HISTORIC INVENTIONS # 57

We tend to take the common chair for granted. Actually it’s one of the most important inventions and has contributed as much to the advancement of civilization as the wheel, indoor plumbing, vel-cro, Tupperware and beer, to name a few of the great scientific breakthroughs.

Without the chair, mankind (and womankind) would become exhausted a few hours into every work day and too pooped to figure a way to reach the moon, invent the Internet and improve our healthcare systems which, by the way, would be overburdened with bunion, sacroiliac and varicose vein cases.

We don’t know who invented the chair. It might have been the same ancient ancestor who invented the wheel, the intellectually gifted Cro-Magnon (Let’s call him or her “Aah!”) who realized it was easier to roll a log into the cave than carry it. After a long hard day in the forest competing with sabertooth tigers and gigantic bears as a hunter, and possibly as a huntee, Aah! came home and plopped down onto that very same historic log. Suddenly, Aah! understood it was a much better perch, even with the painful splinters, than the cold, sharp edgy rocks of the cave floor. Aah! spread the word and log seats began to be rolled into all the neighborhood caves.

We owe a great deal to Aah!. Imagine a chairless world. There you are, dressed in you best, dining on the polished oak floor of a 4-Star restaurant or standing in a Broadway theater during a two-hour performance.

Imagine impatient patients pacing wearily in chairless doctors’ waiting rooms, reading old magazines with blood pressures rising. Strap-hanging would be the only option on trains, planes and buses. Those too short or otherwise unable to grasp a strap, would be, for safety’s sake, fastened somehow to the walls of the vehicles or the aircraft and, during cross-country flights, would miss the feature movie and the included peanuts snack.

Automobile drivers would be standing at their steering wheels like Ben Hur during his chariot race. This brings to mind the ancient Romans who, according to historic movie scenes, preferred to dine while reclining sideways on their couches even though chairs were available. What messy meals they must have had! Could this odd unacceptance of chairs been a factor in the eventual fall of the Roman Empire?

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