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Home » Books & writing, Random Nerdy Stuff

Tell Me a Story About…Chair

Submitted by on January 21, 2010 – 7:18 am 19 Comments

I had so much fun when we played our storytelling game last time (read it here), I decided to do it again. Based on an exercise Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, the rules are simple. I throw out a random word and you tell me a story, whatever thought or memory triggered by that word. The word is mundane on purpose because creating an interesting anecdote around it is more of a challenge than if the word is, say, “lederhosen.” I mean, that’s too easy, right?

I asked someone to give me a word so that I don’t cheat and only select ones that have amazing stories tied to them. And I was given: chair.

This made me think of a time in fourth grade when I was the new kid in school. My first day, I had to take the chair at the front of the class directly across from the teacher’s desk because no one else wanted to sit there.

I was asked to go to the blackboard at one point to do some math problem. When I came back to my chair, I unwittingly sat down on a handful of thumbtacks. YOW! Apparently, the two classroom bullies decided to waste no time picking on the new girl so they put tacks in my seat.

Instinctively, I knew if I cried out, I’d be a target forever. They were waiting to hear me scream and then they’d laugh at me. So, though my eyes started to water, I clenched my teeth and sat still.

I heard one boy whisper, “I thought you put the tacks in her chair!”

“I did!”

“Why isn’t she doing anything?!”

“I don’t know!”

“You’re stupid!”

“No, YOU are!”

If I hadn’t been in pain, I would’ve laughed. Instead, I focused on resisting the urge to jump up and pull tacks out of my butt. When the two boys eventually lost interest in me, I shifted, um, myself slightly and yanked them out discreetly. The morons never picked on me again.

OK, your turn!



  • Poncho says:

    OMG! I wish I had your self-control, PCN. I could never had pulled that off, least could I have stopped bullies from pulling pranks on me through my school life.

    But getting to the subject, one thing I can remember about a chair is a camping trip. Once, during my Boy Scout life (ha!) my crew and I went to a special camping trip called a partida (which translates something like “leaving”), which is a special ceremony where you say goodbye to your life as an “active” Boy Scout.

    The thing is, most of the people have what we call swiss stools (banquitos suizos) which are a wooden disk with a stake-like leg: you nail them to the ground and work perfectly as stools and are quite comfortable and practical.

    So we were there, lighting the fireplace, setting our swiss stools and then, out of the blue, a guy pulled a chair out of his car…an actual garden-folding-chair. It was hilarious, since we all sitting almost ground-level and he was like two stories higher. The chair turned to be like a throne, so the guy who was saying goodbye in the ceremony got a little upset and decided he would rather have the “throne” since someone was taking his spotlight. And as he sat in the chair, the fabric broke and he fell on his buttocks… hard.

    Needless to say, we couldn’t hold our composure throughout the whole ceremony.

  • Jen Forbus says:

    Wow! Did chair ever bring a bunch of thoughts to my head. The first being that episode of Seinfeld where George is picking out a chair for the security guard. I think I only ever saw two…maybe three episodes of Seinfeld. I know I’m like the only person in the world, but I hated that show…and the chair episode was a reason why. Oy.

    Anyway, some that are more related to me directly: my cats love to sneak into my office chair when I’m slid up to the edge of the chair working. Then I slide back and squish them. They are never happy about that. I don’t know why they keep climbing into the chair like that.

    And then my last story is about my sister. When we were younger we were playing in my grandmother sewing room, which was approximately the size of a closet to begin with, but between her sewing machine and this record cabinet…yes, a record cabinet with actual records in it, there was barely room to turn around. I don’t even remember why we were in that room, but my sister was sitting on a chair and leaning it back on two legs. She lost her balance and fell right into the record cabinet, shattering the glass doors with her head. She just ended up with a minor cut on her head, but boy did that sucker ever bleed! And of course my grandmother had a major fit.

    Very funny how that simple word brought so much to mind for me!

    • Christine says:

      My husband has a similar problem at his desk. Brian will often be seated all the way back, but leaning forward. Well, our eldest cat thinks that the “V” made between his back and the back of the chair is perfect for snuggling into! You’ve heard the saying, “Dogs have owners, but cats have staff”? Very appropriate.

      As for Seinfeld, I had a love/hate relationship with it, myself. The episodes I enjoyed best were the retrospectives.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I love how the mundane word brings such vivid memories to the surface for you, Jen. Glad your sister is all right. Yikes! And I remember those record cabinets. Does that mean I’m as old as grandma?

  • Christine says:

    That was strong control for one so young, PCN! I’m not sure I could play that off even half as well as an adult. Bravo! One can only hope karma came back to bite those two in the ass. ;0)

    Two things came to mind with “chair”.

    First one deals with a transfer to a new school for me as well. It was the middle of 8th grade year and I stepped into my homeroom class already in session. Desks were set up in a “U”, but there wasn’t an empty desk. The teacher walked out, got me a desk and then proceeds to put the bloody thing dead-center in front of his desk facing the rest of the students. I was mortified! Fortunately the class was about half over and by the next morning I had a position in the “U”.

    Second deals with my job as a receptionist. I was talking to a coworker at the front desk and the phone rang. I was sitting to the front of the seat, so as I reached forward to answer the phone, the chair tipped forward and being on wheels, slid out from under me. Mind you, I still had the phone receiver in my hand as I landed on my bum and somehow was able to maintain my professional voice long enough to thank the caller for calling our company and would they please mind holding. Fortunately they agreed to being put on hold, because I was having a hard time not bursting out laughing. It didn’t help that I could hear my coworker cackling as he went back to his office.

    • Jen Forbus says:

      Now THAT is true professionalism! Your response to the caller, that is. The teacher was extremely unprofessional. WTF? I would have never done that to a student when I was teaching.

      Although, Christine, your story brought to mind a situation I had while I was teaching. The administration scheduled more students in my class than I had seats for. They did this because the district has a huge problem with attendance rates, so they knew the seats would never all be filled. But when you make a seating chart, there are people who have to be left off. I had a student who only came sporatically, so I didn’t assign her a seat; she simply got a seat that was empty when she did bother to show up. She got mad about that and complained to her counselor. Oy!

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      You deserved a raise for not losing that caller, Christine!

      And your old teacher was insensitive. You don’t do that to a new kid.

  • EIREGO says:

    I was a very nervous kid. My parents weren’t very lucky at farming and so we moved around a lot in search of better paying jobs. That lead to making our way from very rural country farm land to progressively bigger and bigger towns and eventually the city. This meant a new school every few years and having to make a whole new group of friends each time. It also meant I was always having to prove myself and fit in with the cool kids at whichever new school I was attending. The worst part of it was that the rural schools were always way ahead academically than the more populated communities. Imagine being the new kid and being way ahead of everyone else in your class. They perceived me as a show off/know it all. Translation: I got beat up a lot. It sucked.

    During one particularly bad year at yet another new school, I became prone to fainting spells. No real medical reason behind it, I was just full of anxiety and hyperventilated on a regular basis. When it happened, I was always carried out by a couple of male teachers to the nurse’s office. Instead of a fireman’s carry, they used an old wooden chair normally reserved for students who acted up in class. They had to sit in it facing the wall whenever they got in trouble. All the other chairs in class, except for the teacher’s throne, were those brightly colored plastic kind that were attached to the desk.

    As you can imagine, I hated that old chair. My fainting spells got so bad at one point, the teacher made the old chair my permanent one and used a stool for the bad kids to sit on.

    Thankfully, I discovered books. I took solace stories of adventure and mystery. Whatever I could get my hands on really. Books became my only escape from the misery of class. The characters in books became my friends and gave the confidence to grow out of that phase of my life, but to the this day, I can’t sit in one of those old wooden chairs.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Oh, man, that sounds unpleasant. If we ever meet, I’ll make sure no wooden chairs are present.

      Happy to hear books cured your fainting spells! They’ve cured quite a few things for me.

  • Paulette says:

    “chair” will always mean Ya/Ya chairs to me. I discovered Ya/Ya (Young Aspirations/Young Artists) in New Orleans, an after-school arts program designed to help motivate, encourage and keep kids in school. I had to own a student-painted chair! Purchased one and had it shipped home. When it arrived, it had been damaged in shipping! Trying to explain to UPS that, yes, indeed, I did spend over $300.00 for this simple little wooden chair was a nightmare. Anyway, they covered the cost and we were able to commission a new chair to be painted and shipped, at no cost to us. When new chair arrived, UPS agent came by to retrieve the broken chair. I could not believe that they were going to destroy it, so I offered the guy $25.00, which he took, had the chair repaired and now own two student-created chairs!

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