Vail Daily column: A good night’s sleep |

Vail Daily column: A good night’s sleep

I have a 6-foot-long folding conference table in my office and under that table is a mattress designed for backpacking and sleeping on a bed of rocks. It’s only about 2 feet away from my desk so I don’t get wide-awake walking from my office downstairs, across the dining room and living room to the bedroom where I would be wide-awake by the time I got there. My “office bed” is so comfortable that I seem to fall asleep within two minutes of when I lie down.

I don’t know how many times I’ve folded up conference tables, but you could tell how old they were by how much chewing gum they had stuck to the bottom of them.

There are very few things in life that are designed perfectly for the task needed. Those tables surely are. I used to have one in my business office in Hermosa Beach. I spent a lot of late nights standing beside that table stuffing advertising in small envelopes to solicit more business for my ever-growing rental films.

I bought a building that was less than a block away from the post office so that way I could use a shopping cart from a local Safeway to haul the films back and forth. One ski season we shipped films to a total of 11,347 ski clubs.

That was called secondary marketing. I only had time to visit 100 different cities and narrate the feature film in person. After the first year it was shown I added my voice and music to the film and simply shipped it to the clubs for their fundraising activities the next year. I cut the 90-minute feature film into 13 separate episodes for television broadcasting. It used to take two full-time employees working in the rental film department just to keep up with the demand.

A dozen years after I started the company I hired a lady as my secretary. She was an excellent bookkeeper and was wondering why I never kept books. Juanita McVey became such a valuable employee as she cleaned up my record keeping and managed the company and worked with me for over 15 years.

Not too long after she came to work for me she bought a piece of carpet that matched the one in my office, laid it over the mattress so that when I had a client sitting at a coffee table that we were negotiating a film with, they didn’t wonder about where I slept at night. I guess I’ve been an office sleeper all my business life!

A very simple method of falling asleep is to count backwards from 100 saying each number at the end of each exhale. I learned this lesson many years ago and as a result I’ve been able to sleep hundreds of extra hours instead of wasting hours trying to fall asleep.

I know as a Boy Scout using a thin mattress, no matter how careful I was, as soon as I stretched out on it in my sleeping bag I always discovered one or more rocks on what I thought was a perfectly smooth pile of soft dirt. The half-inch-thick mattress weighs next to nothing and when you have to carry it on your back for what seems like endless miles through the wilderness, lightweight becomes even more important than comfort.

When I was 16 years old and started driving my sister’s Buick convertible phaeton to San Onofre for the weekend, there is no place inside the car to sleep so I spent $25 for a trailer. It was built on a 1929 Model T Ford chassis and it could carry as many as six 100-pound surfboards without a problem.

I designed it with a mattress on the floor of it, a kitchen with cooking gear hanging over the wheels. All I had to do was remove one of the many surfboards in the trailer and lie down. It certainly worked for me and particularly after I got drafted into the Navy in 1943. I was given one month’s notice to report for active duty so I loaded up my trailer and drove to San Onofre and surfed every one of those 30 days.

These were the days when any surfboard under 70 pounds was a light surfboard, fiberglass had not been invented yet, nor had wetsuits. With the water in Southern California ranging between 47 and 53 degrees, you had to paddle on your knees to avoid getting too cold. As result of the knee paddling, your knees compressed the balsa wood part of your surfboard and in seeped the water.

There were weekends where I could only get one other surfer to go to San Onofre with me and I simply rolled up the mattress and put it in the back seat of the car. During that era that mattress rolled out almost everywhere within a couple of miles south of San Clemente. One night I made the mistake of rolling it out on the loading dock at San Onofre. When the 1 a.m. train came rattling through at 45 miles an hour only 4 feet away from my mattress I remember being frightened for my survival.

I’ve had mattresses in cars, trailers, motor-homes and occasionally on just a pile of dirt beside the road.

The worst mattress I ever had to spend the second night on was when I was dumped into the Navy and had to sleep on the top level of a metal bunk with coil springs on each end.

Anyone who has ever spent very much time in a motel knows that you never sleep on the side of a double bed where the telephone is. That’s because 95 percent of the people that climb into that double bed are single people and always sleep next to the telephone. That side of the bed always sags at least a half inch or more than the opposite side. How much the telephone side of the mattress sags is indicative of how much the room cost for the night. The cheaper the room is, the more the sag in the mattress.

For the first six or eight years of my life our family moved quite often. I went to six different grammar schools in six years and we always lived in a two-bedroom, or less, house. My parents slept in one bedroom, my sister slept in the other bedroom, and I had my very own mattress in the corner of a hallway or a large clothes closet. When you don’t know the difference, there isn’t any.

When my three kids were little each one of them had their own mattress for sleeping on the beach, one for the back of the car and one for sleeping on the floor of motels. I think that we were all very fortunate that they got to spend a lot of time on each one of them as they grew into adults experiencing trips all over the country and Europe.

Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to

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