!

  60. Noisha says:

    Poor OJ, apparently it appears he was connected to your old mattress. Seems to be a pretty odd thing to be linked to karmically but hey… what do we know.

    Just glad you are spoiling yourself, or rather actually looking after yourself at last. You deserve it after all the garbage you have had to deal with.

    Speaking as a Chef, waiters are that vital link between us and the general public and it lightens the load when they come in with funny stories about who is sitting out there.

    love your work.

  61. michele says:

    love that one

  62. Lindsey M. says:

    The best piece of advice my granddaddy ever gave me: you spend most of your life either on your feet or sleeping, so make sure that you invest in really high-quality shoes and mattresses. Everything else you can scrimp on, but not in those two areas! I echo everyone else who recommended the foam mattress toppers–Serta mattress toppers are my preference (and I’ve tried different brands), and you can find them on Overstock for pretty cheap.

    So now you might want to consider replacing those decades-old shoes as your next big change! Treat your feet!

  63. new cook says:

    not to dismiss your stiry, it was very good, but is the site gonna remain waiter rant out of nostalgia or is it gonna change. and to dr. electro i agree the pillows are awesome but at my age, 18 *cough* really 17 *cough* dont tell my parents *cough* i find sex to be better.

  64. LisaBinDaCity says:

    You’ve earned all this good stuff! Enjoy every darn bit of it 🙂

  65. cathleen says:

    To Jess G.:

    I used write $0 on the tip line too when I paid with a credit card and tipped in cash, but I always felt strange about it. Would someone looking at it later think the waiter/waitress had given bad service, not realizing they had actually been tipped? Would they think I was cheap enough to stiff them on the tip?

    Now I write “Cash” on the tip line instead. I don’t know if it makes any difference, but I feel better about it.

  66. Liz A. says:

    Ummm…does that mean the mattress that I used all through college and is now in my guest room should be replaced? It was bought in 1982, but I put a $20 foam topper on it.

  67. rob says:

    13 years with a full size mattress? Now there’s a man who knows his limitations!

  68. andrea frazer says:

    Found you through Daria over at Itsallaboutthesmallstuff

    I love that title, unless you’re talking about penis size, and then it could be a bit disconcerting, but I digress.

    I just bought two mattresses also. I decided after being told that I’d have to mortgage my house to afford one, I’d get two basic models for 500.00 total. So far my children have not died of the Plague, Sids or dust mite invasion.

    Of course, when they are 20 and have crooked spines and can’t even get a job waiting tables because the hunch in their backs cause them to spill coffee on bitchy botox L.A. patrons, I’ll be sorry.

    Fuck it all.

  69. intransigentia says:

    Here’s one for you: I bought my first brand-new mattress when I got a real job and moved out on my own (26). The one I’d been using previously was the one on which my amniotic fluid spilled when my mother went into labour with me. It wasn’t new at that time either.

  70. Barb says:

    Congratulations on being able to get some decent household items, Steve! I have to go with all the people who are recommending the memory foam toppers, they are great, I got mine at Costco, can’t recall the cost, but whatever it was it’s worth every penny. I even have memory foam pillows, from Walmart, they are awesome also.
    Didn’t mean to to take away from commenting on your post. I don’t care what you write about, just so you’re writing. You rock!

  71. Pink says:

    I think this is one of my favorite entries of all, believe it or not. The OJ connection was brilliant. Thanks Waiter and congrats on the new “pad.”

  72. Jacob says:

    So, logically, the next time you get a new mattress, OJ will be elected President. Hmmm… please keep this mattress for a while.

  73. deanna says:

    Awesome story! Love your writing…could a novel be in your future?

  74. kdollarsign says:

    suggestion — you can probably get that mattress for free if you offer to mention the brand in your blog (and say that you’re taking the whole show on oprah). Your PR person undoubtedly mentioned this, but I will too for good measure.

  75. Becky says:

    Better late than never in responding, eh?

    Congrats on the new mattress! You’re going to be amazed by the difference if you haven’t by now. A story, let me tell you it… My husband’s mother bought him a queen sized bed when he was 2. He had the same mattress all throughout his life, even after we were married (so yeah, I slept on that puppy too), and it was finally when he was 26 when he replaced it.

    Congrats also on the book and on the Oprah appearance! I know what book is going on my “To Buy” list!

  76. Trackback: Prozac.
  77. Kris says:

    That it is Mr. Steve. Haha you’re not going to want to hear this, but I remember sitting in my fifth grade class when the verdict was called in ’95. We were too young to understand, but we still called bull. Probably because all of our parents had talked the past months about how guilty he was.

    Tell ya what it’s one of those things I’ll never forget though haha.

    Glad to hear you’re upgrading. Everyone deserves it when they get the chance. 🙂

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