An open letter and musical chairs

Chairs and metaphors, Part One

An open note to the little girl this morning at Einstein’s Bagel, the one whose leg I nearly crushed:

So hi.

I was at Einstein’s getting a bagel and sitting at the tall table by the window, with the chairs so tall that my feet can’t touch the ground. (I’m sure you don’t understand the special, freeing appeal of this groundlessness now because your feet don’t touch the ground in most chairs.)

I was taking the last bite of my asiago bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese, staring out the window and swinging my dangling feet, when my chair moved underneath me — just slightly, like someone walking behind me had bumped into it. So I pushed my chair back a bit and started to stand. I was done with the bagel anyway, and it seemed like I was in traffic.

But then I saw it was you. Wee skinny girl in wee wire-rimmed glasses, with straw-colored blonde hair all the way down your back. You were attempting to climb into your tall chair by holding on to the back of my tall chair. And by backing up I’d almost sandwiched your teensy leg between the two chairs; or you could’ve fallen off entirely. (How old are you? Six or seven? That chair was taller than you!)

Your dad noticed. And said: “Say excuse me, don’t just move someone’s chair.”

But I knew why you’d done it. Because it’s harder to speak up. It’s easier to pretend that you can slip through the cracks, teeter and find your balance without disturbing anyone, be invisible and therefore uncritique-able, you can’t do anything wrong if you’re never there in the first place.

I’ve gone through life this way. On a grander scale. Slipping through the cracks, trying not to disturb anyone or anything. But the same thing happens — it’s worse, in the end, to stay quiet. Because you fall, or someone else crushes you and feels horrible, or at best you expend so much more effort. And you end up moving someone else’s chair anyway.

Chairs and metaphors, Part Two

Life is not an endless game of musical chairs, where it pays to stay put so you’ll always have a seat. Problem one: Someone will eventually come along and take your chair away; when it’s time to put away the chairs. Problem two: You are missing the plush velvet, the slippy-squeaky vinyl, the deliciously cold metal, the sumptuous silk, of all those other chairs. Or jobs, zip codes, lovers and ringtones.

Get up.

Get up get up get up.

4 thoughts on “An open letter and musical chairs

  1. I said the same thing in a work meeting this week. Oh, wait — no, I didn’t. I said, “When there’s a flaming bag of poop, everyone on the team just sits and looks at it. But someone needs to pick it up.”

    I love you.

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