b Papa Dog's Blog: A Student of the Mysteries of Office Furniture

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Student of the Mysteries of Office Furniture

One of the drawbacks of my workplace has the capricious distribution of office supplies. Computers, for example. I regularly print very large files under tight deadline pressure, so naturally I’ve always had whatever model of computer is just old enough to seem creepingly slow and prone to failure compared to everything else in the office. Certain Kenny Rogers-looking individuals somewhat further up the food chain who use their computer once a fortnight to check the email always seem to have the top-of-the-line stuff. That one I can live with. I mean, I get the work itself done really quickly, so the longer it takes to print the more billable I am, right? Well, whatever. The thing that’s always bugged me has been my inability to score a decent chair. I have chronic lower back problems, attributable somewhat to having slept in an easy chair for a year in the 90s, but certainly exacerbated by fifteen years of computer work on crappy office chairs. I’m a Worker’s Comp claim waiting to happen. Whenever my back hurt, I used to ask the old office manager for a new chair. She’d always hem and haw about budget freezes and promise to do something about it when the money was available. One time she brought me a backrest that the little French guy left behind when he quit in disgust and went off to work at a competitor (which competitor was, ironically, swallowed by the competitor that later swallowed us; you can’t leave the place if you try). Admittedly, the backrest helped a little bit, but compared to a new chair it was – oh, what’s the word? – oh yes – crap. On the other hand, one day out of the blue the IT guy came over and hooked up a business card scanner to my computer. Why? Not something I ever asked for. Turns out some Kenny Rogers-looking bloke had a bee in his bonnet about creating a business card database and thought I was the man for the job. “Uh, okay,” I said, and waited for somebody to come by and ask me to scan some business cards. That was about four years ago. I’ve still never used the thing. If anybody ever does ask me to scan a business card, it might be problematic because the scanner is buried under dust and papers and I’m not sure where the manual is, if I ever had one.

Eventually I learned that if you want a better chair the only thing to do is find an abandoned one and claim it as your own. I’m fortunate in that regard because my corner of the building seems to be the elephant’s graveyard of unused chairs. I don’t know who brings them over or why, but they seem to accumulate in nearby empty cubicles or by the drafting table around the corner. I’ve switched chairs several times in the last couple years. It always seems at first to be an upgrade, but it always disappoints eventually. The seemingly firm back support gives way to hopeless springiness. The armrests eventually seem too far apart or too close together. I can never get the height adjusted just the right way. Tufts of stuffing start popping out of the back. And always, always, they eventually start to squeak like crazy. One by one they all get rotated back to the elephant’s graveyard.

Then this morning, by happy accident, I chanced to look into the cubicle of my recently departed neighbour, whose constant chatter and braying laugh I’ve honestly come to miss since his layoff. “The place seems so quiet without him,” I thought wistfully, coming back from the lunch room with my tea. And “He sure did get a raw deal,” I thought, nearing his cube. And, “Huh, didn’t he used to have plants or something? Did he take them away or are they going to die in here?” I thought, looking over the cube wall. And then: “HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD! LOOK AT THE CHAIR HE LEFT BEHIND!!!”

So now I have a high-backed leather (Imitation? Like I care?) chair so massive I feel like I finally have a back wall to my cubicle. I can lean my head back on it! Give me a white cat and I’d be Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Give me a big screen TV and I’d be Captain Kirk. My back didn’t feel noticeably better after the switch, but god damn, I’ve got a chair with some attitude now!


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