I wrote a while back about the grim satisfaction I feel whenever I see a crumpled mattress or shattered box spring on the side of the road. That means some moron didn't tie his mattress down very well, and it went flying off his vehicle.

Several readers shared their own stories of mattress mishaps.

Ashton's Michelle Thompson drove into Washington with a friend to load up a mattress she was getting. They fastened it securely to the car's roof rack with a prodigious number of bungee cords. As they drove around RFK Stadium -- on the opening day of D.C. United's season -- they watched in horror as the mattress slid off the top of the car and landed behind them.

Said Michelle: "Luckily, no one else was behind us as we pulled over, just parking lot upon parking lot of D.C. United fans out tailgating. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard. I was totally incapacitated while he ran around trying to fix it."

They had very conscientiously tied the mattress to the roof rack. The only problem was that the roof rack snapped off.

"We did the best we could and drove verrry slow on the way home," Michelle said.

Lisa Atwood of Rockville was driving up the I-270 spur one evening last spring when she saw a mattress on a highway sign near Montrose Road. "It was in the grips of the lights that curl under the sign and shine up at it," she said.

Her boyfriend (now fiance, she was quick to point out) didn't believe her. She insisted, and when they drove by the next day, there it was, 30 or 40 feet in the air.

"We like to speculate how it got up there," Lisa wrote. "It must have been a combination of snapping single loop twine -- those fools! -- and a strong head wind. What a sight that must have been!"

Aye, what a sight. Like a mighty manta ray sailing above the crashing waves. Except not.

Of course, the laws of physics mandate that flying mattresses are nothing to laugh at. Susan S. Waters of Saline, Mich., sent me a 1996 clipping from the Detroit Free Press about a mother and father charged in the death of their 13-year-old daughter. They had her ride atop their van to keep a mattress and box spring from shifting. It did, with fatal results.

On the other hand, some people are what you might call extra careful.

Joanne Maestri wrote that her son recently attempted to buy a mattress at a store near South Carolina's Clemson University, which he attends.

"After finding the one he wanted, the salesperson asked how he was going to get it to his townhouse," Joanne wrote.

"When he replied that he was going to tie it on the roof, the salesperson said that he could not sell it to him. I haven't figured out whether this is just to add in the delivery charge or he really is thinking safety."

I called Clemson Mattress to find out. The manager, David Stuck, said they offer free delivery and setup for purchases of more than $800. Less than that, it's $25 to deliver a twin or full-size mattress; $35 for a queen or king. That price includes setup and removal of the old mattress.

Customers don't have to pay for delivery. The store will tie the mattress onto your vehicle but only if you have a roof rack. No roof rack, and you have to pay for delivery.

"It's just a liability issue to us," said David. "If it's not secure when it leaves the store, and they go on a large highway and lose the mattress, they're going to come back and want some of their money back."

David said his employees are experts at tying down mattresses. They use rope and have a favorite knot that allows them to secure it tightly.

Mandy Croushore of Springfield said she and her husband were perhaps a tad overzealous when they purchased an eight-foot-long board at Home Depot not long after they were married.

"As I stood aside and waited, he went around with twine numerous times through the open windows until it was secure," said Mandy. "Well, you guessed it. In the process of tying it onto the roof, he lashed the doors closed and we had to climb in the windows to get into the car."

Although Ashburn's Kirstin Bloy claims never to have tied a mattress to any of her vehicles, she did once lash a love seat sleeper sofa to the top of her '79 Ford Pinto. It was in the early '90s when she was in college in Superior, Wis. Kirstin was certain the lovely but ridiculously awkward sofa would fit in the hatch of her car.

"When it became obvious that it would not, my friend and I returned to the store, procured some twine and tied this heavy behemoth to the top of my car," she wrote. They then drove at 20 mph over the very steep bridge linking Duluth, Minn., and Superior, their hands out the window, holding the sofa to keep it from sliding onto the windshield.

"What was amusing were the scores of people passing us on the bridge, honking and pointing at the car as if we had no clue that there was a 200-pound sofa tied to the top of my car."

She concluded: "There's my stupid little story, and I can't believe in one e-mail I have admitted to owning a Ford Pinto, tying a sofa to it and living in Superior, Wisc."

It's okay, Kirstin. Your secret's safe with me.

Sign Language

Greg Hutchinson, a self-described "errand boy" for Douglas MacArthur after World War II, has treasured this sign he saw just outside the entrance to the U.S.-occupied Japanese naval base at Yokosuka:



My e-mail: kellyj@washpost.com.