Friday, October 26, 2012

The wind beneath your wings shouldn't hiss

I have this chair at work that is an exercise ball balance chair. It’s one of those Pilates balls that sits in a base with wheels, and it’s supposed to be more ergonomically friendly than your standard Mad-Men-era office chairs. (Between you and me, until this thing starts making my coffee when I get to work first thing in the morning, the jury’s still out on how much friendlier it is.)

I inherited the chair from my predecessor in the office, a yoga instructor who swore by the healing properties of the exercise balance ball. Seeing that my existing chair was torturing my sciatica on a daily basis, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The problem is that the chair has a tendency to whirl when you least expect it to, making the promised “balance” seem like a wished-for dream. One time I bent down to tie my shoelace and almost ended up in the office next door. Through the drywall, that is.

Plus, my reaction time is slower since I have to take into account the physics of the chair. Let’s just say jumping out of my chair isn’t really an option.

Which is where I was three months ago when a loud, hissing noise was coming from the hallway outside my office. It sounded like a very large snake was warning someone that he had gone too far … not a comforting sound on your average day at the office. It startled me so much that I jumped out of my chair, propelling myself off balance from the balance chair (oh, the irony!) and nearly stumbled into the hallway to figure out what was wrong.

Other employees were out in the hallway as well, trying to discover the source of the hissing. Turns out it was a loose valve of the AC unit in the conduit hoochamajig. (This is why I majored in English and not engineering.) Bottom line, the hissing stopped.

But wouldn’t you know it, it happened again a few weeks ago. As the loud hissing started anew, I sat still this time, learning my lesson from before.

But the strangest thing happened. No one else started to congregate outside my office in the hallway. The hissing was as loud as ever, but no one seemed to mind except me.

Then I noticed something odd.

As I was looking out toward the hallway over my computer screen, the screen kept getting higher and higher as the view of the hallway disappeared. Was my desk rising? Was I melting?

Finally, I looked down and realized that this was no AC valve gone awry. No, my exercise ball had sprung a leak and my hopes of balance were rapidly deflating before my very eyes.

I took the ball home, sad and deflated of any balance it ever offered, and pumped it back up, all the while laughing over how long it took me to figure out what was going on.

I’m back on my perch, so to speak, but I realized that the exercise balance ball is a metaphor for life.

I’ll be sure to let you know what it is the moment I figure it out.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. You can email her at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

No exercise balance balls were harmed in the writing of this article.

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