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Requiem for a Chair

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There comes a time in every man’s life when he must put away the things of his youth and embrace adulthood. It is just as the Apostle Paul said: “When I was a child I spake as a child. But now I am grown up and do not ride a skateboard anymore, because come on.”

Such a milestone recently arrived in my own life, when it became necessary to dispose of an ugly yellow chair that I’d had since college. The mangy thing was already very old when I bought it at a thrift store in 1996, and it had only gotten older since then. Though it was still comfortable to sit in, the fabric on the armrests was wearing through, and stuffing was popping out in random places. It creaked and groaned with every slightest movement. If the ugly yellow chair were a person, it would have been set adrift on an ice floe years ago (assuming it was also an Eskimo, and that Eskimos actually do that).

Then some friends of mine announced that they were moving to another city and divesting themselves of certain pieces of furniture, including a comfortable reclining chair that could fill the same function as my beloved but decrepit ugly yellow chair. This seemed to be the right opportunity to make the switch. My friends delivered the chair, bringing with it many years’ worth of accumulated cat hair, which I vacuumed out and fashioned into three new cats, which I dropped off at the animal shelter. Now all I had to do was get rid of Old Yeller.

This was going to be difficult, not logistically but emotionally. We’d been through so much together, the chair and I! We first met one spring day in 1996, when I was a college student. I lived in a furnished off-campus apartment, and sometimes when it was a nice day I would drag one of the apartment’s comfy chairs out onto the landing and read a book in the sunshine. One day I was engaged in this activity when the apartment manager happened by. He said we were not permitted to bring the furniture outside, as it could be damaged by exposure to the sun and other elements. Well, fair enough, I thought. The furniture belongs to the property owners; they are entitled to make the rules concerning what we may and may not do with it. So I will buy MY OWN chair! A man who possesses his own chair is beholden to no one!

old yeller

This all happened in Utah, so I went to the Utah equivalent of Goodwill, which is called Deseret Industries, and bought the ugly yellow chair for $7 — quite a bargain for any piece of furniture, you must admit. I didn’t mind its baby-poop color, and I found its raggedy appearance charming: this was a chair that had been lived in. It was homey. It swiveled on its base, so I could spin around in circles if I wanted to (and I did), and while it was not a “recliner” as such, it did lean back far enough to where a person could nap in it (and I did).

I never planned on forming a 16-year relationship with the ugly yellow chair. I bought it as a temporary measure, for as long as I happened to live in that apartment. But when I moved to a new place several months later, I figured I might as well take it with me. It was mine, after all — I’d spent $7 on it! — and I had come to enjoy sitting in it, not just on sunny days when I took it outside but the rest of the time, too. It was my TV-watchin’ chair. My snack-eatin’ chair. My socializin’ chair. (Mostly TV-watchin’ and snack-eatin’.)

So it came with me to my next apartment, where I lived for a year, and to the apartment after that, where I lived for four years, and thereafter to my condo, for three years, and thence to another apartment, for another year. Then it went into storage with most of the rest of my stuff while I moved to Portland and lived with a friend while searching for my own place. That was only two months, but it must have been the worst two months of the ugly yellow chair’s life: locked in a hot, dark storage unit with a bed, some bookcases, a lot of DVDs, and memories — so many memories of so many hours happily spent cushioning my buttocks, supporting my weight as I went about my leisure activities. What nobler purpose is there for a chair than to provide rest and comfort? I can proudly say I did everything within my power to help that chair fulfill its usefulness. I sat on the hell out of that chair.

Of course, I don’t know what happened to the chair before I owned it. Maybe it had experienced greater sadness and loneliness than being in a storage shed. It appeared to have been manufactured in the 1970s, so heaven only knows what atrocities it witnessed during that decade: how many shag carpets it got snagged on, how much sweaty polyester was pressed against it. For as long as it was under my care, though, it had a happy home.

Uh, except that I never really cleaned it. The thing about a chair that you buy at a thrift store for $7 is that it never occurs to you do any maintenance or upkeep on it. It’s like adopting a 14-year-old dog. Oh, sure, I vacuumed the food crumbs from under the chair’s cushion now and then. But that’s literally all I ever did. No upholstery cleaner, no carpet cleaner, no damp cloths, not even a spritz of Febreze. Whatever odors, stains, or germs came in contact with that chair over the last 16 years remained in contact with it, are still in contact with it. If I was ever eating, say, Cheetos, and licked the cheese powder off my fingers and then absent-mindedly wiped my hand on the arm of the chair, that was it. I’m not saying I routinely, consciously use my chair as a napkin. I’m just saying that over the course of 16 years … well, things are going to happen. Mistakes were made. Who among us is not greasier and filthier now than they were in 1996?

In any event, it was time to bid farewell. If you think about it, the ugly yellow chair had been in my life longer than most of my friends, and was also better acquainted with what my butt feels like. The majority of the thousands of hours I’ve spent watching TV and movies — from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray — in the last 16 years were spent in that chair. The combined vibrations of every fart I had deployed while sitting in that chair would be enough to register on the Richter scale. If the chair and I had procreated immediately after I brought it home, our child would now be in high school (assuming the product of a human-chair coupling would be more human than chair, or at any rate human enough to attend school).

So it was with heavy heart that I disposed of the ugly yellow chair in a manner most final. Next time I will tell you all the gory details. For now I stand, mourning.

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A Year of Snide Remarks was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. This week’s column was sponsored by a donor on behalf of Cocoon House, a Seattle-area youth homeless shelter. Sponsor had no editorial control over the column, and the author alone is responsible for its content.