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The Chair

Edmond P. DeRousse June 11, 2019 at 7:37 am

 This is the true story of an office chair and a God-sent lesson to me. Only the names were changed.  

I was locked up in prison for twenty years……. From the hours of 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M….. As an educator. I taught GED for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Because I taught in a correctional facility, there was always a guard in the hallway. Correctional Officer, Bill Krammer, was a very personable young man, very fair and always quite aware of his prison surroundings. Bill always attempted to engage the teachers in friendly conversation. I liked him.

The young man’s shift was over one hour before mine. Bill had been gone for thirty minutes when I did it. … I do freely disclose and admit that at the end of my work day, with friendliness and forethought, took, Bill Krammer’s chair, and locked it up in another teacher’s room.

It was a beautiful chair. It swiveled and rocked and had vinyl covered cushions. It was chocked full of padding in all the right spots. It was better than any chair we teachers experienced. Most of ours were just chairs with arms. They had worn out seat cushions with very little padding.

Our very personable and conscientious security guard loved his chair. He even described it one time as being the thing that provided the most comfort to him during his day at work. I hid that chair. I hid the man’s comfort away. But in doing so, I had forgotten something.

When one decides to play a practical joke on another human being, one should be prepared for consequences.

I shanghaied his chair without thinking about any retaliations, that is until I was in my car headed home. Then the possible consequences of what I did began to sink in. I knew Krammer was a nice guy, but was he one who would retaliate?

I suspected he might be. In fact, I was sure he would.

The next day, I spent looking over my shoulder.

As I walked down the hall to my classroom, I noticed Bill was sitting in “his” chair, performing his normal duties. He had to know someone took his chair, but no one, that day, even mentioned the stolen chair. Maybe, he wasn’t the type to retaliate. If I could just make it through the day, I’d be OK.

I did. Nothing happened.

The next day I was vacationing with my wife. I had no worries. So being gone on that second day meant I wasn’t around to get back at. I was sure that meant all would be forgotten. I would no longer have anything to worry about. It was two days since I hid the chair. I had apparently gotten away with it.

Do not ever let your guard down when you decide to be a mischievous trickster. Very rarely will it not come back to haunt you.

Do your research before performing any mischievous deed. I forget this accepted practice of researching the victim before performing a practical joke.

Some of what happened on the day I returned to work was planned with great thought and joy. Some just happened because of circumstances. Many people were involved in the elaborate scheme to pay me back for locking away Krammer’s comfort.

At sixty years of age, sometimes getting out of bed is more difficult than the day before. This was one of those days. To add to the discomfort, my wife had asked me to do something out of my normal routine. At my age, I depend on routine. It helps lessen the stress. The wife’s request of course, gave me opportunity to allow nervous tension to infiltrate my behavior. Because of the added “Honey do”, I was running late. And of course, the traffic ahead of me was not in any hurry.

After arriving later than normal, I was met in the parking lot by the Steeles. Elroy Steele, a fellow educator, stopped his car next to me and requested I stay put for a minute. His wife, Carol, another educator, got out (that was odd) to walk with me to the entrance.

Carol told me that Frieda wanted to talk with me before I headed to my classroom. Frieda was going to leave work early. I thought that was also odd. If it was that important, she could call? But I waited anyway.

When she arrived and asked me about the movie, I saw the night before, I was a bit miffed. I did not let her know that, though. I am always in a hurry to get my classroom ready for my students and she was taking up my time for a movie question? More stress!! But I graciously answered her question and headed for my room.

A couple of minutes later, I finally arrived at my destination. As I looked through the window of my door, I saw a horrifying sight. The students’ desks were arranged in one very large circle.

So why, you ask, would I consider this a horrifying sight?

Just as I entered my room, I heard the announcement over Bill’s radio, that the inmates were lining up for school. This announcement was ten minutes earlier than usual. I had about ten minutes to move my furniture.

I had to hurry, and I had not even had the opportunity to get the classroom material together yet.

My stress level was about to elevate a couple more notches because my eyes and brain had finally gotten together and recognized the entire landscape of the room.

In the middle of that big circle of twenty-six student desks was my large heavy desk and my own teacher chair. My problem just became humongous. I guess I could conduct my class sitting in the middle of twenty-six convicted criminals.

NOT!! A convicted criminal would always be at my back.

I would have to return everything to the original location.

I am not a big guy. The student desks were not a problem, but I had to move that big desk. I could get help from the other teachers. They usually gather in the hall before class begins. But for some reason, not today. I was on my own.

The human brain can occasionally be a difficult organ. Even though it has the wonderful ability to maintain control, it sometimes gives up that control to emotion. And at that particular moment it was on the verge of losing control as it was searching for a way to justify its surroundings.

My brain reasoned that in my absence the day before, there must have been a special round table staff meeting in my room. The fact that the furniture was moved was not a problem. But why would they, my fellow teachers, not have the common decency to move the stuff back?

I must admit, though, if my thoughts could have been read, I could have won the award for vulgar language. No one was around to help me, and no one offered either.

I was totally stressed out now!

I learned a long time ago in a situation like this the best thing to do is get started doing something to fix it. Deal with the why later.

So, I slid my teacher’s chair out from my desk. Then I saw it. A note that read “I found my chair!”

Suddenly the round table set-up became crystal clear. It was like someone pushed a magic button. All the negative pent up emotions just evaporated into thin air. How could I be angry now? It was Bill Krammer. He was paying me back. I had to admit it. This whole thing really was funny.

My classroom was going to be full of inmates in a very few minutes and my room was still in disarray. The inmates would just have to help me. No big deal.

Tom and Elroy, two of the teachers, suddenly stuck their smiling faces in the door and asked if I needed any help. Of course, I accepted it.

The fact that Elroy appeared to help me put things back in order only added to the humor of this elaborate practical joke. He is an interesting character in his own right. I think he watched a few too many spy movies, though. What would you think about a guy who introduces himself as “My name is Steele, Elroy Steele, International Man of Intrigue.”?

A minute or two later, my room was back in order. I guess they waited to see how I was going to react. Obviously, they deemed it safe to enter.

God has a sense of humor and is always teaching us lessons. What did I learn you ask? Things aren’t always what they seem. I had a choice that day to stay mad and stressed and carry all the baggage that goes with it-OR-I could recognize the situation for what it really was.

At the end of the day I complimented Bill Krammer on his prank. I told him I also appreciated his thoughtfulness in letting the rest of the staff enjoy it with him.

It’s nice to know, with all the stress and the demanding environment, our staff can still have a laugh. It was a good day of laughter. Glad I was able to help.

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