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Posts Tagged ‘routine’

Love of Chair

February 2, 2010 2 comments

What’s the first thing you think about when you start a new job?

As an information worker — and doesn’t that sound better than desk jockey? — I spend a good amount of time in the saddle. Add to this my chronic lower back pain and you might understand why whenever I start a new job, my main concern — before finding out whether I’ll have a window, free coffee, or a garage space — is where I’m going to be parking my butt.

But unlike the guy in the picture above, I’ve never had the perk of getting whatever chair I wanted — otherwise I’d be luxuriating in an Aeron right now. And when I’m shopping for a home-office chair, it all comes down to what’s on sale at OfficeMax and making the necessary tradeoffs between price and comfort. So it helps me to think about what’s worth spending extra for and what’s just a frill. Here’s what I look for in an office chair, in order of importance:

  1. Back support. And by this I mean the whole back, especially the lumbar. Chairs with just the little thing that goes across the mid or upper back? Pure agony in half an hour.
  2. Adjustable height. Even though desktops are generally a standard height (about 28″) I find that, because of my long torso, ordinary chairs make my wrists come down at a sharp angle. That gets uncomfortable pretty fast. Adjustable height is also good if you use a table as a workspace because tables tend to be a few inches higher than desks.
  3. Armrests. Yeah I know this moves most office chairs from the “nearly stylish” to the “fugly” category but then I don’t get paid to look good. The rests should be wide enough to support an arm, and at least somewhat height adjustable.
  4. Swivel. I like to work in an “L” formation, with my keyboard and monitor slightly to my left and room to spread out papers on my right, so being able to turn is nice. But if I’m just working at a desk, I can give on the spin.
  5. Casters. When my desk was in the same room as the office fridge, rolling was a definite plus. Otherwise I can give on this. But if there are wheels, there need to be five and not just four because I have a tendency to lean back and stretch from time to time. Speaking of which…
  6. Lean-back. Another nice-to-have but only if I can adjust it to make it very firm. Frankly I’d prefer a non-wheeled, non-leaning chair that was well built enough that I could rock onto the back legs — just like my mom always told me not to — but you can’t really find those with adjustable height.

I tend to spend a fair amount of time in office supply stores with someone who enjoys hanging out in the pen aisle so I’m looking forward to test driving the chairs soon. But no matter how much planning or sampling I do, I won’t know if I’ve got the right chair until I can go an entire day without even thinking about what’s keeping me off the floor — besides the coffee.

Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,

Missing the Bus

January 26, 2010 1 comment

I started taking the bus to work regularly sometime after 6/6/06, which was when a driver on Long Island ran through a red light and through the intersection and through the front end of Stitch, my blue 2005 Honda Civic. I decided to start taking mass transit when I realized that the bus fare would be less than my annual parking fee. I decided not to replace Stitch when I woke up to the fact that my single income wasn’t covering the two car payments I’d been making since my wife had stopped working. Since I’m getting divorced, I’ll be needing to buy a car again soon, but for now the bus — aside from walking — is still my primary form of transportation.

Usually I enjoy mass transit. I grew up in Brooklyn where I took either a bus or a train to school from the time I was 10 until I graduated college. I like meeting the drivers and other passengers — my interactions with them are nicely limited — and I like having the time to sit and read my New Yorker or whatever book I’m working on.

In NYC, I never really had to pay too much attention to schedules because the buses and trains I took generally ran all day and all night long (though occasionally, particularly in my Rocky Horror-going days, I would have to be aware of when the last train ran). But here I need to know the schedules, and so I have a nice collection of all the ones that go to or from the places I need to be.

I like reading schedules. They’re nice and orderly. They give me a sense of comfort the way a map does when planning a trip.

But occasionally taking the bus is stress-inducing, as it was tonight when the first of the two buses that go down my street didn’t show up. I’m used to it being a few minutes, ten minutes late. But tonight, not at all.

That there is a bus that goes down my street at all is probably because a Centro board member lives in my neighborhood and requested that route. I can’t understand it otherwise, as there’s rarely anyone besides me still on when the bus turns the corner off the main drag onto my street. I can take the one that doesn’t turn on my street, though that leaves me with a 3/4 mile walk. I don’t mind the walk, but in winter when it’s really cold and the sidewalks are impassible I like having the option of not having to walk home in the road in the dark.

The driver of the second bus had no idea why the first one didn’t show. She asked if I’d called the problem in. Generally I don’t bother, as it’s not likely to make a bus appear. She mentioned that the regular driver was on vacation — I noticed he was missing yesterday, so it makes sense that someone goofed.

I really like that driver. He recognizes me, and stops directly in front of my house without my having to ask him. I used to have mild anxiety attacks because a previous driver on that route used to get annoyed if I asked her to stop anywhere but at the scheduled stop. For some reason there isn’t one on that side of the street within a quarter mile of my address though there’s one right across the street.

The regular driver — and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never asked his name — also honks and waves when he sees me walking down my street if I’ve taken my non-winter commute. And he offers me a free ride if it’s raining or he sees me carrying groceries when I’ve made a quick stop at the corner store. It’s one of the little things that makes me happy to be a passenger, and that I think about to offset my anxieties when I encounter breaks in the routine.

So I made it home and dutifully sent out an email to the bus company informing them that the bus never showed up. My partner suggests that I should complain in cases like this because, as a white suburban male, my voice is one that is likely to be heeded. It’s a small thing I can do on behalf of the other passengers whose needs might otherwise not be considered.

I’m home now, and soon I’ll be eating dinner and then getting the kids through their evening routines. It’ll be a relief to be back on a predictable schedule.