Bedsheet Blues

Bob is a thirty-something, fastidious and obsessive advertising executive who paces on stage.

Bob: I can’t understand why Nancy left me on our trip to Paris. It seemed that we had a very good arrangement. It was her idea to go in the first place. It’s always her idea, she loves to travel. Personally I hate traveling, staying in hotels. I can’t sleep on any sheets but my own. The thought of lying down on used sheets, even if washed, is completely revolting. Since Nancy takes all the initiative on our trips, I ask her to check the bed sheets of any hotel we’re in. At first she protested, saying I was ridiculous and refused to cooperate. But when she saw me sitting or standing up, every night, fully dressed, not sleeping, she changed her tune.

As soon as we arrive at a hotel, her job is to pull down the covers of the bed, check for marks, hairs or dirt on the sheets. If she finds anything wrong, she calls the maid for a change of sheets. Then when she assures me, I can’t even look, that the hotel linens are immaculate, I unpack my own sheets and put them on top of the hotel linens. I take them off in the morning before the maid comes in. Wherever I go I take my sheets in my suitcase. I figure it’s better than standing up all night. Nancy never liked any of this, but I thought she had gotten used to it.

On that trip to Paris I was really in trouble. I forgot my sheets! We’d been in such a rush to make our plane that I’d run out of the house leaving my sheets on the couch along with extra socks that I was going to pack. I didn’t realize the problem until we stood in the lobby of Le Crillon, $500/night. It was 1:00 in the morning and too late to run out for sheets. I don’t know how I let Nancy talk me into that place. On our way up in the elevator I whispered to her that I didn’t have my sheet and hoped the bellhop didn’t understand English. Nancy gave me a withering look and said, “Robert, don’t start in.” Once we were alone in our spacious, marble-walled room I paced up and down.

“Can’t you just try? A hotel like this can’t have dirty sheets,” she pleaded.

It all began when I was nine and sent to summer camp for the first time. I was so frightened. I remember lying awake while the other kids in my cabin snored away. There was a light that shone on my window, attracting flocks of filthy moths to the screen. There they were hovering — quivering, trying to crawl in through the broken edges. I told Nancy how terrified I’d been. She seemed to understand when I told her I wet my bed, soiling the sheets.

Nancy had been brilliant that night. She called the manager and explained that we needed a brand new, unopened sheet, in its original wrapping. Housekeeping said there were none in the hotel. I grabbed the phone and yelled: “Buy one! Why do you think I’m staying in this hotel?”

Twenty minutes later our bell rang. Dressed in what looked like a tuxedo, a man stood at attention and then bowed as he presented us with a white sheet sealed in plastic. “Monsieur, madam,” he said with the air of a man who was accustomed to fulfilling strange requests in the wee hours of the morning. I guess at $500/night you are entitled to some eccentricities. That night I slept very well on the crisp new sheets in the arms of Nancy.

So why was Nancy gone when I woke in the morning? The note on my pillow read: “Change your own linen!”

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