Life is a long succession of hot seats. . .
Be sure to greet each one with a smile.
Be sure to greet each one with a smile.
Chairs I Have Sat In by Paul Smith
I have sat in lots of chairs. I don’t really remember my first one. It was probably a high chair. Having had my last look at a picture of it, I can sort of piece together the circumstances. I was, of course, a toddler at that time. The snapshot is of mother feeding me porridge. No one eats porridge anymore. I am leaning forward, a spoon with porridge is coming my way. I vaguely remember crying loud and hard to get more porridge, and then spitting it all up, or pooping, laughing with glee as mother has to tend to me.
The next chair I remember is a wooden school desk. You crawl in one side, plunk your butt down, and put your books in a drawer-like thing under the desktop. In summer it was hot and your rear end sweated a lot. I would sit in class and wonder why I was there, wishing I could be outside playing. Then I remembered – I was redoing my grade, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. in summer school. As I got older in high school, the desks changed. To begin with, they were quite small. They got slimmer and more modern-looking, made of a plastic material that resembled pressboard. Books were thrown on the floor under them. I remember being told how all this school was going to help me one day.
After that I got a job and had a plain wood chair in a cubicle. It had no padding. The cubicle had no window, just a view of more cubicles. I didn’t like it. Others like me had chairs like me, cubicles like me, lives like me. I didn’t like them. I wanted a better chair. I discovered that being really nice to my boss and really snarky to the others that had chairs like me helped as I worked my way up through the ranks. Soon I had a slightly bigger chair with a removable pad for my posterior. After that there was a chair with padding actually attached to it. My butt really liked it. Down the hall from our maze of cubicles was the Board Room, where I heard there were big comfy chairs. That’s where my boss’s butt sat. I sort of liked my boss’s butt, but I also sort of resented it. I found out ways to make myself look good on paper, fiddling with figures in my cubicle. As much as I liked my chair with the padding stapled to its seat, I knew there was a better chair for me down the hall.
By hook or by crook my rear end finally made it into the Board Room, right at the head of the table, with the best chair, one that resembled a throne. It had a high back, arms, and two spiky things on its back that resembled steeples. I had made it. But I also noticed those who sat at my feet. They all had the same look in their eyes, a look of envy, a look that told me they wanted my chair for their rear ends. I couldn’t let them have it, of course, so I did all in my power to hang onto what I’d worked for. There were others who began to look good on paper, those who were copying the things I did, and there were those who caught on to what I’d done to get where I got to. One of them, an accountant, had the balls to suggest I’d been sly or crooked. I hadn’t, of course. I was just trying to get a bigger chair, that’s all. So I had him snuffed out in the freight elevator one day. Then others came forward, those with lesser chairs than me, and accused me of something called premeditation. I have discovered that jealousy and envy play a big part in our lives and motivate people to sabotage those in bigger chairs. Alas, after the trial, my new chair was not a chair at all, but the edge of a bunk in a Correctional Facility.
There was one more chair to go, though.
The chaplain in this facility explained to me how my last chair would work. I would be taken to it, strapped in it, a thing put over my head, and then get a thunderbolt of electricity, and I would die after getting my last meal. I nodded at all of this, not really caring how big it was or how comfy. My focus is on what the chair actually did. It killed you. As he went over the details, my butt started to sweat. All those chairs! We talked about regrets. I had lots of them, starting with my high chair. Why didn’t I have a better high chair? Or maybe a worse one? If something had been different, I wouldn’t have wound up like this. It started with my mother, shoveling all that food down my throat. What was going through her mind? The hour got late, and the chaplain said he was going. One last question, though. What did I want for my last meal?
Ha! I’ll bet you think I’ll say porridge. That would be so neat and clean, wrapping up my life in a little package with a bow on it. Like life gets all summed up so that there is meaning to it. Ah! How smart, how clever, how symmetrical! But things were all going to end tomorrow without a neat tidy ending. They would stop with an apostrophe, a question mark, an asterisk, something like irony. Now, at the tail-end of a regretful life, I thought hard about all I wanted and had gotten and decided what would be the most logical choice.
“So what’s it going to be, my son – steak?”
“What, then, my son?” the chaplain spoke, looking sad.
I patted the metal surface of the bunk I sat on and smiled back with my own sad eyes.