So as I was saying, the time had finally come for me to get rid of the ugly yellow chair that I’d had since 1996, when I bought it for $7 at a thrift store. The chair was old and ratty when I got it, and had only grown older and rattier since then. In fact, most things are older and rattier now than they were in 1996, except maybe Madonna.
There was only one question: What do I do with the thing now that I’ve replaced it? (The chair, not Madonna.) I could have dragged it out to the sidewalk and put a sign on it reading “FREE CHAIR,” and someone probably would have taken it. But it seemed like the only places that a stained, musty, 30-year-old armchair found on the street was liable to wind up were apartments where meth addicts live and dilapidated houses shared by six bohemian 23-year-olds who work as baristas and are all in bands. I didn’t want my beloved old friend to live out the rest of its days in either such place.
After much consideration, I determined that the most respectful thing to do with the chair was to throw it away. And since the garbage cans behind my apartment building were not large enough to hold entire chairs, obviously I would need to smash it into a thousand small pieces.
As it happens, I also enjoy smashing things into a thousand small pieces. In the past I have destroyed a desk, a couch, various cheap bookcases, and an improv troupe. Don’t most people find it satisfying now and then to bring utter annihilation on an inanimate object? Or is that exclusively a male trait? (I’m missing some of the other male traits, like the one where you can tell different makes of automobiles apart, so that’s why I ask.)
First up on the executioner’s block was the flat cushion that was the chair’s only removable component. I’d routinely picked up the cushion to vacuum food crumbs from under it, but only now, in the act of discarding it, did I realize that the cushion had a zipper around it. This meant that at any time over the past 16 years, I could have unzipped it, removed the panel of stuffing from inside, and washed the outer fabric. Huh! How about that! It was too late now, of course, so I just threw the stuffing away. Then I cut out a square from the cushion fabric and mailed it to my friend Luscious Malone, who always hated this chair more than anyone else, and who I figured probably wanted a grimy trophy to memorialize the occasion of its demise. She never thanked me for this gift, which I take as a sign that she’s not as thoughtful as I am.
I then commenced a campaign of tearing off pieces of the chair wherever I could get a fingerhold. Soon it was stripped of most of its fabric covering and padding, revealing a wooden framework that was sturdier and more complex in its design than I would have suspected. Staples, nails, tacks, and screws were employed variously depending on which fastener was most appropriate for the task at hand. In other places, twine and metal springs played integral roles. I couldn’t find any indication of the chair’s place of origin, so I’m assuming it’s a proud example of solid American craftsmanship rather than a sad reminder of America’s dwindling status in the international marketplace — but wherever this sucker was built, it was built to last. All these years of resting my plump, doughy buttocks on this thing and I’d never considered how even an ordinary chair must be intricately engineered to be comfortable and durable, not to mention cost-effective for the manufacturer. I guess what I’m saying is that there turned out to be more involved in the thing I’d never given any thought to than I would have thought if I had given any thought to it.
One of my chief interests in destroying the chair was that I wanted to find out how much junk had accumulated inside it. I don’t mean the crumbs and coins under the cushion. I’m talking about past that, way down in the guts of the chair, where if something slips through, it’s gone, man, forget it. Not gonna lie to you, this part was gross. It was basically like performing an autopsy on a skanky old dog that had spent its life ingesting whatever food and non-food particles it could get its mouth around. Here are the non-perishable things I found inside:
– 21 coins totaling $1.69, with each coin dated between 1974 and 1999.
– Three pens.
– A tiny toy gun, probably belonging to a toy cowboy or something, and a few colored pegs that I assume are from a kid’s game.
– A handful of perfectly preserved farts, which I released into the wild.
And now, here are the food items I found:
– 1,000,000,000,000 Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, and individual pieces of breakfast cereal.
This was my TV-watching and snacking chair, you’ll recall. I’m a fan of munching on cold cereal as a snack, and of course stray morsels are bound to escape now and then (or, apparently, constantly). There were Frosted Mini-Wheats, Apple Jacks, Cap’n Crunch, various Chexes, and Cheerios, among others, all faded to the same approximate beige color. What gave me pause was the realization that Cheerios are not in my current rotation of snack cereals, and haven’t been for two or three years.
I should mention that for some reason, instead of tearing the ugly yellow chair to bits quickly and efficiently, like someone performing a mercy killing, I did all of this in piecework over the course of a few days, like a serial killer. My living room became a torture chamber. The chair, gradually increasing in its state of decomposition, occupied one corner of the room, and I went about my daily life, pausing occasionally to casually rip another piece from its tender frame. My chief regret here is that I allowed all of this to take place in full view of my other furniture, which must now be in a state of perpetual terror as it wonders when I will tire of it, too.