It was two years ago. I remember it well. I was walking down Manhattan Avenue when I spotted the most beautiful office chair I’d ever seen in my life. It was sitting in front of a thrift shop, glistening in the warm July sun.
If you know anything about me, and the chances are you don’t, you know that I’m not the kind of guy who walks around looking for office chairs. It’s just not something in my day-to-day consciousness. But when you see a piece of furniture that really speaks to you, it’s a whole other story. This is that whole other story.
I went in and inquired about the price of the chair. The guy told me $200. I couldn’t afford it, though it was worth every penny. This was an old office chair. I imagined it belonged to an aged writer who would sit in it every day smoking a pipe, with a scotch at his side, writing the great stories of his time. The chair was black leather with a cherry wood trim, was worn and faded. The varnish was cracked in places, giving it a rustic look. What I’m trying to tell you here is that the chair had character. But I didn’t have $200.
It was by chance that I came upon the chair again a few days later. I noticed that the chair had gone down to $165. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t sold. It was then, that I decided to start biking to the store every morning to check on the price of the chair. I kept asking the guy, “Will the price go down any more? Can I make you an offer?” “Absolutely not!” he replied. “It will not go down another penny! I’m already losing money on this chair!” “Are you positive I can’t make you an offer?” I asked. “No,” he said.
And yet miraculously, day-by-day, when I’d visit the chair, the price would drop. Then one day, I showed up, biking with my dog at my side. There was the chair, marked down to $60. Someone was looking at it with a look that made me feel it was now or never. I ran in. “I’m buying the chair!” I said. I gave the man $60 and proceeded to bike twenty blocks home, with my dog’s leash in one hand and the chair in the other. I nearly got into accidents several times along the way, as I dangerously held onto the top of the chair, balancing it with the bike and my dog. Sometimes my dog would stop suddenly others the chair would come to a halt, because its wheel kept coming off. I’d have to get off the bike, re-attach the wheel, and continue on. At one point during the ride, a man stopped me. I thought he was going to compliment the dog but he yelled, “Hey! That’s some chair!” I replied, “Yes it is sir. Yes it is.”
When I got home, it felt right. I put the chair in my crappy little office room and all of a sudden, I felt like a big shot. Every time I sat in that chair, I got a great sense of importance, a feeling that I was going to accomplish terrific things.
During the next two years, I would enjoy sitting in this chair almost every day. When my girlfriend moved in with me, it was always a race to the chair when we wanted to get work done. This was no ordinary chair.
One time, while we were sitting in the chair together cuddling, one of the wheels broke. I wound up calling six or seven caster companies until I found one that had these old timey wheels in their warehouse. The guy on the phone told me I was very lucky because these wheels were hard to come by. He shipped them over to me right away. The price: $7.
The chair and I continued to share good times, until one day the metal attaching the seat to the legs broke.. After quite a bit of research, I found was one place in the neighborhood willing to try and weld the chair for me for $20. For the second time, the chair and I went out on an adventure together. I rolled the chair this time, on foot. The chair and I weren’t as young and stupid as we were two years ago. And so we thought we’d play it safe.
When we got to the welders, they were real tough Brooklyn guys. They were the kind of guys that make me feel insecure about my own manliness when I’m around them. I started talking with more gravel in my voice. I hate to feel like a helpless guy around these tough blue-collar types. I started making up stories about how I wanted to weld the chair myself. “Why didn’t you?” one guy asked. “I never learned how to weld,” I said. “I always wanted to.” It was a total lie. “Not that hard,” the guy said to me, with no emotion in his voice. He gave me a cold hard stare. “Yeah…” I mumbled. I didn’t have a comeback for that.
I stood there quietly while he welded the metal. “You welders are cool guys!” I said, immediately feeling like an idiot after processing what I just said. The staring guy didn’t respond. Another moment of silence. “I’m a comedian, you know,” I said. “So?” he replied. Now I felt like there had to be a “so.” I don’t know why I even said it in the first place. I was probably just trying to justify the fact that I don’t weld. “Soooo,” I replied, “I can get you free tickets to a comedy club if you ever want to go.” “Nah,” he said. “I wouldn’t wanna go.” He was a real tough guy.
I rolled the chair back home after they were finished and for another week it was just like old times, until the welding job came undone. It still sits there in my office because I don’t have the heart to get rid of it. The chair has taken on a personality of its own. We’ve been through stuff together. We’ve been in the trenches. And I decided not to leave him to die, even if he yelled “Go on without me!” One day I will find a medic who can repair my fair chair back to its original glory. And together, we will get work done, and write the great stories of our time.