Professional mattress walker, Reuben Reynoso, who is paid to walk on three mattresses a day says: "It's work. It's not for everybody. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it." Walking on a mattress, which is known in the trade as 'walking the bed', is one of the final steps in making a handmade mattress or, to be more precise, a hand-and-foot-made mattress. It may be true that machines can be made to walk on a mattress. But a machine cannot do what Reynoso and his toes can do, which is to expertly compress no fewer than 28 layers of fluffy cotton batting while seeking to detect tiny lumps or other imperfections.
Reynoso does his walking in the McRoskey mattress factory on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California. McRoskey have been making high-end mattresses for 112 years and are something of a cult among mattress fanciers. The company turn out only a dozen or so mattresses per day, which sell for $2,750. In mattress walking, moderation is all. Too many steps and the cotton batting ends up either too compressed or punctured. Too few and either the mattress will not fit into the giant stitching machine for the final sewing, or an errant lump could get through and require a complete makeover.
Mattress making is something of a delicate operation. The walking part is only the last step - Reynoso and his colleagues assemble each mattress by hand from the coils out, laying the delicate, fluffy layers of cotton-polyester batting atop the core of coils one by one. After nearly three dozen layers are in position, top and bottom, the whole thing is crunched together and held in place with 40 giant safety pins. Then, a thick protective mat goes over the mattress in progress. Reynoso steps onto the middle of one edge and walks forwards, backwards and sideways. He works a precise grid pattern, covering each section of the surface once.
After the walking comes the final stitching on a giant sewing machine that applies a precise line of thread to within a 1/16 -inch tolerance. Any greater than that and the inspectors won't sign off on the mattress, which means Reynoso and his fellow assemblers must take the thing apart and start all over. Reynoso says the job suits him just fine. He used to be a carpenter, roofer, construction worker, railroad engineer and maker of corn syrup. None of those jobs, he said, provided the satisfaction of making a mattress. "It just feels good to make one of these," he said. "Sleep is so important. Everybody in the world has to do it. I like being a part of that."