Zipping Up

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Pickup on the sleeping bag isle?

With over 100 nights a year in a sleeping bag, either tucked into a tent, or, in winter, in the back of my van in a ski area parking lot, I spend lots of night in the mummy position. So, like all down sleeping bags do after serving well, mine has lost its loft, and with that, it’s rating plummeted, leaving me to don my puffy before heading to bed.

I’m a horrible shopper—even going to REI leaves me mute and over-stimulated. But I needed a new bag, so I held my breath and opened the doors with the ice axe handle. I was able to bypass the magnetic pull towards the new backpacks with pockets in places I had never dreamed possible, squishy bowls and cups that somehow seem like a necessity and even the shoe section—I didn’t even glance at the new Keens I have been eyeing for a while. Instead, I went straight to the back of the store and stood looking at sleeping bags, trying not to run every time someone with a green vest and name tag asked me how I was doing.

After perusing the plastic information sheets attached to each bag for an inordinate amount of time, I had two bags I was interested in trying on, as it were.

“Can I help you?” Came the dreaded question. But this time, I did need help.

As I opened my mouth to say yes, I turned my head and found, standing in front of me, a green-vest-wearing-name-tag-displaying cutie.

“Uh, yeah, I do want to look at a sleeping bag,” I stammered.

Joshua (nametag!) grabbed the two bags I was interested in, and pointed out the added coverage at the feet, the wider mid-section for the female curve, the pocket so small that it would probably only hold half of a dream. He guided me to the compression sack rack and we discussed how to stuff a bag without it becoming a dense, bizarrely shaped lump. Finally, he laid each bag on the platform, had me take my shoes and socks off and slide in. He zipped up the bag and tucked me in.

“How does that feel?” He asked, with a grin on his face.

“Very warm,” I replied, my cheeks beginning to flush.

We rehearsed this dance twice more, each time with Joshua zipping me up and even, once, fluffing the pillow. I prayed nobody else in this city was looking for a sleeping bag today. I wanted to lie on the platform all day, being tucked into fluffy bags by a hot salesman.

After some feigned indecision, I told him which one I wanted and in which color.

“One more important decision,” he said slyly, “which side do you want the zipper on?”

I searched my internal files for the correct answer for this situation. I had nothing to go on. He smiled and knew he had me.

“May I suggest you purchase a sleeping bag with a zipper on the left. So that your sleeping bag is compatible with the majority of other sleeping bags….that way, you can zip in with your boyfriend?”

The last word was a question and his eyebrows performed the most miraculous little tango.

“Uh. Right. No boyfriend though,” I said ever so gracefully. And then smiled. And then laughed. “But I like the way you think. I better get a left handed zipper just in case.”

Joshua agreed, pulled one off the shelf and walked me to the checkout line. “Good luck staying warm,” he said with a wink.

As I stood waiting for my turn, I wondered if I had just been hit on by the sleeping bag guy. I was tempted to ask him which side his zipper was on but then thought better of it; he had shown me the path and now I had to walk down it.

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter which side my zipper is on. When I find the right guy, it will all fit together perfectly.

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Writer Abigail Sussman is a backcountry ranger who hasn’t sealed her status as cougar just yet. She’s a regular contributor to Women’s Adventure‘s column, “Love on the Rocks.”

Last modified: April 10, 2012

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