Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I was a wee child, there was no such thing as portable chair technology. When you went to the beach or pool, the adults took, at most, one of those folding A-frame back jacks made of striped canvas and wood. They were handy so the adults could sit up and smoke, or read, or watch the kids (in that order of priority). At home you might find those aluminum webbed folding chairs. But, usually they weren’t lugged around for a mere day at the park or the beach. You might have seen them strapped on the back of a camper or on top of a station wagon on its way to the campgrounds. But, other than that, I don’t seem to recall portable chairs as being an important lifestyle accessory.
Times have changed. Not only in terms of the vast array of portable sitting options, but also in how less portable my ass has become. I think it was shortly after I hit 40 that I said to myself, “self, wouldn’t it be pleasant to sit in a lightweight chair rather than on the ground when enjoying an outdoor concert in the park?” But, being as this was something I only did a couple of times during the summer, it didn’t seem worth the investment. So, I started bringing my meditation cushion with me to these rare events. It worked for a while. It gave me some loft, some cushion and some protection against the occasional rocks and pebbles that one can feel under just a blanket. I tended to resort to a meditation posture whenever I was on the cushion, so as you can imagine after a few hours of sitting like that, it got pretty hard on the knees. Maybe the next summer was time to make that investment in a real chair.
When the next summer rolled around, the boyfriend dragged a couple of small folding concert chairs out of his garage. They belonged to his ex-girlfriend. Now, knowing how cheap his ex-girlfriend is, no doubt these were purchased for maybe a buck a piece at a garage sale, or she raided a “free” pile that had been left outside someone’s house. I went ahead and plopped my ass in one of them just to test it out. While it looked flimsy as all hell, it seemed to work, so we grabbed them and headed off to the San Francisco Blues Festival.
As usual it was a beautiful day at the Blues Festival. It always is. Early Fall is one of the best times in the Bay Area, and is also when a lot of the outdoor music festivals take place. Anyway, I forgot who was on stage when it happened. It’s all a blur. All I remember is that I was sitting back down after grabbing some fish and chips at one of the food stands. Hmmmm. I was so looking forward to digging into my deep fried fish slathered in salt and vinegar. Then it happened. As I sat down the chair fell apart. And there was my ass, my lunch, and my dignity all scattered on the ground. Not only had I lost my beloved fish and chips, but any trust I had in folding chairs, particularly cheap folding chairs, was gone.
The next summer’s music festival season snuck up on me, as it always tends to do. I had not made any progress in getting over my folding chair phobia, and I wasn’t keen on sitting on the ground or my cushion. But, the the boyfriend was not prepared to sacrifice going to the Cotati Accordion Festival due to my neuroses. What to do?
I don’t know who noticed The Bench first. I’m guessing I was the one to jokingly suggest it. After all, who brought their own bench to the park? Yet, The Bench was kind of the perfect size for two people, hella hella sturdy, and small enough to fit in the backseat or trunk. Why not?
When we took it to that first Accordion Festival, it was kind of a hoot. And I walked in proudly with my bench, and almost enjoyed the attention. But, with each summer, with each festival, The Bench went from being a light-hearted jury-rigged solution to an immediate problem to an onerous symbol of my own neuroses and laziness in not going out and getting a decent folding chair. There was really no excuse. I mean, have you seen how far folding chair technology has come?
Finally, this year I went out and got myself a decent folding chair, a reliable, well-tested folding chair. And just in time for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (HSB). I was ready. No more lugging that damn, stupid bench. We both had chairs, just like normal people. Yet, since HSB had six stages and there were two stages where we were going to see at least two acts each, the boyfriend claimed he needed to bring The Bench so we could secure a spot at both stages – one we would hold with the folding chairs, and the other with The Bench. Oh crikey.
I’m looking forward to the day when The Bench becomes merely an amusing anecdote, and it takes it rightful place back with its three breathen in the backyard – ready to do its duty as a place to plant my butt during a BBQ. Sorry bench, but if I have anything to do with it, your traveling days are over.