July 14, 2015

putting my FOOT down!

Being an enthusiastic traveller, I was very excited to be travelling again. At the airport, I saw old ladies carrying small foldable stools in their bags. Why? I wondered. Why would anyone make their bags unnecessarily heavy? Do they want to be able to access the overhead bin themselves, or are the food counters really high? Why? Could not get an answer! I boarded the plane and settled in to begin my month-long vacation. After so many months of exhaustive work, I deserved it. The chair was comfortable enough, and I dozed off. After about half an hour, I found my feet dangling in the air, struggling for comfort and a place to sit on.  I woke up to realize that there is no footrest below the seat in front! The feeling of being trapped in an enclosed space with this discomfort for the next 15 hours, made me slightly claustrophobic.

Foot stools or Ottomans have been around since the Ottoman Empire. They were designed to provide a soft cushioned surface to rest the feet after a day of hardships. Over time, these evolved to take various forms from simplistic wooden rails to adjustable mechanical foot pads. However, despite a luxurious past, these footrests haven’t been able to find their way in the realm of prolific public use. While ergonomic scientists argue that footrests ensure proper blood circulation to the feet, why is it still considered a luxury? Why has it not found a place in the design language of mass-produced chairs installed in public spaces?

The memory of the simple rubber-padded top almost equal to the width of the seat, supported on a metal framework hinged on top to enable height adjustment, lingered in my mind. The foot pad is usually installed below the seat in the front and engraved with some pattern to provide appropriate friction between the feet and the pad. It seemed that the airline simply did not care for the comfort of its users and mechanics of this sedentary activity were too much to get into.

I struggled through the flight, with my handbag serving as the footrest. Exhausted, I made way to the train station to get to my brother’s house. Words cannot explain how liberating it was to see chairs with footrest in that Amtrak train. I almost felt like keeping one of those with me forever. It occurred to me why those ladies were carrying small portable stools in their bags. They suddenly seemed so much smarter now.

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