Michael Karlesky

A cabinet of wonders. Minus the cabinet. And possibly the wonders.

That time I took an office chair on the subway and played like a talk show host.

Roommate and I have been slowly getting settled into our new apartment. I had essentially no furniture to speak of when I moved to New York. And we figured out early on that we would likely be moving out of the first place we shared. All this to say that furnishings did not begin happening in earnest until the last few months. Desk? Check. Bookshelves? Check. Bed? That fits me? Double check (thanks, Mom and Dad). Office chair? And that brings me to our story.

When I'm at home I'm often working on schoolwork. When I got an actual desk, I had this uncanny desire to actually sit at it. Which required a chair. That I was far too often borrowing away from my roommate. Justin's chair is an Aeron. Aeron chairs are fantastic. Especially size C that fits me. I got it in my head that I needed to get one. The cost of a brand new Aeron is prohibitive. So I began watching Craigslist and also dealing with the flaky people that use it. Several good deals slipped through my fingers. It took weeks and months to find a chair in the right size at an affordable cost. Even then I had to make an arrangement to pay a deposit to actually buy the chair. The seller had been similarly burned by Craigslist flakes, and my commitment to buy the chair was not getting the job done otherwise.

Our arrangement was for me to pick up the chair on a Sunday afternoon after church. On the Friday morning before, I got a message from the seller saying that pickup needed to happen Friday. Thankfully, at the time, though I was full up with school, I had enough flexibility to make this work.

It was afternoon before I could get out to pick up the chair. Thanks to ZipCar, I could have gotten a car for a couple hours. But as rush hour in Manhattan would be creeping up on my return trip, I thought it best to avoid an automotive four-wheeled conveyance. The subway was my only option.

I rode the subway into Manhattan and got a good deal of my weekly reading done in so doing (I do most of my coursework reading on the train, in fact). I picked up the chair with no real trouble. I then proceeded to wheel it down the sidewalk and through various intersections to get it onto the subway. I got a few looks, but, hey, it's New York. My chair is not nearly as chrome-y as the one in the link above so it blends in with the drab of the subway pretty well.

When I made it on the train, I found a nice little spot for my chair against one end, nestled between the two short benches at that far end. By the next stop the train got full in a hurry. So I motioned to one of the riders standing nearby that they could take a seat. She did. And then her son came and sat on her lap. And they bounced along on that Aeron suspended seating while I learned that they were a whole family from Turkmenistan (I made that up; they did all have accents, though) sightseeing in New York. Several of us around mom and her boy and the rest of the family tried to help them figure out a route to get them down to the Macy's flagship store — next on their sightseeing list. Everybody smiled and got a big kick out of this chair. Funny how bringing a chair onto a train where half of the passengers already sit can bring such joy. If nothing else, it was the best seat on the train.

When my sightseeing family exited, the train was still relatively full. A couple gentlemen in a suit and business casual ended up near me. Once again I motioned to the chair. Once again I was playing subway talk show host, interviewing them. They both were from Chicago in New York on business. The furniture business. One of them sold Aeron chairs and congratulated me when he found out the price I had paid. In fact, they both knew Grand Rapids quite well. We talked about Steelcase and the Meyer May house and the Grand River and ArtPrize. We had a lovely chat, in fact. I had a ball with the whole thing.

I'm half inclined to take my chair on the subway again to ride up and down Manhattan picking up passengers for a one seat ride. Actually, the idea of making it into a little web video series has, in fact, crossed my mind. In the meantime, I sit in my chair, toiling away at my desk, building things like in the photo above.