One of the most important aspects of my life as an author is what I sit on every day. That’s right, my chair. Of course, when someone thinks about the writing life, the writer’s chair in his or her office is probably not high on the list of things that are of any particular interest. People might be intrigued by my desk—I designed and built it myself. They might like to know about the computer I use. They might wonder which word processor I recommend. They might ask about my daily routine, how I organize my time.
But my chair?
I spend about ten hours a day, seven days a week sitting in my office chair. Without a chair, I’d be standing, or perched uncomfortably on my knees. An uncomfortable chair would be distracting: if my back or posterior ached, I’d have even a harder time focusing on my work.
So when I buy an office chair, I consider it very carefully. I pay attention to what other authors use, and one particular chair that I see them mention frequently is the Herman Miller Aeron. Supposedly it’s wonderfully comfortable and comes with a multi-year warranty so good that the company actually sends someone out to repair your chair if anything goes wrong with it. Unfortunately, the Aeron costs well over six hundred dollars. Even with its great warranty, it is hard for me to justify spending that much for a chair. Even if I do spend the better part of my life seated on it.
My office chair was two years old. I had gotten it from one of the big box office stores, the one which advertises about an “Easy Button.” It was a good chair, not an Aeron, but it just worked. It didn’t hurt my back. I mostly didn’t think about it. I just sat in it. Day after day.
Until a couple of weeks ago. It began tipping slightly to one side.
This was not something that the chair had previously been in the habit of doing.
I got under the chair and peered at its bottom where the support pillar attached to the seat. One of the bolts was a bit loose. I found an Allen wrench and tried tightening it. It didn’t tighten. It had pulled loose from the surprisingly cheap and flimsy plywood out of which the bottom of the chair was constructed.
With some feeling of trepidation, I realized that my time with this chair was growing short. I needed to plan for its replacement. So I began shopping around, looking at chairs cheaper than the Aeron. I eventually found one on Amazon in a price range that wasn’t too horrible. It was even described as “ergonomic.” It had no one star reviews. So I placed it in my cart and clicked on “save for later.” My intent was to order it around the end of the month.
So I continued using my old chair, day after day, and pretending that it wasn’t wobbling more with each passing hour. I wanted to believe that it would see me through till the end of the month when I would be in a better financial state to purchase its replacement. The end of the month was when my wife, a school teacher, would finally get the nearly ten percent raise (after many years of pay cuts due to California’s budgetary problems), retroactive to last July—meaning that a retro-check would be coming soon, too. So the end of the month would be a good time to replace the chair.
That was my plan.
Thursday evening, around 10:30 PM I was calmly sitting in the chair. My Kindle was in hand and I was reading a science fiction novel by Ian M. Banks. On my lap my cat Halo was purring happily. I leaned back in the chair.
I heard an odd “crack.”
“That doesn’t sound like a good thing,” or words to that effect passed briefly through my head—which moments later landed on the floor, along with the rest of my body. My cat yowled and sprinted away, scrambling in terror from the room.
The chair had broken suddenly from its pedestal. I had twisted my right shoulder. There were splatters of blood on my right hand from a minor cut, perhaps from my cat’s claws. “Ow!” at the very least, came from my lips.
I slowly and gingerly picked myself up. I confirmed that the chair was no longer usable. I noted that my Kindle was intact and undamaged. I decided that my bodily injuries were minor and not life threatening. I pushed the remnants of the office chair away from my desk, stumbled to the kitchen and returned with a very uncomfortable kitchen chair to sit on. I brought up Amazon in my web browser and ordered the new chair.
My finances were tight for the rest of the month, but I survived. Eating is overrated.
The new chair arrived two days later. Following extensive therapy, the cat has returned to sitting on my lap. She’s even purring again.