Penkava: Three chairs for Descartes!

I think it was Descartes who said, “I sit, therefore I am,” or something like that. If his philosophical proposition is true, then our very metaphysical existence pretty much depends upon the function and availability of a piece of furniture.

That doesn’t surprise me, because it appears our happiness depends upon the size of the screen of our TV, our sense of worth is dependent upon the number of Facebook friends we have, and our search for the meaning of life is contingent upon our cellphone data plan.

But, back to Descartes. If the transitory physical positioning of oneself in a semi-erect posture is a prime determinant of one’s innate presence, then, by golly, a chair is, theoretically, as important as the air we breathe.

Thus, at this point in my life, I feel the need to re-evaluate the chairness of my existence. Taking an inventory isn’t difficult; there are basically three important chairs in my life.

The first is my trusty, crusty Amish glider chair. It sits in our living room, pointed toward the TV like a storm-tossed ship at a lighthouse. It is like resting on two perpendicular cloud-pillows set in sweet Pennsylvanian Dutch motion.

But, unfortunately, that chair has been claimed by Steve the Wonder Dog, who has discovered its simple gifts of canine comfort and has taken it over like a kid snatching a shoofly pie from a kitchen window.

My next chair is the one that I sit in at my desk at home as I write my columns. It is a wooden, armless round back chair with padded shiny red upholstery. This chair was actually from an old Chinese restaurant in Crystal Lake. It was the place where I got my favorite fortune cookie that said, “You have rice in your teeth.”

Unfortunately, the restaurant closed, but I was able to acquire one of its chairs, treasuring fond memories of burned nasal hairs from the yellow hot sauce and eating General Tso’s chicken without his permission.

But beyond the mini poodle-occupied Amish glider and the unemployed Chinese restaurant chair, there’s one more piece of furniture that I sit upon that connects with my existential self.

It is a yellow upholstered rocker that I got for free at a garage sale. It is ugly, uncomfortable and embarrassing, but the price was right.

I stashed it in the corner of my office because my wife has put it near the top of her list of her “Husband’s Endangered Goods and Assets,” along with my vintage bright orange bowling shirt with the name “Spike” embroidered above the front pocket and my statue of a garden gnome holding a sign that says, “I’m so excited I wet my plants.”

Now, I don’t know exactly what these three chairs are saying about my esoteric existence. Because I rarely sit on my Amish chair, I suppose it really doesn’t score very high on the “Descartes Metaphysical Posturepedic Scale.”

The Chinese restaurant chair, however, explains why an hour after I sit in it I want to sit in it again.

The yellow eyesore chair is a bit thornier to explain. Perhaps its pathetic appearance and incommodious composure suggest a deep-seated body image insecurity combined with an unwieldy coordinative tendency. And, despite these defects, the fact that I persist in my wretched existence implies an abnormal obliviousness to conventional awareness.

Or it just might mean that I’m really cheap.

• Michael Penkava taught a bunch of kids and wrote a bunch of stuff. He wishes his wife a happy anniversary and for his present he’d like a 3-D Pro Cyber massage chair with lower back heat therapy, MRI body scan and fondue pot. He can be reached at

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