I became so distraught after reading that a new aeroplane seat concept had been created by Airbus Innovation Lab and a London-based strategic design firm that I almost fell out of my chair. The new concept seat is some sort of perforated composite frame fitted with a knitted sling seat. The sling seat is made with a polyester blended textile with conductive yarn in its weave so that it will carry an electrical current; it will connect to an app on a smartphone so you can monitor and control the seat tension, firmness, pressure, and temperature. The more I ponder the sling seat, I can’t help but think that you shouldn’t be sending electrical currents through conductive yarns in a fabric that someone’s sitting on thirty thousand feet in the air.
I hesitate to think what would happen if you’ve just loaded up a spoon with some chicken, from an in-flight meal tray of chicken tikka masala with steamed jasmine rice and peas that a cabin staff member has just passed you, and the plane dips and sways because of turbulence. Your hand clasping the spoon heavy with chicken tikka masala will lurch and pitch in reaction to the plane’s motion thereby causing the chicken tikka masala to take off and land on your shirt front, and then down between your legs. The thick tikka masala curry sauce seeping into the conductive seat fabric between your legs would have to cause a voltage surge and short circuit in your groin region.
I consider myself rather fortunate in that I have never experienced air sickness. Mum would always get motion sickness whenever she sat in a car; be it Sunday afternoon drives in the Commer and Austin around Melbourne’s suburbs, or long family holidays in the Holden. Dad tried attaching a metal chain, and then a rubber strap, to the back bumper bar to try and discharge the car’s built-up static electricity; but mum still had a bad time with car sickness. If I suffered air sickness I’d dread having to rummage through the lolly wrappers, boarding passes, wadded-up used tissues, and the orange peel and apple cores, in the seatback pocket trying to find the vomit bag. It goes without question that before I’d find the bag a heaving lurch of my stomach would cause a mouthful of warm, clouded, cream-coloured bile to spill from my mouth, splash between my legs, and onto the electrically charged seat fabric. I can’t imagine the resulting electrical discharge in my crotch area.
Back when I was growing up we didn’t have ergonomic seats or smart chairs that were able to automatically adjust their fabric tension to your bum pressure; you had Buckley’s chance of finding a soft, comfortable chair outside of the lounge room. I only remember hard chairs without cushions; seats you could drip ice cream on, seats without air circulation that caused your thighs to sweat, and seats you’d wipe down with a damp Wettex.
We had a laminex table with chrome legs and matching chairs in our kitchen. The laminex was a plain, dull, clouded, cream colour. The chairs had a solid metal frame and a laminex covered, thin wood seat; the backrest was a solid piece of wood about six inches wide, curved, and also covered in laminex. The backrest was attached to the top of two chrome uprights that formed the back of the chair. I remember the chairs being hard and uncomfortable; in summer the laminex became slippery and moist from the sweat of our thighs. The longest I ever stayed sitting at the table was Sunday night teatime when nanna and granddad came down to our house for the ritual Sunday night tea of cold lamb and salad. Some Sunday nights I’d sit at the table after it had been cleared and the dishes washed and put away, and watch when nanna and grandad paired up, and mum and dad paired up to play Euchre. Now and then nanna would play a few rounds of snap with me before the adults got stuck into their game of cards.
I also lingered at the kitchen table a little longer when we had a sulphur-crested cockatoo as a pet. The white mice, guinea pigs, and the cocky spent the night sleeping in the spare room. When we lost interest in having rodents and birds for pets, dad and granddad renovated the spare room and it became my bedroom. Each night after tea, and before its bedtime, the pet cocky sat on the back of a laminex kitchen chair; the floor under and around the chair was covered with pages from the morning’s SUN. The cocky spent most of the night chewing the laminex off the back of their kitchen chairs. I think the cocky spent more time sitting on the kitchen chairs than I did. Mum kept the laminex kitchen chairs even though they had very little laminex on the backrests; I don’t remember anyone ever asking what happened to the laminex on the chairs. Dad buried our cockies under mum’s lemon tree in the backyard; how all the neighbours and family friends admired mum’s juice-filled lemons. I wonder if the laminex in the cocky’s DNA caused the plump, juicy lemons.
Mum’s good chairs were in the lounge room and dining room; both rooms were off the passageway. Dad hadn’t cut an opening out of the kitchen wall into the dining room at that time, so the kitchen passageway door was the only way into the rooms. The door was kept closed whenever a bird was sitting on the back of a laminex kitchen chair; they weren’t allowed within a cocky’s breath of the lounge room and the dining room. And neither was I. The lounge room was only for receiving and entertaining visitors. Mum had furnished it with the formal elegance that dad’s working wage would allow. Crocheted dollies sat on the back of the sofa and the two lounge chairs; her crystal sparkled from the glass shelves of the display cabinet, and a PMG 300 Series, Bakelite Rotary Phone sat on a small table beside the crystal cabinet. Before I went up the passageway to meet the visitors mum would sternly warn us
be on your best behaviour and keep your shoes off the chairs.
If it was during the eighteen hundred’s mum’s lounge room would have been an ideal place to entertain a young lady. A place to sit and talk, and sip a cup of tea; with mum always close by to chaperone. But when I was a teenager it was a time of Love Will Keep Us Together, and the preferred place to entertain a young lady was the back seat of an FJ Holden.
Back when mum and nanna took us into town on their window shopping day, and to pay a few pounds off the Myers lay-by, I didn’t think twice about the interior of Melbourne’s Tait train carriages. Bench seats ran across each side of an aisle; each set of seats had its own sliding door and carriage window, and each window had a wooden latticed blind. Shaded lights hung from the patterned pressed tin ceiling and luggage racks were mounted onto the carriage’s stained wood grain walls. The carriage was styled after a wood-panelled parlour. Carriages were divided into first and second class, and subdivided into smoking and non-smoking sections; you sat on small hard wooden slatted bench seats in second class. First and second class was done away with on the suburban trains in the late fifties. An unyielding cushioned seat, covered with a leather vinyl material, replaced the wooden seats. Mum would let us kneel on the seats to look out the window, but only after a stern warning of
no standing on the seat; and keep your shoes off the seat.
Now that I think back, the small areas created by the layout of the seats, and the snugness and warmth created by the fine wood panelling were ideal for a chat with a young lady, a couple of whispered choruses of You Are So Beautiful, and a quick hand-holding session before the next station. If only there had been a chair rail and wainscot.
We didn’t call them W-class trams; they were just green trams. The open-door trams I rode on were made up of two areas; a sliding door separated a space at each end of the tram from the open doors and wood slatted seat area. Most men, and young boys, preferred to swing into the middle area from the outside wooden boarding step; or during peak hours wait until everyone had boarded the tram, and then holding on to the handrail ride the boarding step. I’m still not sure if riding the step was revealing your manliness or if it was avoiding the conductor.
The tram’s wooden seats were replaced by unyielding cushioned seats covered with a leather vinyl material by the time I was riding the tram to and from Flinders Street to the State College Victoria Toorak. The college was housed in Stonnington; a regal, grand old house that had been a private residence, and a former Australian Government House. An Australian Government House is the residence of the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia; the Queen’s representatives in Australia. The elegant Stonnington rooms had become classrooms; furnished with solid plastic chairs with a tablet arm. The plastic chairs reminded me of our old laminex kitchen chairs. The Number 8 tram took me to Stonington every morning and afternoon for a year. I sat on the unyielding cushioned seats; tempted to stretch out and rest my feet on the opposite seat whenever I was musing over the theoretical foundations of Educational Technology. But within my scholarship of discovery, I remembered mum’s rule
no standing on the seat; and keep your shoes off the seat.
And now if you’ll excuse me. I need to go online and find the address for Public Transport Victoria. They’re planning on replacing the seat fabric on all trams, trains and buses in Victoria with a textile that has a thoughtful design incorporating triangles. I’m going to ask if I could have a few yards of their new fabric for a shirt; I wonder if I could sew a few transistors and capacitors into the yoke.
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