Monday, September 10, 2018

The Shirted Pillow Solution

As delivered The Van’s gaucho came with a back-bolster. For normal people this served a couple of design purposes and for me, one un-design function.

It made for a semi-comfortable seating area if The Van ever boasted a crowd. And I do mean a crowd. (For cryin’-out-loud! There are 4, as in four, seatbelts under that gaucho!)

And the bolster also drops down behind the extended gaucho seat to form a snug double-berth.

And one function I’m not sure the designers thought about but worked for me, was protecting my rolled up bedding which tucked in behind it during the day.

As for how useful those first two functions were to me?  Well boat designer Phil Bolger wrote more than once that an ideal cruiser, which I'm sure applies to both land as well as water cruising, drinks 6, eats 4, and sleeps 2, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about me!  Although there have been a handful of people in The Van on a few occasions, they were always there to check out the accommodation and never hung around, not for a chat, not for a drink, not for a dinner, and certainly not for a sleepover. (Which is good because I’m pretty sure The Wife wouldn’t approve of that last one . . .)

But still, every night I had to lift that bolster, (and it is heavy!), maneuver it upright carefully in the limited space available, duck-walk it down the narrow aisle like a drunk dance partner, and prop it up against the rear doors so I could make up my bed. Then reverse the whole procedure the next morning

As seems to be an embarrassing theme in my life, it took many years of this foolishness before I finally came to my senses and now the bolster, tightly wrapped up in heavy plastic in case I ever sell The Van, lives a stationary life on a lumber-rack in the barn.

Upon removing the bolster from The Van I solved the exposed bedding issue by sewing up a simple cover of heavy fabric, the same grey as the gaucho upholstery, that rolls up with the bedding, keeping it fresh and clean during the day.

What I didn’t address for two more years was the pillow issue, or more specifically, the pillow case issue.

Without the bolster in the way the gaucho can be made into a really comfortable place to sit (for a persnickety, anti-social, solitary old grouch anyway) by leaning the pillow up against the back of the driver’s seat and stretching my legs out along the gaucho like I'm sitting on a recliner. I can sit up straight for reading a book, or I can slide down into an infinite number of progressively more reclined positions for – well, you know - napping.

The advantage of this seating spot over the spun-around passenger seat, which is also really comfortable, is that it is right there adjacent to the window and I can get a nice breeze, especially with the Max-Air roof vent running at setting 5. (half speed and half an amp-hour draw on my batteries)

Of course I’m usually seeking out that breeze because it’s hot, which means I’m probably sweating. And if I’m not sweating my shirt is probably not as clean as one would hope something coming in close contact with the pillow-case where my head will be laying in a few hours might be.

My quick fix for this hygienic challenge, spurred by a bout of camping in record heat, was to grab the National Park Conservancy lap-blanket.

I’m not really a lap-blanket kind of guy, but I got this as a "free" gift for re-upping my membership and since it is small and light, I threw it into The Van, just in case. And eventually just in case came along.

I wrapped the blanket around the pillow figuring I can grunge it up all I want and then throw it into the wash, preserving the cleanliness of my drool-stained pillow case for night-time head-resting.

Problem solved! – OK maybe not . . .

Being a lap-blanket this thing is a little on the small side and must be carefully positioned and wrapped to protect the pillow from – well – me, otherwise it falls away, scrinches off, or otherwise just plain bunches up in all the wrong places.

On top of that this blanket is wool, which is a great natural material to have around on cold days, especially damp, cold days, but sucks against my bare, sweaty neck on hot days.

To solve the first issue I toyed with the bright idea of introducing the lap-blanket to the sewing machine and turning it into a loose pillow case. That way it would stay in place and I wouldn’t be re-wrapping every time I wanted to sit down. But, while our sewing machine is a pretty fancy contraption, I can’t seem to find any settings on it that will change the blanket’s wool into something a little more skin-friendly.

Then, while poking halfheartedly around for a scrap of a more hot-and-sweaty-neck friendly fabric to turn into a pillow cover, I got another bright idea, and this time it really was a bright idea. (Hey, they don’t come along all that often, but I’m allowed one of those once in a while . . .)

First, let me be clear. I don’t wear T-shirts.

As apparel they have two strikes against them. They are snug, and I don’t do snug. And they pull on over your head, something else I don’t do, which eliminates me from most event-volunteer positions as well as working as wait-staff at an increasing number of establishments.

But despite those shortcomings, they do have several things going for them, and the following are the going-for-them points relevant to my predicament:

They, the better ones anyway, are made of nice soft fabric.

Many of them have interesting graphics.

They are just about pillowcase size.

And they are relatively cheap as long as you don’t buy them at a souvenir shop or festival stands.

And they are everywhere, and I mean everywhere! In fact right about now I remembered that even I own one!

It was given to me by a friend that does more talking than listening so has a good excuse for being oblivious to the fact that I don’t wear T-shirts, but in this case that could work out anyway.  Now if I can only remember where I tossed the damn thing . . .  (It was wadded up on a shelf  in the closet underneath the sport-coat I never wear.)

And it fits just right!

Now in the morning all I have to do to keep my pillowcase day-grunge free is ‘dress’ my pillow in its lizard-T.


OK, maybe not quite perfect after all.

That neck-hole, the one that chokes off the air of all that dare to wear it the way it was intended, has a habit of gaping when I lean back on the pillow. (OK, to be accurate, when I lean back then slowly scrunch down to napping position.) And it gapes right were the back of my sweaty neck is.


So I had to drag the sewing machine out anyway.

But no big deal, as it was quick work to run a line of stitching around the neck-hole, sealing it off forever. (Whew! Now I can rest easy knowing I can't accidentally get my head stuck in it one day!)

Especially no-big-deal since I didn’t even bother with trying to reload the machine with a matching thread but just used what was already in it. After all, it’s not like this is couture.

 So problem solved. My daytime neck-sweat will never again come into contact with my nighttime drool.

 Oh damn! Did one of those lizards just spill beer down my back?!

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