My Absolutely Uncool Work-From-Home Arrangement

I’ve been doing some work from home. I used to dream of working from home: the freedom! The comfort! The unstyled hair! (Refraining from the obvious and overused anecdote about working in one’s underwear.) But with two kids in a 2-bedroom apartment, working from home wasn’t the ideal I made it out to be.

The kids could be a distraction, but it wasn’t anything that a set of cranked  headphones couldn’t fix. My work setup was the real problem. It’s really true that you get what you pay for, so given the $10 investment into office furniture, I shouldn’t be surprised.

THE DESK

My desk looked like something that was thrown out as trash by our neighbor, which was most likely due to the fact that it was. I’d been needing a desk, and when we went out for a walk one day, there one was, waiting on the sidewalk for a date with the dump truck. There weren’t any bulging trash bags or chicken bones laying on top of it, so since we’re not ones to pass up a nice piece of refuse, we brought it in and set me up a sweet “vintage” workstation.

After a scrubdown, the desk functioned: it held my laptop without exploding into splinters. The problem was with its setup. Apparently, the setup of this desk was deemed so poorly designed that I couldn’t even find a stock photo of it on Google Image Search, so some poor photoshopping will need to suffice. The desk was like this

except that it didn’t house a cute droid-like file cabinet. The poor Photoshop job was me trying to convey that a plank of particle board was affixed lengthwise about 6 inches from the floor. Ideally, I could rest my feet inside the desk, but the desk was so short that even I, 5’5 Cool Dad, couldn’t fit my legs into it. My feet had nowhere to go.

Instead of sitting at the computer in relative comfort while doing my work, I had to bend my knees and keep my feet under my chair at all times. This constant hunched position was murder on my back. Fortunately, CM worked out a switcheroo. I’m working now at a real desk with plenty of footspace, while the former desk has been relegated to “TV stand” duty.

THE CHAIR

But there’s still the issue of the chair. Today’s top-of-the-line ergonomic office chairs cost as much as $2,000. Here’s what I work, write, and play in:

The IKEA JEFF folding plastic chair, which commands as much as $10 at your local IKEA store! I’ve grown to mightily dislike this chair. It’s fine for eating at the dinner table, but not for sitting at a computer for hours.

On top of the contortions I have to make to be comfortable – Indian-style, sit on one leg under me, slouch back – the metal joints on the chair squeak as if I’m sitting on a big rat (which I admit isn’t out of the question in NYC). I work in our bedroom (which is supposed to be the living room), right next to our bed, so I’m afraid CM will awake whenever I selfishly shift my weight 2 millimeters to the left.

The nagging discomfort and the constant squeaking convinced me to get a new chair.

I looked on Craigslist and found a decent used office chair for $35, while a new chair with similar features would cost me $100. You can see it right here – mesh back, padded armrests, pneumatic lift. It was the best deal around, but then a strange and sobering thought crossed my mind:

Someone’s been using this chair for years. Sitting on it. With their butt. For years.

Someone was sitting on it during hot, sweaty summers. Someone was sitting on it while passing gas. Someone was sitting on it in their underwear (or worse). And that’s not even considering the possibility that it could have bedbugs.

A good 30 seconds later, I decided: I’m going to buy new. Saving money is one thing. Not getting a chair that’s been broken in by underwear-only-wearing freelancers is entirely another (and better) thing.

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