Taking a stand against uncomfortable seating

By Kurt Genest

The latest research in the field of education suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an “expert” at something. Mozart and music? Ten thousand hours. Gretzky and hockey? Ten thousand hours. Gordon Ramsay and profanity? Ten thousand hours.

While mastery of such abilities is a rare feat, there is one field in which I can state with some certainty that we are all experts: the art of sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs. Unless illness, injury or truancy reared their ugly heads in your life, or a fire destroyed all of the furniture at your school, I estimate that the average Canadian student becomes a master of sitting in wretchedly uncomfortable chairs by about eleventh grade — earlier if you didn’t have to sit on the floor in kindergarten.

It is as one expert to another, then, that I implore you to take a stand against the uncomfortable seating in many of the classrooms at our university. “Bah,” you say, “replacing the chairs would only add to my hefty tuition. How am I supposed to buy my daily cup of coffee so that I can leave it under said chairs at the end of class?” You may be right, but consider that a $20 trip to the movies or a $100 trip to the dentist offer far more luxurious seating. We spend hundreds of dollars on each course and thousands each semester — is it so outrageous that we should be afforded the simplest of luxuries?

Not all chairs are made equal. Perhaps the classic perpetrators of discomfort are the plastic ones featured in the largest science theatres. Such chairs are deceptively flexible, as they allow just enough give to contort your body into an uncomfortable position, which you will surely regret when trying to win the dance competition at the seniors’ complex some years down the road.

Also prominent is the indestructible metal chair, whose lack of flexibility affords the student space only to squirm, just as a goldfish does in a plastic bag of water before its imminent demise (when you are a goldfish, your demise is always imminent). You could take a quick trip to the loo to try to escape your unfortunate predicament, but your misery will be multiplied upon your return when your shin collides with the edge of the seat and you crumple to the ground in a lifeless heap.

To be fair, not all university seating falls into these rigid categories. Some classes boast padding that would make any mattress blush like a jilted lover. These chairs can easily induce sleep when combined with warm clothing and the soothing melody of a lecturer’s voice. Those who have experienced most of their university courses in these chairs can make the embarrassing and oft-misunderstood claim that they slept their way through university.

Sore backs and broken shins are undesirable, but so is academic narcolepsy. Light padding would be ideal, and what better time than university to live by ideals? Don’t take uncomfortable seating sitting down.

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