Eric D. Snider

Requiem for a Chair

Snide Remarks #668

"Requiem for a Chair"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on June 19, 2012

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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.

_____________________________________________

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.

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This item has 29 comments

  1. Momma Snider says:

    Sniff. No pun intended.

  2. SDR says:

    If the human / chair hybrid was more human, it could attend high school as a student. If it was more chair, well, it could still attend! In fact, maybe all the chairs in the high school are just working toward that fateful day that they can go on to be chairs at a college or university. Or for the slacker chairs, go on to a fast food restaurant.

  3. amy says:

    I am an adult and I have furniture. I have never cleaned it more than vacuuming. Is this a thing people do, this furnitire maintenance? Am I less of an adult than I have been giving myself credit for?

    Regardless of the identity crisis you have now spiraled me into, this was a great article. My condolences for your loss.

  4. Tara says:

    There must be something in the air. My husband also had an ugly yellow chair that he bought from DI while going to college in Utah. While it was a bit different in style from your lovely yellow chair, it was similar in that he'd had a longer relationship with the chair than with me. It was losing its stuffing from numerous locations. And my husband insisted it was still so comfortable and useful that we had to hang on to it through several moves. I hated that chair. I tried to leave it behind every time we moved. I tried covering it with blankets to hide it. I tried shoving it into a corner (mostly) out of sight.

    And finally, just yesterday, my husband looked at the chair and realized that it was literally falling apart at the seams. He sighed and said, I guess it's time to get rid of the chair. I solemnly agreed, then waited for him to leave for work this morning. Minutes later, the chair was out the door. Even now it's sitting on the curb waiting for the trash truck. Here's hoping the hubby meant what he said, because the chair will be gone forever by the time he gets home tonight!

  5. Jonathon says:

    Now I'm waxing nostalgic for my old college chair, which my roommate and I also bought at DI. It was brown but was sunbleached a bright green on one side. When my roommate got married and moved out, he let me have it. I finally got rid of it a couple years after I got married. Farewell, brown chair. I miss you.

  6. Lane says:

    "The combined vibrations of every fart I had deployed while sitting in that chair would be enough to register on the Richter scale."

    I would really like to see the scientific evidence behind this claim. If true, it would be a very interesting fact.

  7. Ampersand says:

    I am more emotionally attached to my furniture than I am to some of my family members. My condolences on the loss of your beloved chair.

  8. Joe in Seattle says:

    This reads a lot like "The Giving Tree." Is your relationship with the chair meant to be a metaphor for man's relationship with his parents and/or God? If not, good.

  9. Mike says:

    I got a chair from Goodwill in Illinois that looks just like the one in your picture except it was a burnt orange. I used it often to rock my daughter to sleep when we first brought her home from the hospital. It is interesting how attached we become to certain things. Great column as always!

  10. Matt says:

    My thoughts exactly Joe in Seattle. This one should be called "The Giving Chair."

    Great read. Thanks, Eric.

  11. Joanna says:

    I like how there's still a very distinct butt print in the photo.

  12. Tom says:

    @Joanna HA!

    Looking again I can see the eyes and smile on the front of the chair. It seems nothing, but satisfied with its existence. For some reason it reminds me of the Kool-Aid Man.

  13. Anon says:

    Lane (6): "'The combined vibrations of every fart I had deployed while sitting in that chair would be enough to register on the Richter scale.' I would really like to see the scientific evidence behind this claim. If true, it would be a very interesting fact."

    Assuming:
    --The mass of each incident of passed gas is 0.05 g = 0.00005 kg
    --The velocity of the passed gas is 2 m/s
    --The chair endured an average of 5 instances of passed gas per day, 300 days per year

    The kinetic energy absorbed by the chair per fart is on the order of:
    KE[f] = 0.5mv^2 = (0.5)*(0.00005 kg)*((2 m/s)^2) = 100 J

    In 16 years the total kinetic energy absorbed is on the order of:
    KE[tot] = (100 J/fart)*(5 farts/day)*(300 days/year)*(16 years) = 2.4 MJ

    According to Wikipedia, an energy of 2.4 MJ corresponds to a 1.0 event on the Richter scale.

  14. Emily says:

    My grandparents had two of those chairs, except in brown. They were great to play on, and very comfy indeed. RIP, yellow chair.

  15. Rob D. says:

    The product of a human-chair coupling is probably an ottoman that talks when you open it.

  16. Katie says:

    A pair of elderly relatives of mine still have a pair of chairs just like yours in their hermetically sealed living room--they go nicely with the royal blue shag carpet. Of course, no one is allowed to sit in them, much less fart in them.

  17. clark says:

    Anon: Sadly, 0.5*0.00005kg*(2m/s)^2 does not give 100J. It gives 0.0001J. (100 joules of energy is what a 22 pound weight would have if you dropped it from a meter above the chair.)

    Thus, the final calculation should give 2.4 J, not 2.4 MJ. It comes out to one millionth of a 1.0 earthquake. To reach the 2.4MJ, your assumptions would have to be something like 5g of gas at 20m/s (45mph) 500 times per day. I hope, for Eric's sake, that these are not reasonable assumptions.

  18. JeremyB says:

    I can't wait to hear the gory details. I hope it involves either a burial at sea or some sort of funeral pyre. 16 years of absorbing farts chould have made it exceptionally flammable.

  19. Chuck Norris says:

    Q: Who among us is not greasier and filthier now than they were in 1996?

    A: The section of the Occupy Wall Street crowd that were being born in 1996. It's a tough call, but I think the yuck that accompanies birth just edges the current state of the OWSers.

  20. Anon says:

    Thanks, Clark. How embarrassing to have botched the g to kg unit conversion.

  21. Lobo Oz says:

    I feel your pain. I too had to give up a burgundy Lazy Boy just last week. The poor thing had been regurgitating various and sundry screws for the past few years no matter how many times we and the Lazy Boy Repair Place tried to make it well.

    For Father's Day my sweetheart of more that 40 years presented me with a new tan one that swivels to allow me to converse with others and doesn't have me walking like Quasimodo after sitting in it.

    My old burgundy friend didn't go far away though. It's just across the living room with my sweetie sleeping in it.

  22. Eric D. Snider says:

    Thus, the final calculation should give 2.4 J, not 2.4 MJ. It comes out to one millionth of a 1.0 earthquake. To reach the 2.4MJ, your assumptions would have to be something like 5g of gas at 20m/s (45mph) 500 times per day. I hope, for Eric's sake, that these are not reasonable assumptions.

    YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE

  23. Kim Rusch says:

    Too funny about forming new cats with chair hair. Can I do that if I get tired of the cats I already have?

  24. Brad says:

    Sometimes I read the articles here, laugh, and wonder from whence Eric's humor comes. Thanks #1, Momma Snider, for answering that question. My boss did ask what was so funny about the insurance claims I'm processing (ahem), but 'tis a small price to pay.

  25. Laylabean says:

    I'm so grossed out right now. Excuse me, now I have to go give all my furniture a very thorough cleaning.

  26. Tricia says:

    The important priciple is diffusion. When the chair smells worse than your butt, it no longer has anything to gain from being your chair.

  27. Adam says:

    "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."

    That line was as funny as anything I have read in quite a while.

  28. Elizabeth Barone says:

    Aw. This was a really nice eulogy for such an old friend.

    Also: Hi. I'm new here. I stumbled upon your and your brother's message board while Googling for... I don't even remember now. An hour later and I've been completely sucked into your site. Curse you! (;

  29. SilverRain says:

    I somehow missed this the first time around, until you just linked it from Snide Remarks.

    But I remember that chair. I remember your childish delight, spinning in it out on the balcony right where I had to climb the stairs on my way back from campus.

    Love it! I wonder what other junk is still occupying my grey cells....

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