pseydtonne: Behold the Operator, speaking into a 1930s headset with its large mouthpiece. (Default)
I spent Thursday morning and Friday afternoon trying to buy an office chair that doesn't hurt. The feeling of hurt is worse than suck, which is survivable but not thrilling. Thus my hierarchy is: hurt < suck < meh < fine < cool < orgasmic.

My last home office chair died a couple months ago, right before the apartment hunt began. A few years ago I had bought this Italian task chair at one of those haughty furniture shops on Mass Ave between Harvard and Central. I liked the chair, even though the seat padding was never great, because it held up my mid-back while I lounged in it. This let me type for hours without noticing anything.

One day I was sitting in the chair, probably leaning back, when one of the wheels caved into its support leg. It turned out the five wheels each locked into a slot that had only one connection to its adjoining leg. It looks like a metal tube with a flange at one end that got bent into position and had a caster wheel shoved into it. I was amazed after seeing this crummy design that this chair had ever held me up at all.

I could still sit on the chair so long as I didn't lean much and I kept the curled wheel in front. It didn't wobble too much this way, but the chair was clearly no longer safe. I ditched it during the move.

I used to have a spare office chair but I gave it to [ profile] lightcastle when he moved recently. That was a chair I had found on a scavenging expedition in Allston back in 2002, which [ profile] chaggalagirl used when she lived with me. When we lived with [ profile] fangirl715 the cats always loved to sniff this chair and climb into it. Its task was to have a life beyond one single owner, so it seemed proper to give it to a new home. Not only would I feel like an ass if I asked for it back but the gods would teach me a karmic lesson if I attempted to retrieve it.

I decided I would finally purchase my dream of a home office chair. Right now I am using my roommate's spare non-swivel chair to type. It's cushy and leatherette but it's not adjustable. It lets me sit comfortably but it gets caught on the carpet.

I had hoped I'd find an office chair at the same place I'd bought my desk back in 2002, a used office furniture store in Magoun Square. The saleswoman had a great chair vocabulary and knew her stock. Unfortunately I could not unfidget enough: none of their chairs had a seat depth adjustment control.

I have a strange body shape -- for example, I have back fat. When my back is flush to a chair, there is usually a major gap for my butt. Most chairs either leave me with two to six inches of gap from the end of the seat to the back of my knees or they leave my legs flailing in the air like a child's on a rocking chair. I require seat depth control or else I'll always be going ape about it.

The saleswoman explained that seat depth adjustment is the one feature that separates mid-range office chairs from high-end ones. It would take me a while to understand that this wasn't idle chatter. If you always feel like you're on the edge of an office chair, feel how far your upper legs extend away off edge of the seat.

I started thinking about the various places I've worked and what my chairs were like. The best chair ever was at Genuity, an otherwise terrible place to work. (Actually it had one other advantage: an internal music server with a huge archive.) They gave us Steelcase's latest in task chairs, which included more adjustments than I had ever imagined. I spent half of my first day futzing with the controls, such as arm rest angle and lumbar slider. The chair had a breathing mesh back, thus I never felt stuck to the chair. It was a space-age chair.

This turned out to be time well spent Once I had the seat exactly the way I wanted it, I could sit down every day and spend my entire shift in a comfortable position. My productivity was tremendous. I picked up two other people's jobs by the time I was done there and it didn't hurt me.

People at Rational had a habit of scrounging office furniture. When someone left, we'd call dibs on the cubical contents. I wound up with a book case, big white board and a killer office chair within two years. I was sad to give them up when I got laid off, especially that AtWork task chair with the funky fabric pattern. I was far more upset to lose the best job I ever had.

My present work chair is probably an executive chair. I scrounged it from a grave yard of office furniture. I learned after a couple weeks why no executive wanted the chair: the top of the back came just shy of the back of one's head, the seat and back were locked into position and the seat height piston was giving out. I still sit in it, mostly because I can curl up to sleep in it.

I decided to make a list of the features I wanted:
  • full back with neck support (head rest);
  • adjustable seat depth;
  • adjustable lumbar support;
  • separately adjustable seat and back;
  • arm rests with adjustable heights; and
  • seat and back tilt that lock into variable tilted positions.
My hunt now moved from the good used stuff to the newer, entry-end stuff. My roommate had had great success finding his office chair at a chain office supply store a few years ago, so I was willing to try.

I visited the three major chains (Staples, Office Max, Office Depot). Each had the same chairs. Each chair seemed chintzy. Very few had more than adjustable seat height and tilt. Those with tilt allowed one to lean back way too far or be locked upright but not to lock into a tilted position. Only a couple had head rests but those usually had fixed seat-back angles. Not a one had seat depth adjustment.

I realized I had no other option but to look at far more expensive chairs. This also meant I'd need to deal with far more exclusive shopping environments, the kind where I go into business mode. This story is involved and will unfold in the next part of the saga.

August 2016

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