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Please, have a seat

“His humor was a little bit off-balance.”

Sometimes you will hear such a statement after a comedian’s performance. For me, that’s the way life has been for the last couple of months. During the rush of harvest season last fall, the tilt mechanism on my office chair started to get really weak and finally gave out entirely. My chair would tilt back at all times. In order to sit level in it, I’d have to be on the edge of my seat, which wasn’t comfortable. All it should take to fix something like that, I thought, was a spring, maybe two at the most. But I was busy and didn’t have much free time to do a lot of digging.

Then it got worse. In addition to the constant tilt, a bushing also went out on the chair base. That meant my chair had also developed a lovely side-to-side motion like some kind of carnival ride. In order to sit and write a story, I not only needed Dramamine, I needed a crash helmet! In the time that it took me to write a story, I felt I should at least earn a giant belt buckle for staying on so long.

So get another chair. It seemed like an obvious solution. One problem. I didn’t go plain-Jane the first time with what the office equipment industry euphemistically calls a “task chair.” Right after I got out of college, I went to an office equipment place in Des Moines and got myself a really comfortable chair. It was a genuine La-Z-Boy high-back executive chair, seeing as how I had recently become an executive, and my back is kind of high. Now I decided it was time to trade up.

Notice that I did not say trade down, or even sideways. I wanted to trade up. Despite never having attended law school, what would be so wrong with people mistaking me for a judge at my desk? Judges always look deeply thoughtful, relaxed and downright contemplative in their giant chairs. They don’t look burned out and held together by bad coffee and duct tape, do they? And really, would I have to wear a powdered wig to occupy a chair like that?

The final tab for my chair back then escapes me, but it was somewhere around $750 or $1,000 in late 1990. Right up until this past fall, that was money well spent. All the material for these stories comes from me being in good spirits as I sit at my desk. Who knows, in a plain-Jane chair, maybe I never would have written the “Tool Time” piece that got me the gig as a columnist. Maybe I wouldn’t have written it well enough. Obviously, the chair deserves a lot of credit.

(In the dictionary, you will find that paragraph under “guy-spending-logic-and-rationalization.”)

Watching my chair plight from a distance, Guy No. 1 had a suggestion for me. He thought I should get a chair like he had acquired recently. I’ve included a photo of it. It’s designed to improve your health, especially the muscles that don’t get worked in a traditional chair. He described it to me over the phone before I went to look at it. When I saw the oddity myself, I made a mental note: Never, ever, under any circumstances, buy a used vehicle, real estate, merchandise or anything else over the phone from Guy No. 1 without seeing it in person first. Twice. From multiple angles.

I can’t be comfortable in a chair where I’d be constantly concerned someone might actually see me in it! So I kept looking.

My next stop was a more traditional equipment route: My Deere dealer Honest RC, The Farmer’s Friend From Beginning To End. I sent RC an e-mail and asked where I might be able to get my hands on a lovely piece of furniture like his supreme boss has. RC was on the case in no time flat and had an answer for me within hours. Bob’s major-league chair came from a furniture store in Des Moines.

I thanked RC kindly for his work and sent him a note: “I’ll include a photo of GN1’s latest purchase. It’s a chair he thinks is comfortable. Personally, I disagree. It’s one that came recommended by his chiropractor. Personally, I think it looks like it needs to be lanced, but that’s just me.”


Welcome to my world, RC.

Once my schedule and the weather cooperated enough, I finally slipped away on a chair mission to central Iowa. I entered the address information for the furniture store into Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong on my dash and made my way to Chair Central. The moment I walked in the door, I had a hunch it was going to be pointless. Everything around me seemed to be sort of a minimalist display. None of the office chairs looked to be very beefy. They looked like kind of spindly, flyweight stuff. I did not see a single chair that would make me want to kick back, toss my feet up on my rich, mahogany desk, light a cigar and explain to a guy in a seed corn hat why signing a purchase agreement for a $350,000 combine was a good thing. I saw a lot of chairs you’d sit in to call someone and tell him his insurance premium was being raised and his coverage was being denied.

The sales guy seemed to try to steer me into a couple of flyweight-style chairs. Once I determined he wasn’t going to help, I decided to play along as though I actually cared what he was telling me. “Yeah, I’d love to see the literature for this art deco piece of junk so I can choose whether I want pewter or metal flake for the arms. Swatches! Please tell me we’re going to move to fabric swatches next!”

No sense wasting any more of everyone’s collective time. I hit the road again. Somewhere out there, comfortable seating was waiting for me.

I programmed my destination into my Garmin GPS and got to the giant Redeker’s store in Boone. It only took a second or two once I was inside before a sales associate asked me if she could help. We went back to the far corner of the complex and looked at a couple of nearly flyweight chairs. Then I mentioned that I was looking for something with a really high back, and preferably covered with some deceased bovine. That took us around another corner to a different display.

Just as we made the turn, I was pretty sure I heard a chorus of harps. Lo and behold, the chair I was looking for was right in front of me. With all the self-control I could muster, I managed not to scream, “DONE! Load it up!” Instead, I looked it over and sat down for a test. It was A+ work, maybe even with extra credit had there been a footrest to kick out on the bottom of it. There was no footrest, so I’d have to settle for just an A+ chair.

Then came the good part. I looked at the tag on the chair. A suggested retail price of $1,399. That was actually cheaper than I expected. However, let’s get real. Suggested retail??? Jeff Ryan??? C’mon!

Redeker’s had the chair priced to move. It started with a 7.

Done and done.

We went to the front counter to do the paperwork, and my salesperson asked if I wanted the chair delivered. I suggested that I had my truck, so I’d take it with me, because I was pretty sure they wouldn’t deliver it where I live. That’s when I pulled out my card and handed it to her. She read the card and laughed. Perhaps she will follow up and actually visit the Web site on the card to read some stuff. Thanks to her company’s lovely product, I am confident the Web site humor supply will not run out for some time to come.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some work to do. I just hope I don’t drift off to sleep in the pillowy, luxurious comfort of the Guy No. 2 task chair.

Guy No. 2

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