First-years: Have a seat

Thomas Humphrey | Freshman Press Writer

The moment I stepped into my freshman dorm, my breath was taken away by the majesty of it all: The mirrored closets, the geometric carpet patterns, the Victorian-styled woodgrain furniture. The beauty of this place sunk into me in a moment of ecstasy, and I felt one with the spirit of St. Louis. However, with a single turn of the head, my moment was ruined. I saw the chair. Immediately my eyes were assaulted by this affront to interior design. Boring, generic and gray, its design was reminiscent of the TV static that fills your brain as you take a seat. Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe the torture of sitting in a poorly designed desk chair. As soon as I sat my body was locked into an awkward position: Too low for proper posture but too upright to provide lumbar support in a slouch.

Now, maybe I have unrealistically high standards for chair comfort. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a desk chair that I truly enjoyed—but there is another option. Replace the desk chairs with wingbacks: You know, those really tall, moderately comfortable chairs that were always in your grandma’s house. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, that’s such a great idea! Why hasn’t the school done that already?” and I agree. I know a few naysayers out there will start babbling on about the impracticality of it all, but I want all of those pessimists to consider something. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans are suffering from back pain at any given time. Now I’m not saying that replacing all of Washington University’s desk chairs with wingbacks would improve the back pain problem in the U.S., but it certainly wouldn’t make it worse.

Although wingbacks are my preference, they aren’t the only possibility for a comfortable seating change in our dorms. Recliners might be a good choice, or maybe a sectional or even a futon to add some variety. You could even put in those weird-looking chairs that look like you are sitting in a big hand, or those suspended little spheres. Womb chairs, reclining desk chairs, big professional leather chairs—I would take a dentist’s chair, to be honest. The dorm room chair diversity is worryingly low. There is a whole wide world of chairs out there, yet most colleges and universities seem to stick to the boring gray desk chair template.

Listen, if I don’t want to be sitting in a chair, I’m much more likely to fall out of it. That’s just me exerting my will on the universe subconsciously, and it’s unavoidable. The only way to be sure you avoid chair-related injuries is to sit in a chair you want to sit in. That’s why I want to propose a chair selection program as individualized as our academic programs. Maybe you stand on your chair to do yoga and don’t want wheels, or maybe you want to race your chair downhill with your roommate and want highly lubricated wheels. That should be up to you. An ideal campus would be a campus where no two people have the same chair.

Chairs are an important part of human history. From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to great European monarchs, the complexity and beauty of their thrones were a signal of their power and a status symbol. Now in our modern age of equality the chair is shared by everyone, peasant and prince, but this is no excuse for them to be uncomfortable and drab. In this era of riches, every student should have a throne, but what are currently present in dorms are hardly better than a common stool and I cannot stand, or, rather sit, for that.

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