If I am the first person to write of following issue, then there is no hope for the future of humanity. The issue, of course, is the phasing out of the comfy chairs (or “soft chairs,” as I’m told they are termed by the industry) in Barnes & Nobles nationwide. I have kept my silence for too long now; it is time for action. Now unless you’ve lost a firstborn there is surely no way you could understand my despair when one Saturday afternoon I casually ascended the escalator with the chairs’ promise of comfort, warmth, and the chance to read a good book happily on my mind, only to have that naive longing met by a tragic expanse of empty floorspace. Mournful violins played in the background as I sank to my knees in horror. “What happened to the chairs?” I distraughtly asked a nearby customer. He didn’t know, nor did the staff. Were they stolen? Unlikely, but considering the supreme comfort they provided I wouldn’t blame the thief. Were they being cleaned? I couldn’t answer myself, couldn’t think.
In a haze of disbelief I staggered home, dumbfounded, desperate to confirm my hopes that the chairs were only being cleaned, or new ones being ordered, or–well anything, really. A search of the internet revealed this catastrophe was not a particularly satanic freak incident, but a nationwide cataclysm. With building consternation I read miserable account after miserable account of people–good people–deal with the shock of Barnes & Noble’s removal of the beloved chairs. This shared misfortune was dubbed “disturbing,” multiple times, and one fortunate person whose bookstore’s chairs were not removed proclaimed their gratitude and jubilation with the intensity of an Israelite on the other side of the Red Sea, or like when a restaurant is all out of medium cups so you get a large for the medium price!
Yet even before the ink Sophocles used to write this tragic episode of my life had dried, in the memorial to the chairs that was the empty area where they once stood were put hard wooden replacements coupled with equally cold and forbidding tables. It was as if my father had married a twenty-year old girl, as if a step brother was brought into my family, as if someone gave me light mayonnaise instead of regular and called it just as good.
My research also revealed more logical reasons for the chairs’ disappearance than my speculation of a sadistic Barnes & Noble corporation or lifetimes of bad karma. The tendency of careless people to spill coffees on them and overt “friendliness” on the part of excessively libido-ed teenagers were among the more convincing.
Nevertheless, I feel us non-clumsy, more-privately-inclined-with-our-lovemaking bookstore goers have been unjustly punished. Due to potentially preventable actions by the less responsible, a significant part of our appreciation of Barnes & Noble for what it is and what it represents was diminished. In an age where television, the internet and smartphones are rocketing us down a slope towards short attention spans and virtual illiteracy (except for Ironic Poncho of course. We’re redeeming the internet), Barnes & Noble stood as a lone beacon, a refuge for the otherwise inclined amidst an increasingly anti-literary culture. Those chairs were a testament to that ideal, providing a place to sit and relax while that Steinbeck-spurning world rushed by outside. Now what are we left with? Barnes & Noble has replaced her symbol of oasis with inhospitable wooden chairs. They send the message that the reader is no longer welcome within formerly accommodating walls, that the last great bookstore is turning its back on its most ardent of supporters.
So bring back the chairs! Let that be the rallying call of all those who believe in literature, who believe in the crisp turns of the page as you read, who believe in not having a screw digging into your back while you sit. Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité! Bring back the chairs!