Change

5-3-08

I am seated in a new office chair writing at my desktop computer, which sounds quite boring but is, in fact, very exciting for me. The desk that makes this situation possible was an acquisition my wife made a few years back. She discovered that our neighbor was going to throw it away and promptly snatched it up. These are the selling points of the item. That being said I have never really liked the desk but it was free and I needed a desk so we have been together now for now five years.

In the past the chairs I used at the desk were similar in their origins. Either Kate had found them somewhere and brought them home or knew someone who wanted to sell a chair for very little money. As you can imagine they were never great pieces of furniture. Thankfully the chairs either broke or were destroyed by our cat after relatively short periods of time (two or three years). Which brings me to this moment: day one with the new office chair.
What is there to say about a good chair? What can be said is not so different from any good product or item that you use on a regular basis. Travel coffee mugs, carrying cases, wallets, even socks I think all fall into a category I would like to call: the necessary-but-undervalued.

I think everyone has driven past a run-down house or trailer that contains either a very expensive car in the drive or other permanent structures that appear to be worth more than the home, like a barn or swimming pool, and thought to themselves. “Why on Earth…” It is very easy to spot these inconsistencies in the lives of others. Where the priorities concerning limited capital bring into relief the folly of our neighbors when choosing between need and want. And then someone visits your home and you offer them a cup of coffee, or you take them onto your porch for an after-dinner chat and suddenly they confront you with this very same problem. You have neglected the things you need for the thing you wanted.

There are two activities in my day-to-day that for me are very important. One is writing. The other is watching movies. Since I have been married (which is my preferred date for marking when I began to live on my own as an adult) I have had neither a good desk and chair to write at nor have I had a good television to watch movies on. Let me define good. Usually, after sitting at my desk for two hours or more I would have difficulty standing due to severe pain in my legs, and depending on the chair, also in my lower back. At one point I was sitting at the desk for ten to twelve hours a day and after such sessions it would be a challenge to walk around the apartment.

I consider furniture that causes such problems to be bad furniture. Then there was the television, a 19″ television that possessed only one speaker and required an RF adapter to interface with a DVD player. I was able to watch movies on this television without it causing me pain, but if I were to then watch the same movie on my desktop with its Logitech speakers and sub-woofer I would cringe at the difference in quality and quietly curse my television for its shortcomings.

So where did my money go? We own three computers. Two laptops and a desktop. The reason for this is not interesting but it wasn’t because I wanted three computers. I also purchased a prosumer video camera and accessories several years back that essentially ate up our entire non-essentials budget for that year. Kate has taken numerous trips and flights that we could have driven to save money (prior to the gas craze that has made driving as expensive as anything else). In short, the money went to other things, usually fun, play-related items, despite the fact that the cost of replacing a chair or a television is not that large.

I am writing this and thinking about my legs and my back and my arms, all of which are in the ergonomically correct positions at this moment and are quite comfortable. I am thinking about the past six years and the amount of frustration the chairs and the desk and the television have created for me and I can feel nothing except a little silly. The solution to my writing problem cost about $100 and I would guess will last me longer than my previous chairs, but if it does not, then the cost per year should be about $33.

At present we do not have a television. We decided to abandon the old one to the Washington, D.C. garbage men and I hope it is doing well. I am thinking about the process involved with buying a new television now, choosing between the formats, the sizes, the brands and the features offered and I am already feeling daunted. I feel all of this while I sit in my new chair and chastise myself for not buying a good one sooner.

The solution, I imagine, will be what it nearly always is in such situations: another person. Did I decide to purchase this chair? I did not. I was using a wooden kitchen chair at my desk, by far the worst chair I had used so far, when Kate decided enough was enough. So even though she is fine without having a television and I am really the one who pines for evenings watching movies on the comfort of my couch (in truth it is a futon) most likely it will be her who again steps forward and takes action.

My post from yesterday will certainly make it seem as though I am passive and she is proactive, but I would like to just clarify. In numerous instances these roles are reversed and my point with this post is to try and say something beyond my marriage and our relationship. My point is to state that this is a very human situation and that it is odd/interesting that most people will choose to suffer along with something rather than change it, if the suffering is related to an act or object that is important to them. It’s odd that when the new item to purchase is of little interest or value, as has been the case numerous times in my own situation, that the disinterested party says, “Oh, just go by the thing then and be done with it.” It makes me think that perhaps what we all need is a hotline or a chat room to call or visit with the problems of our day-to-day life so that every so often someone can serve up that needed push and order us to take action and solve these nagging problems.

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