Until last weekend, I had not slept on a pull-out couch in many years and had, more or less, forgotten the joys of this particular experience.
But then my wife and I drove up to New York to visit old friends and spent a couple of nights sleeping - ha, that's a good one - on their pull-out couch.
And all the horrible memories came flooding back: the lumpy, San Quentin-thin mattress, the taut springs that dig into your sides, the metal bar positioned to jab the middle of your back for maximum discomfort, the way the bed caves in toward the middle so if two people are sleeping on it, you will both be pulled by gravity to a tiny space that wouldn't hold one of the Smurfs, where you'll spend the night elbowing and kicking each other for more room.
One thing I rediscovered about pull-out couches is that people who have them always think theirs is somehow different from the others and far more comfortable.
Oh, they know that most people hate the thought of sleeping on a pull-out couch.
But they always think: Well, mine is a much better one. Mine is only a few years old. The mattress is thick and firm. Anyone would get a good night's sleep on it.
Keep deluding yourselves.
Which leads me to a second theory about pull-out couches: People who have them haven't ever slept on a pull-out couch.
Or if they have slept on one, it was a long time ago.
So they have more or less forgotten what a terrible experience that was.
Or else they've been able to erase that terrible experience from their memory bank.
It's sort of like what women do with childbirth.
Somehow women manage to push the memories of all that pain and pushing and grimacing to the back of their minds. Or else they would never have another kid for the rest of their lives.
Anyway, the fact remains that pull-out couches are so uncomfortable there's zero chance of anyone getting any sleep on them.
In fact, when you tell someone to sleep on a pull-out couch, it's like telling them to sleep on a subway grate.
So when our New York friends said: "You guys are on the pull-out couch," my first thought was: "Well, there goes all hope of any rest."
Because when you hear you're on the pull-out couch, you basically resign yourself to a night of sleepless hell.
You'll be up all night tossing and turning and cursing.
Maybe if you drank about 15 beers you could fall asleep on a pull-out couch.
But anything less than that, no, you have no chance.
Then the next morning, after you've spent the whole night tossing and turning on the pull-out couch, what's the first thing your hosts ask you?
Right. "How did you sleep last night?"
Awful, you want to say. Didn't sleep a wink. What kind of springs are on that bed, anyway? It was like sleeping on rocks. Papillon slept better on Devil's Island.
But, of course, people are usually too polite to say something like that.
So usually they just say: "Oh, I slept great. It was very comfortable."
At this, your hosts will give you a big smile, maybe even a hug.
Oh, they know you're lying, all right.
But the truth is, they don't want to hear how badly you slept on their pull-out couch.
Because they don't want to feel guilty about what they've done to you, which is basically torture, if you get right down to it.
So they want you to lie about how well you slept.
They want you to tell them you slept great, like you were in your own bed.
Or, better yet, they want you to say you slept like you were at a first-rate B&B;, in a big, comfy down-feather bed.
There's no place for truth in these types of discussions.
You lie, and the person who owns the pull-out couch agrees to accept your lie. And everyone walks away happy.
Well, I say "happy." But that's a relative term here. Because the person who was stuck on the pull-out couch actually walks away grumpy and exhausted from no sleep.
That's some trade-off for sparing someone's feelings.
Read recent columns by Kevin Cowherd at baltimoresun .com/cowherd