A Little Too Creative

Hello again. It’s been a while. Sorry I haven’t written.

I do have a small creativity-related anecdote to share, though. I have a really cool chair at work. It’s a mesh back chair with lumbar support and adjustable armrests. The armrests are the really cool feature, because not only is their height adjustable, the top of the armrest is formed to fit a forearm and can rotate inward or outward to allow good typing posture.

I love this chair. Until recently, I had one small problem with it, and I was determined to solve it, even at the expense of some of the chair’s functionality.

On the left side of the chair is a lever that moves about 1/2″ in and out. It allows the chair to lock into upright position or release into recline position. Unfortunately, the 1/2″ throw is too short, and occasionally the lever would work itself out and pitch me backward in the chair without warning.

I examined the lever and determined that there was some kind of pin inside the housing of the chair that kept the lever in its limited range of motion. Since I don’t have much of a need for the reclining position, I tried to figure out a way to hold the lever in place so it wouldn’t pitch me backward. After removing the base from the chair and taking apart the housing, sure enough, I found a pin on the shaft of the lever.

Thinking back to the section of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in which Persig’s character uses the metal from a beer can to create a shim for his motorcycle’s handlebars, I found a tin can in the break room trash. Then I borrowed some tin snips from one of the people in the warehouse and proceeded to cut a couple of strips from the can that I could wrap around the shaft of the lever between the pin and the housing, effectively holding the lever in the locked position. I wrapped one piece of tin around the shaft, and it fit almost perfectly. I felt pretty proud of myself for coming up with such an ingenious idea.

About that time, our safety director, who was visiting from another facility, walked in and asked what I was doing. I began to explain what the problem was, and how elegant my solution was. About halfway through the elegant part, he interrupted me and said, “Why don’t you just tighten up the spring so it doesn’t tip back as easily? Then you don’t have to make any modifications and you still have the full functionality of the chair.”

I guess sometimes it’s possible to be a little too creative.

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