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The importance of a comfortable chair.

An Occasional Grumpy Old Man Missive:

I have noticed a trend: as you get on in life, your ability to be comfortably seated is significantly reduced.

When I was two, I could hunker down on my heels. At three, happily sit on my granddad's bony knee. At four, a tree branch or jutting-out rock was a perfectly acceptable perch.

In my adolescence I spent nearly 8 hours a day on a plywood-seated tubular-steel school chair, to think nothing of the hours spent on a damp and briny thwart, cultivating boils (so we were led to believe - no doubt by the same people that informed us that inattention to poor sidewalk maintenance would result in a serious parental spinal injury).

When I started work, I made do with whatever cast-off office furniture made it's way down to engineering... I believe the thinking was, that if it was unsatisfactory, we would remake it into something acceptable.

Then, with the encroachment of seniority, of budget control or as a result of Mergers and Acquisitions (always said in capitals, as befitting its' importance) we gained access to the stationery catalogue. Now, putting aside the irony of a wheeled office chair being referred to as stationary, this was, for junior management, the holiest of grails. Often delimited by coloured index stickers placed to restrict your cost-unconscious selves to colour within the budgetary lines, there existed a definite class system of desire.

The prototypical 'manager' wanted something that exuded size, heft and thus conferred a deal of gravitas to his shared cubicle environment. The engineering team were looking for speed.

Not for us the padded arms, the head-high neck support and the air-cushioned seat. Who cares about the fabric choice, the colour or whether it would match the desk-set? What really mattered was the number of wheels and the sturdiness of the aluminium castings, because it was bearing surface and wheel numbers that dictated how fast and how accurately an office chair will travel in one direction, as per Newton's Sixth Law of Office Chair Dynamic: Speed (E) is proportional to the length of the chair leg (C) X the number of legs (L). Weight, as in all forms of racing, was to be avoided.

However, for the last few years I have felt thew need for less speed, more comfort.\

My newest chair has both many wide-spaced wheels (giving an N6 coefficient of 130) and a widely-spaced, softly-cushioned seat. It also has arms I can flip up, out of the way for when I need to sketch or solder or tie convoluted knots in paracord. It has an adjustable neck brace, which I have yet to need to use, but imagine gives you support while glaring down at your minions. And its is pivoted to allow me to recline at the desk, to take my ease while writing my angry letters to editors, begging letters to my children and dismissive letters to my creditors.

But I digress...

As my body assumes a puddled appearance, ingratiating itself with gravity, I can see the attraction of a stout, well-padded, leather, buttoned, horse-hair-stuffed and sprung chair that will stay with me through my dotage.

Tilt and swivel is less of a selling point than is 'lift assist' and the wonders of Sorbothane (tm) are investigated with some vigour.

Of course the width needs to accommodate wriggling grandchildren and to give a suitably stable platform for a cat, but those are mere details. What's more, most, massively important is that you can sit for an hour or two and not make 'the noise' when you get up - that combination of strain and acute lumbar pain that seems to be the aim of modern chair designers.

As someone that spends an inordinate amount of time each day sitting, is is too much to ask for some bright young thing to make a stylish and suitably attractive chair that is also both comfortable and form-fitting?

It seems not.


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