The lady at the trash collection company said, "yes, we take king-sized mattresses, but you either have to fold them in half or....cut them in half."

That's how my brother and I ended up at our mom's house on a fall afternoon, wrangling a king-sized mattress out of the house and into the driveway.

We used body weight to bend the thing in half and then used Harbor Freight "disposable" ratchet straps, to keep it folded like some giant, spring-loaded Serta brand taco. We then had to wrap it in plastic sheeting, seal it with tape and drag it to the curb.

No more than 5 minutes after we finished doing so, a car stopped quickly at the driveway. It was a late 90s Toyota Camry, painted mostly in mismatched primer. Out hopped this young hispanic guy, maybe 20 years old. I watched from the front window as he sized up this folded mattress, decided he wanted to take it with him, and began to shuffle it towards the back door of his car.

I went out to help, and it became quickly apparent that this fellow knew almost no English - he just kept saying, “Thank you my friend” - and to my own discredit, the only Spanish I know is “Tres asada tacos, por favor.” So, picture two strangers playing a game of charades at the end of the driveway, which led to me attempting to help push this monstrosity into the back seat of his sedan. 

We failed, as you might imagine, and we regrouped to figure out the next best option. I gestured that we could use additional ratchet straps and tie it to the roof. He just gave me a pained smile, shook his head and said, ”Police.”

My own privilege strikes me sometimes, and this was one of those moments. I realized that this young guy was driving down the road in a car that was older than him, and he sees a mattress on the side of the road and thinks “my lucky day,” only to have his plan foiled because he didn't have a big enough vehicle and he knew it was not in his interest to draw any undue attention to himself. All of that makes me realize how incredibly comfortable and easy my life is. Make no mistake, 2021 has seen plenty of tragedy for the Shooner and Focal Point families. However, most of my low points were individual incidents; my day does not include driving around hoping to find a free mattress on the side of the road. 

So this Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of that guy, who’s name I never even thought to ask, and I’m giving thanks, because I have so much to be thankful for. 

In case you want to know how the story ends: My new friend was considerably smarter than me. After 10 minutes of looking foolish communicating with gestures, he grabbed a phone and pulled up Google Translate. I was able to explain that he was welcome to take the mattress, but the trash collectors would be there first thing in the morning.

It was gone before dawn, and I hope he’s using it in good health.

Happy Thanksgiving from Focal Point