How long have I sat in a chair-desk combo contraption like this one throughout my years of sixties public school education? (The answer, of course, is probably infinity, or something ethereal or endlessly mathematical like that.)
But to be sure, let’s try answering the question by looking at one classroom subject – math. Based on the average 183-day academic year, and assuming I had a math class every day since first grade all the way through high school, that comes to an average of 183 hours times twelve years, or 2,196 hours end to end, or ninety-one and a half days without stop, or – worse yet – three months straight of summer vacation. Then, assuming there were six other periods a day I was strapped into one of these chairs – and I have no reason to doubt I wasn’t – that adds up to a total of 13,176 hours, or 550 days in a row, or an entire year and a half. My back hurts just thinking of all the hours spent in one of these straight back electric chairs.
But maybe it was worth it. As you can see, this baby boomer learned some pretty good math skills. Math came much easier than learning English, a subject I needed a whopping 2,214 hours to get me to read and write (2,196 hours of regular English class plus 18 extra hours of various after school remedial help). There’s no doubt reading was my biggest hurdle. For every hour teachers asked me to “Read quietly at your desk,” there was another wasted hour re-reading material, discovering I’d read passages three times already, or nodding off (attesting to reading’s serious narcotic effect if I nodded off in one of those hard chairs). In fact, even though libraries have far better chairs to sit in – even sofas! – I continue to get chills just walking into a library. Read more about my bibliophobia in the excerpt from chapter 6, “Reading,” from my memoir, “Maybe Boomer.”