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A few years ago, Mrs. G and I decided that the perfect medium for relaxing at home in the summer would be a pair of wooden lawn chairs, or what the French call chaise longues.
I think they call them chaise lounges here, but the phrase doesn’t sit well with me. I may as well curl up on a fainting couch the next time I want to have a nap, or start calling raincoats “slickers.”
Every year, we wheel these chairs out from the garage and into the backyard in anticipation of the many relaxing moments that will be stolen out of otherwise hectic days.
This year is no exception, but they’ve been parked on the lawn for about a month now, and nobody has sat on them. Not even once. The odd thing is that they look so inviting; the most comfortable thing in the world, actually (but I said that about those big rope hammocks that hang between palm trees until I actually climbed into one).
I should point out that these lawn chairs did not come with cushions, which didn’t make any sense at all because they need them. Mrs. G bought two really thick cushions and a couple of co-ordinating pillows from the Barn of Pottery. I believe this ensemble cost more than the chairs, which we got online from the Mart de Wal.
The first year we got the chairs, we rolled them out to a perfect spot under the shade of a majestic white pine, and dropped the cushions and pillows onto the naked slats. Man, they looked good – like something one might see beside the infinity pool at George Clooney’s place.
I was ready and fully charged to do nothing. I got my book, I got myself an iced tea, and I was all prepared to do some five-star lounging.
The little drink tray was slid out from the bottom of the chair; the back angled into one of the four preset spots. This should have been amazing, but the instant I sat down the cushion and I went sliding halfway down the chair as if on rollers. I ended up flat on my back with my legs up in the air like a dead June bug.
Well, this wasn’t comfortable. Not one bit. All that was missing from the scene was a pair of stirrups, a bright light and a gynecologist.
I went into the house, lifted the rug in the foyer and chopped off a piece of the rubber that holds the rug in place. I placed the rubber between the cushion and the lawn chair, and – voila! – no more sliding.
As I sat there, I quickly realized that the angle I had chosen was not designed for anything with a spine, so I tried to adjust it. Bolt upright wasn’t good either, and the only other options were two degrees from perfectly flat or perfectly flat. I gave up reading and fell asleep. When I woke up about 15 minutes later, I wasn’t able to feel anything from my waist down.
My wife said I should stop complaining, so I challenged her to sit on the other chair for more than 10 minutes. She couldn’t do it. “It feels like I just had an epidural,” she said.
It was hard to believe that something that looked this good could be so uncomfortable.
“Try the pillow,” she suggested, so I did. First I stuck it behind my neck, which pushed my head so far forward my chin was resting on my belly button.
“How do I look?” I said, “Because, man oh man, I feel great!”
“That doesn’t look at all comfortable. Try it behind the small of your back,” she said.
I tried that and I could hear things crack that probably shouldn’t have been cracking.
“You sound like castanets. I think you’re getting old,” she said.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get comfortable, so the chairs stayed undisturbed on the lawn as nothing more than good-looking props – except for when it rained or threatened to rain.
We’d be sound asleep and my wife would hear a little rain falling and suddenly bolt out of bed.
“Oh my God – the cushions!” she’d cry. She would then race outside in her pyjamas to save them from the rain. Meanwhile, I’d stay in bed, indifferent to the sodden load that would result if they got wet. Honestly, who makes cushions for outdoor furniture and doesn’t make them rainproof? The cushions and pillows would clutter up the porch until all threat of rain went away.
This simply wasn’t going to work, so Mrs. G found covers that snapped over everything like big lawn-chair shower caps.
Now, the formerly attractive chaise lounges looked like small pop-up camper vans parked side-by-side in the backyard.
“That’s attractive,” I said. “You should take pictures and send them to Pottery Barn. Maybe they can put them in their catalogue. You know, the one they send out to KOA campgrounds.”
To make matters worse, the chairs had to be moved every time I cut the grass. I did this until I noticed that the grass underneath these plastic-covered Easy-Bake ovens had turned into two perfectly rectangular patches of death. At least that saved me from moving the chairs and mowing under them.
And that’s where we are again this year. The chairs are naked out in the yard, this time with the cushions in plastic bags in the garage. Nobody has even attempted to use them, and the only one annoyed by this is our dog, Milo. He keeps looking up at me and wondering when we are going to set up his outdoor dog bed.
“Later,” I tell him. “Right now it looks like rain. Now leave me alone. I’m trying to relax.”
Rick Garvia lives in Spencerport, N.Y.
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