This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Washington • Good morning. How'd you sleep?
Probably better than Jason Chaffetz the past eight-plus years. After all, snoozing on a fold-up cot isn't the best way to doze off. But the Utah Republican, who leaves Congress Friday morning, warmed up to his makeshift bed at least at times.
So, are you ready for a story about the love-hate relationship this man had with his cot?
Well, actually, it's about a man and his two cots and an air mattress. But mainly about that first cot, the one that made Chaffetz the most famous office-dwelling (and office-slumbering) member of Congress, literally overnight.
This cot followed Chaffetz to Washington and will leave with him, too. (Apparently, the National Museum of American History didn't cry dibs.) It initially tagged along to D.C. in the underbelly of a Delta flight, sealed with duct tape in a black trash bag. The frugal congressman-to-be flew coach.
It's unclear if the cot originally came from China or Indonesia or Mexico. Chaffetz was born in California.
The two hooked up at a Utah Smith's, where the cot rose above the other temporary beds yearning to make national headlines. After plopping down $44.99 plus tax with the clerk, Chaffetz and his new bunk mate were joined for life.
While most members of Congress rent a small apartment or buy a house or room with colleagues in a Beltway version of "Animal House," Chaffetz opted for his humble cot.
Rising every morning from a cot would not only save him $1,500 a month in rent, Chaffetz reasoned, but it also would help him rise among the pack of Capitol Hill newcomers. During his first month in office, Chaffetz and his cot were mentioned in more than 50 news stories.
Turns out, they were made for each other.
The budding relationship didn't go unnoticed by even the most powerful politicians. Then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel cautioned that Chaffetz and his curious cot were a bit too cozy and that may not be the best thing for the freshman.
"You need to get out of the office more often," Emanuel counseled Chaffetz at one of Washington's black-tie soirees.
But the cot and Chaffetz lived harmoniously for nearly two years until came a painful breakup (or breakdown). At the heart of the cot, something shattered. It was just a spring, but it was enough for Chaffetz. It just wasn't working out.
He acknowledges it wasn't all the cot's fault.
"That's what Five Guys will do to you," he conceded, noting that the cheating on his diet with the burger joint had added a few unwanted pounds and strained his ability to get along with the cot and vice versa.
Chaffetz never went to bed with the first cot again. It was tucked inside a closet, forsaken and forgotten.
On the rebound, Chaffetz flirted with an air mattress. It was different than his old friend but high maintenance. It took a lot more effort and, in the end, wasn't being supportive. The congressman would awake in the middle of the night to find himself lying on a deflated mattress.
The jilted Jason found his next match online, thanks to Walmart. This new cot, mail-ordered from a foreign country, was sturdier and thicker.
The two weathered five years together. But their time was clearly coming to an end as the congressman announced he was leaving Washington to return to Utah. This second cot wasn't coming with him, and a long-distance romance with this bed buddy wouldn't work. Time to move on.
"I'm not sleeping on that thing ever again," he said recently, the spurned cot sitting silently a few feet away. "That thing is so hideous. It's so dirty, too, at this point."
No tears were shed by either side.
As he was taking that cot, a casualty of time and political ambition, to a dumpster in the Rayburn House Office Building, another member of Congress fell in love with it. Chaffetz gave his blessing to the new union.
"Bye-bye," he tweeted, coldly, posing for one last picture with the cot Thursday.
Back to that first cot, the first one Chaffetz cared for and spent so much time with and that stuck with him through good nights and bad. It's coming back to Utah.
Chaffetz's understanding wife, Julie, insisted, he said. She knew how much it had meant to him, how the two had spent so many nights together how they had shared so many dreams.
That cot came out of the closet this week. It will find a new home in the state it had left more than eight years ago. It had burst onto the scene in Washington with a big splash, photographers eager to catch a glimpse, visitors always asking to see it.
Broken but full of memories, the cot, an early Chaffetz supporter, will stick with him.