Just now, as I have for the last 36 years, I sat on my Gunlocke office chair, an armless swivel model that until August 1970 was the property of Washington Gaslight Company, where, in the summer of that year, I was an engineer's assistant in the pipeline protection unit and on which, during the brief periods when I was not in the field driving a van, hacking through underbrush, or helping to dig holes in which to place lightning arrestor rigs, I sat, usually waiting for the manager to send me to Harold's Deli to buy coffee for the crew.
At the end of that summer, knowing that the WGL offices at 25th and M Streets NW in Washington, D.C., were going to close, my boss, Bill Walters, suggested I liberate my chair, which I did, hauling it home in my 1960 10-window VW Microbus.
Since then, I have owned a dozen vehicles, a couple of motorcycles, several houses, and one trade.
Rather than becoming an engineer, which really wasn't in the cards for this chronic English major, I became a writer, and nearly everything I've written, whether it was a "Talk of the Town" item for the New Yorker in 1990 or a book on the history of the American porch in 2002, myriad articles for college newspapers, dailies, magazines, and websites, or scripts for the likes of National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian Networks, or others, I wrote sitting on my Gunlocke chair.
Other people have sat in this chair, but few know the secret to balancing in it just so, letting the adjusting mechanism keep them level. Instead, they lean back and find themselves turning turtle, arms and legs flailing. Only decades of practice keep me from enduring the same. Instead, I sit, I tilt slightly backward, I go to work. My Gunlocke has never failed me.
So you can imagine my distress when, upon sitting on it this evening, I experienced the heartbreak of hearing the adjusting thread snap and, recognizing the sound for what it was, finding myself flung backwards like so many others.
I know I'm probably being ridiculous, but I always expected to sit on my Gunlocke and write until the day I died.
Michael D. Washington, DC
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