I have a new decadent presence in my office. A new office chair — leather, with perfectly positioned arms, a soft seat, an ergonomic back, rollers with just enough drag to keep me stable — truly an upscale development.
It isn’t as if I couldn’t have had a new chair years ago. But making do with the perfectly adequate, worn, armless and feckless chair seemed sensible — until one day I went to perch on it, hit the ragged, long-ago smushed down edge, and the chair flew out from under me. No damage done to anything but my dignity, but it seemed sensible to get a new one. So I did.
And discovered things about myself.
Mostly I discovered that I am — or was — a percher. This chair refuses perching. It requires that one seat oneself, properly, within the full chair, back against the perfectly aligned seat, and that one pull oneself up to the computer to the perfectly correct position, feet flat on the floor, knees parallel to it. This also means it’s necessary to put on one’s computer glasses.
Prior to acquiring the New Chair, the computer glasses were optional and generally missing, depending upon where I perched and how high I had my old chair extended. I tended to let it ride high, perching on the outside front edge, so I could look through my lower bifocal lens to see the screen. This meant that checking my email was not serious, it would only take a second, and could be sandwiched in-between Serious Work. My computer glasses resided mostly under piles of paper.
Of course, I often spent hours on my email, after having told myself I would just take a peek. But the self-delusion was quite nice. I miss peeking at my email often. Now I have to put myself into the dignified position of a real keyboard worker, someone who is deliberate and serious, and then I have to find my computer glasses, because it hurts my neck to peer through my bifocals from this angle. I’ve solved the computer glasses problem by leaving them on the keyboard. But this doesn’t lessen my desire just to take a quick look at my email before going back to the sewing machine or easel. Alas, I now am dignified, even when I’m reading Facebook. And to go back to the sewing machine, I have to find my “real” glasses. Under the piles of paper.
In the studio, however, I can still perch.
My painting stool allows me to get up and down, move around, back up to see if the brush strokes make any sense, find the rag that fell on the floor, and turn the radio up to better hear Terry Gross’s guest. I can check the neighbor’s doings out the window, watch a squirrel on the fence, and be back at the easel in an instant. I still need “computer” glasses, although these are called “painting glasses”. Sometimes they get lost, though, and I have to lower the painting so I can peer at it through the lower bifocal.
My mother was a percher. One of my earliest memories of her was when I was first going to grade school. I would get up early in the morning and go downstairs, where I was allowed to sit on the register, the heat from which billowed up my nightgown, and watch her, perched on her corner stool, drinking cold coffee before her day began. I was allowed to stay only so long as I was quiet — this was my mother’s time alone, her time to sink into herself before she organized five children, six lunch pails, cold cereal for the kids and eggs and bacon for my father (who was the last one up until I reached high school, when he and I jostled for the use of the bathroom at the last possible moment.) I still cherish the silent companionship of those cold winter mornings, when Mom would get up, get the coal fire going, and then hunch over her coffee on her corner stool. I would sit on the radiator, baking in the heat, knowing that the day was in perfect order.
Maybe that’s why I perch — to catch the day as a perfectly ordered moment. I wonder if daughter Jan also perches. Or if she remembers only those cold winter mornings that I put on my high-heeled boots and marched her out the door to catch the bus. –June