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The Art of Sitting
By Aaron Johnston February 7, 2005

I have long legs. Long, lanky, trip-over-myself legs. Imagine a pair of telephone poles covered in dirty denim, and you get a pretty good idea what the bottom half of me looks like.

Of course, put a tee shirt on that pole and you get a pretty good idea what the top half of me looks like. But my legs are the focus here, so let's stick with those, shall we?

I like my legs. They aren't much to look at, I'll admit, but they give me some slight advantages over, say, stumpy-legged individuals. I can reach higher, run faster, and play a mean game of hop scotch.

But having long legs has it's disadvantages, too. It's not all springtime and roses, let me tell ya.

You see, long legs only come in handy when I'm standing. The moment I sit down my long legs become a burden. That's because I no longer need them. When I stand they support the weight of my body, but when I sit, that responsibility goes to my rear end, or buttocks, if you will.

So now my legs are in the way. They serve no purpose, and yet I have to do something with them. I can't detach them and set them aside.

The argument could be made, of course, that legs aren't completely useless when we sit. Some would say that our legs give us balance, hold us upright.

But that's only true if we lean forward when we sit, like a child poised on the edge of her seat, eagerly waiting the conclusion of the story being read to her (How's that for a simile!).

And in this instance I agree: legs become handy. Without them, we'd pitch forward, land on our faces, and make ourselves suddenly less attractive.

But here's the thing: I don't lean forward. Ever.

Why lean forward? Leaning forward is silly. Why not enjoy the world lazily from a semi-recumbent position?

So I sit back, never forward.

And when one sits back, one's legs slide forward. And when one legs slide forward - legs I would remind you that at present serve no purpose - they become increasingly problematic.

At home this isn't a problem. Because at home I can put my feet up.

Take the couch, for instance. Ah, the couch. How I love the couch. Second only to the bed in my mind. There's nothing like a nice, fluffy couch. And believe me when I tell you that mine is one of the best. Covered in stains, maybe, but a nice place to rest your rump, no question.

Now, in front of my couch you will find a coffee table. Don't ask me why we call it the coffee table since it is neither made of coffee nor holds coffee cups. We don't drink coffee.

It would be more appropriate to call it the feet table. Because that's all we use it for. We put our feet on it. The couch is for the rump and back, and the feet table is for the feet.

So what's my point?

My point is this: at home I can put my feet up. But that's it. No where else can I do this. Only in the home is this considered sanitary behavior. Put your feet up at a restaurant or a doctor's office and old ladies will beat you with their purses.

And no where is this more sinful than at church. We do not put our feet up at church. Not only is it unsanitary, it's downright irreligious, some would say.

Putting your feet up in a dedicated church building is right up there with lying at tithing settlement. It's frowned upon. No, it's more than frowned upon. It's double frowned upon. It's droopy-eyes-and-furrowed-browed frowned upon.

In short, it's bad. We just don't do it.

But wouldn't it be nice if we could? Wouldn't it be nice if we all got a soft ottoman?

Think of it. There are two guys who greet you at the door: the guy who hands you a program, and the guy who hands you an ottoman. It's easy to shake the program-giver's hand, of course. After all, it's only a program.

But shaking the hand of the guy who gives you the ottoman, well, that takes a little doing. But by golly if it wouldn't be worth the trouble!

I can see myself now, enjoying the final speaker in sacrament meeting with my feet on a cozy ottoman.

But that's only a fantasy. In real life I'm wedged into some rather narrow pews with my knees at my ears.

You see, whoever designed the seating arrangements in older church buildings was, I'm guessing, about three feet tall. In other words, the early church architects weren't stocky, tall pioneers, they were Oompa-Loompas.

It's the only logical explanation I can think of.

Take the Tabernacle, for instance. Have you ever sat in the Tabernacle? The pews there are right on top of one another. The space between them is minuscule. Climbing into those seats is an experiment in human origami; you've got to bend yourself in awkward positions just to sit down.

Fortunately, the newer church buildings are far more generous in their legroom.

But our ward meets in an old building. So I have a Dickens of a time getting comfortable.

Since I can't put my feet up, what I usually do is slide my feet under the pew in front of me. This poses a few dangers, the greatest of which is bumping into the feet of the person sitting in front of me.

That's always awkward. If someone hits your feet, you think, "Do I turn around and tell them it's all right? Do I act like I didn't feel it and move my feet away casually? Or do I kick them back?"

And if you're the culprit, you think, "Should I apologize for bumping their feet? Would that only interrupt them further? Should I retract my feet and act as if I didn't notice to have bumped them? Or should I kick until they move their feet and make room for mine?"

You can see how this can quickly become an awkward situation.

But the most awkward is when you touch someone's feet and neither of you move your feet. I've done this before, thinking that my feet were touching the support beam of the pew, not someone's else's feet.

I finally realized it was someone's feet when after, what to them must have seemed like a long and awkward moment, they moved their feet.

My first thought was, "Oh my goodness, the pew is moving." But then I thought, "Oh my goodness, this person thinks I want to play footsie with them."

The only thing to do at that point is duck out of the chapel before the closing prayer and hope the person in front of you doesn't notice.

Another option I often employ is what I call the "executive cross." This is how the men on the stand often sit.

It's done by crossing one leg over the other so that the knees are practically on top of one another.

It's rather comfortable. And practical, too; when the leg on the bottom becomes tired from carrying the weight of the other leg, you can switch and rest the tired leg on top of the rested leg. This can go on for hours.

And both men and women can sit this way.

But if you have thick legs, the executive cross is difficult to pull off. It really only works with long, thin legs.

Another option is the "foot perch." Only men do this. It's done by placing the side of the foot atop the knee of the other leg.

It's not the most attractive of sitting positions since the sole of the perched shoe is now visible to other people sitting near you. And who knows what's stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Plus this sitting position takes up a lot of space, not to mention spreads your thighs apart and exposes your groin area more than some would consider socially acceptable.

Of course, the last option is the most boring option. You can sit down, back straight, legs together with both feet flat on the floor. Most people would call this the normal way to sit.

And yes, it works just fine.

But where's the fun in that?

I propose we do what the airline industry does: lets offer two types of seats in the chapel: first class and coach.

First class seats recline, are comfortable, and offer plenty of legroom. Coach seats are similar to what we have now, only they recline a little, but not enough to allow you to actually fall asleep.

And nuts. We should all get nuts.

But the question arises: How do we determine who gets the first class seats and who gets coach? Well, investigators should always get first class. I think we can all agree on that.

But besides them, first class seats should be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis. What better way to improve the punctuality of our people than to offer a clear incentive to coming early to the meetings?

Think about it.

And in the meantime, I'm going to get up from this seat and use these stilts of mine. They've been sitting here under this desk doing nothing for far too long.

Besides, I've got a hop-scotch tournament to get to.

Copyright © 2005 by Aaron Johnston

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