Mattresses were once limited in use. You slept on them. That was it.

Sometimes you used them like trampolines, but only in rooms without ceiling fans.

When you got older, you might have cunningly tucked “adult reading material” in the hidden confines of a mattress’ undercarriage. Or, if you were a girl, a diary.

But realizing diversification is the key to any long-lasting business venture, mattresses soon expanded into new markets. Take banking: Consumers could store their hard-earned cash under the protective shield of a mattress’s flat belly. There were no ATM fees, which was nice, but the customer service wasn’t great and no one would take checks from the “Bank of Sealy Posturepedic.”

Later, mattresses branched out into the fort-building industry, since it was discovered that twin-sized cots were stable enough to be used as fort walls but light enough that a pair of 8-year-olds could easily maneuver them during a sleepless sleepover.

The safety sector turned out to be lucrative too. Consumers piled up mattresses in backyards to pad, for example, the inevitable crash of an amateur stunt-guy who liked to do incredibly stupid things with a bicycle and the roof of his parent’s house.

Thanks to their multiple uses, mattresses thrived for decades.

But oh, how the pillow-top fall.

Along comes Mr. Memory Foam, with his reach-out-and-touch-me polyurethane build. Guy’s got a memory like an elephant and the welcoming demeanor of a Jet-Puffed marshmallow. Even his girlfriend loves him because he doesn’t wake her up in the middle of the night when he gets up to use the bathroom.

How does a mattress with coils for a brain even compete?

He branches out, that’s how. Into downhill sports.

On Saturday, mattresses of all sizes will take to the mountain at Shawnee Peak. They’ll shirk their once-sedentary lifestyle for a chance to make like a toboggan and slide Shawnee’s Main Slope — with a few riders on top clutching the edges in high-speed fear.

This marks year four for the annual America’s Mattress Race, and teams are encouraged to drag out their old twin, double, queen or king. There’s a four-person maximum on the mattress, but no limit to your decorative genius. You can even wrap it in plastic for extra speed — but no skis or anything that will elevate it.

No air mattresses or waterbeds, either. This race was made for mattresses with coil-spring hearts and an upholstered physique.

The course is about 150 to 200 yards in length, and mattress speeds have been known to reach 35 mph. Helmets, understandably, are required. There’s also plenty of hay and a barrier at the finish line to prevent any mattresses from sledding off into the parking lot.

The race winner gets a new queen-sized mattress and box spring from America’s Mattress and Furniture Gallery (though I wouldn’t mention that to the old mattress until after the race. It’d just depress him).

Shawnee Peak will even dispose of all the mattresses after the race, which beats the alternative: leaving the mattress by the curb to sag and mold in the spring rain.

Is that the way to treat a mattress who’s been by your side for all these years? Who’s kept your magazines and/or personal journal safe from prying eyes? Who left you with a sprain rather than a compound fracture that time you tried to back-flip off your dresser?

Your mattress has been a good friend. Your mattress deserves better.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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