The Death of a Chair

A common phrase among writers is “butt-in-chair” time. Websites offering writing advice are particularly fond of the phrase. At its simplest, it means to write, you have to be sitting in a chair, in front of a computer. That’s hard to do for hours on end when your chair hurts your butt after only a few minutes.

The chair I’ve been sitting in for the past 30 years is the brown one you see above.

In the late 1980s, the oil business was booming in Oklahoma. Small oil companies and satellite offices for larger ones moved into town and were hiring like crazy. My mom worked for a couple of different ones during that time. When the bottom fell out of the market those offices closed as quickly as they opened, many of them liquidating their office supplies in the process. It was during one of those liquidations that we acquired several of those office chairs — two brown ones, and two olive-colored ones. They were old when we got them in the late 80s, and I’ve had the two brown ones ever since.

That means the chairs went with me to my first apartment in 1992, to Weatherford in 1993, to Spokane in 1996, and all the houses we’ve owned since then. Here’s a picture of Susan sitting in the chair back in 1993 while I was reading from a book and trying to hypnotize her.

The chairs weren’t without their flaws. They were easy to tip over; when they leaned back, they leaned back fast and hard. The top part of the chair wasn’t fastened to the base, which meant any time you picked the chair up off the ground it came apart in two pieces, usually leaking oil (or something) onto the carpet. Worst of all, there wasn’t much padding left in the seat. Still, they worked, and they got me through the late 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s, and most of the 2010s.

Last year, Mason asked if he could move one of the two chairs into his bedroom. I let him, and a week later it was broken. He never quite confessed as to what torture he put the chair through in order to break it, but whatever it was, it must have been impressive as I’ve literally been abusing these things for thirty years and it never fazed them.

Even though the other chair remained strong, it also remained uncomfortable. My butt-in-chair time was leading to stiffness-in-back and pain-in-tailbone. I must have whined about it one too many times because for my birthday, Susan bought me a really nice leather office chair.

And it feels great on my tailbone.

I’m too sentimental and nostalgic as it is, and I have to draw the line at old furniture that hurts to sit in. As I look back at pictures of my old computer rooms, it’s amazing how many times the brown chair makes appearances. It’s never in the center of the frame or the subject of the picture. Usually it’s pushed off to the side, almost out of frame but not entirely.

When I first sat in that brown chair I was calling BBSes with a 1200 baud modem on my Commodore 64. While sitting in that chair I did my homework for high school (1989-91), Redlands Community College (1991-93), Southwestern Oklahoma State University (1993-94), Oklahoma City Community College (1999-2000), Southern Nazarene University (2004-05), and the University of Oklahoma (2015-17). I played guitar in it, wrote two books while sitting in it, and played lots of computer games from inside it. I’ve moved it to an apartment, to a mobile home, to Washington state and back, and to three different houses in Oklahoma.

Last weekend, after thirty years of loyal service, I moved it to the curb.

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2 comments to The Death of a Chair

  • Kevin Moon

    Like you, I am also very loyal to chairs and other pieces of furniture, and am loath to give them up. However, now I have to be very aware of my lower back and have to be very careful and kind towards it. I use those mesh back support things to try and mitigate it. Do they still make those ergonomic kneeling chairs? I know those seemed to be popular in the 90s; I remember a friend of mine had one and it was super comfortable. I never ever see them anymore.

  • Gray Defender

    I agree if a chair is uncomfortable it’s time to replace it. However, if it is comfortable then it can be your friend forever even if it’s ugly. Reminds me of the TV show Fraiser. His dad loveed the old ugly green chair but it was comfortable.

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