An Ode to My Memory Foam Pillow

Posted on Friday, Feb 10, 2017

There were a lot of things that I learned the hard way during my first week alone in Paris. Some of them, like getting on the metro in the wrong direction, were harmless. Others, like accidentally ordering two of everything at a restaurant, were pretty funny (and embarrassing). But there was one lesson that I learned that was completely and utterly catastrophic. I didn’t bring my own pillow. Even in the best of situations, I would consider myself a high maintenance sleeper. I need a dark room, cool temperature, lots of airflow, soft sheets, earplugs, eye mask, and most importantly: my perfect, wonderful, amazing memory foam pillow. But in the midst of packing, I decided to be brave and leave my (super heavy) security blanket behind in favor of a few more pairs of shoes.

Upon arriving in Paris after an exhausting day of travel, all I wanted to do was sleep. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that from the moment I stepped off the plane and onto French soil, I was about to spend the next seven days at war with jet lag… and lumpy pillows. My life fell into a weird routine where I would spend all day wandering around Paris, trying to pretend like I was touring. In reality, I was just trying to stay upright so that I wouldn’t fall asleep before it got dark. And then at night, I would toss and turn for hours at a time, waiting for sleep to come. In retrospect, I suppose I can’t entirely blame the pillows at my apartment for my sleepless nights, but rational thoughts quickly deteriorate when its three o’clock in the morning and you haven’t slept more than nine hours in four days. I wanted to throw the pillows out the window and head straight to the airport. Instead, I had decided to go with my second best idea, which was to go buy a new pillow.

Now, it’s not like the concept of buying a new pillow hadn’t crossed my mind before this. It simply seemed like an insurmountable task. Where is someone supposed to buy a pillow in Paris?? I had no idea. There is no such thing as Walmart or Target (*gasp*) in metropolitan Paris. Was there a specialty pillow store? Should I order one online? Are all pillows in Europe lumpy and square?? I had to call in reinforcements. Luckily, my social butterfly of a sister seems to have friends in every corner of the world and a few of them are from Paris. After a few Facebook message exchanges, I finally had the name and location of a department store! After a long and rainy journey through the streets of Paris, I returned to my apartment with a new pillow in hand. It wasn’t memory foam, but it was clean, fluffy, rectangular, and 100% free of lumps. This is what winning the lottery must feel like.

A few nights later, when my sleep schedule was beginning to match those of normal Parisians, I came to realize that maybe there was a nice metaphor to be found in this whole situation. Moving to another country alone is really hard, but running away from the challenges you face is no way to deal with them. It might take some time to adjust, and it really helps if you have some local friends to lean on, but this really is a once in a lifetime experience that will force me to grow as a person. Now that the sleeping situation is taken care of, I can’t wait to see what else Paris has to offer! (Besides overpriced pillows).

Dana Sublett
U.S. Commercial Service
Paris, France