After spending entirely too many nights on a pillow-top, I wanted a much firmer mattress. The pillow-top didn’t provide enough back support. Falling asleep became increasingly difficult because there was too much give in the mattress, and the night-time tossing and turning meant being more miserable in the morning. It wasn’t working out well for anyone. So, several months ago, I replaced the pillow-top with an extremely firm mattress purchased from some off-brand place. Better back support, shorter drifting-off time, better mornings. It was blissful.

Due to an uninteresting series of events (with which I will not bore you) involving a trio of rivalrous European countesses, a bearer-bond theft ring and a rabid circus elephant, I had to replace the good mattress, which I set about doing today.

I went to several stores asking for a firm mattress. No fluffy stuff. No pillow-tops. No memory foam. Just the firmest mattress they had in the store. In each store, I’d lie down on the mattress and feel myself sinking into what the clerk swore was not just the firmest mattress in the store, but the firmest one in the whole entire industry. That was nonsense– my previous mattress had been manufactured in 2012 and was much firmer. It was frustrating, especially since the place I’d bought my good mattress from was now out of business.

I wandered into one last mattress store, expecting the same disappointment and planning to alleviate the disappointment by eating at Bawk-Bawk (which I recently learned is my niece’s name for Chick-Fil-A) because I bumped into some lady who was handing out coupons for free sandwiches. I went through the same routine: the firmest mattress was too soft, and the clerk said it was the firmest in the industry.

Then I had a Montoya Moment and wondered aloud whether “firm” had a specific meaning in the industry that didn’t match what I meant. I asked the clerk to see his hardest mattress. He said that that was the hardest mattress.

I thanked him for his time and headed for the door. He must’ve thought I was angry because he sounded awfully defensive when he said, “I guess I’m not sure what you’re looking for. That is the firmest mattress out there.”

I told him I’d bought a far firmer mattress just in the last year, and I didn’t think he was lying, but I couldn’t figure out why the “firmest” mattress in the universe was so soft. And then I must’ve said the magic words:

“I’m looking for a giant brick with some cloth on it.”

Something clicked. He pointed to the plainest-looking mattress in the store. Sure enough, it was a giant brick with some cloth on it. He cut me a deal due to the confusion, and I am once again the proud owner of a decent mattress.

The free Bawk-Bawk was good, too.

If anyone knows the difference between Noah Webster’s definition of “firmest” and the mattress industry’s definition, please let me know, and let the mattress folks know, too. The confusion cost several stores a shot at some decent money today.