For a title, I give you the gift of not making a pun

I write this slouching, of course. For years I’ve been meaning to stop slouching but always figured I’d put it off for a bit longer. This year, though, there’s been all the reading, all the hunching over 1,000-page casebooks with a highlighter, trying to make sense of Judge Cardozo or some famous English case with a half-dozen opinions, each outdoing the last in trying to state the law with that opaque concision peculiar to English judges. Then neck pain, shoulder pain. Then even the New York Times tells me that sitting will kill me and standing will save my life.

Then last week I see an online ad for a standing desk — a desk you stand at. I’d seen such things before and thought about buying or building one. I clicked through the ad and saw they cost way too much, and in any case were the wrong size for the space in my room. I happened to look out my bedroom door at the kitchen table and saw, underneath, about a dozen empty miniature crates, the kind clementines come in. My roommate buys clementines and keeps the crates around, like he lines up empty sake bottles on the top shelf above the sink.

So I grab a few empty clementine crates, turn the upside down on my desk, stack them two high, and place a piece of wood on top. Perfect keyboard height for when I’m standing. I arrange my laptop on a shelf and some of last semester’s casebooks so it’s at eye level, plug in a keyboard my roommate found discarded by someone who was moving, and I’ve got it: my own standing desk, zero cost. According to the New York Time, I now have a chance at not dying.

Now to stand at the thing. The initial test: studying for two final exams and writing a twenty-age paper. Seven days.

One-half hour in:
I keep shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. But the novelty of a standing desk is excting. (Yes, this is a sad commentary on the baseline excitement level in my life these days.) I feel virtuous. I will be as hot as Donald Rumsfeld when I’m 80.

End of Day 1
My legs are tires and standing is a bit uncomfortable, but it’s been tolerable. When I’m standing I’m more aware of my gut, which sort of disappears into my lap when I’m sitting. I end up shifting back and forth from one leg to another pretty often; maybe this is the increased movement people talk about, they key to the health benefits of standing desks.

Day 2
Today was an epic day of research and paper-writing. I did most of it standing up, but towards the end, when I was going through one of my major sources copying out passages for possible use, I decied I needed to sit down. I also ended up sitting during the day when eating lunch, for example. Definitely not standing the whole time, but much more than usual.

Day 3
Some standing, then meeting with my study group in a seminar room. The standing is fine, still uncomfortable. The sitting makes me a bit restless at first.

Day 4
Similar to Day 3. The last couple hours of the day I’m cramming for an exam, Criminal Law, and it seems to make more sense to sit. I need to get a reading podium to put on the desk.

Day 5
Three-hour exam in the morning. Then some standing paper-writing, then studying with the group, sitting. The standing feels fine.

Day 6
Loads of paper-writing, all standing. Some studying for tomorrow’s exam, mostly standing. At the end of the day, exhausted, I’m sitting.

Day 7
Three-and-a-half-hour exam. Then home to madly finish the paper. I end up writing six pages in two hours, or something like that, but sitting at the kitchen table. After turning in the exam, it’s relaxing to stand at the computer and browse Facebook for a bit before taking off for the train station.

Conclusion
From what I’ve seen so far, this is going to work. Standing for even a couple hours a day is at least a change in posture, and sometimes it makes me feel more energetic. Other times it takes too much energy, so I’ll continue to insist that even being a complete couch-potato (well, we don’t have a couch at the moment, but there’s a ridiculously cushy chair near the living-room window) is fine, if done in moderation. We’ll see whether I reach Rumsfeldian levels of endurance eventually.

11 responses to “For a title, I give you the gift of not making a pun”

  1. F. P. Smearcase says:

    What about lying down? Does lying down make you prone to death? God I hope not. I’ve come to think of it almost as a hobby.

  2. Rachel says:

    Now all you have to do is hook up a treadmill to that standing desk, and you’ll live forever.

  3. LP says:

    All this recent news about how sitting down will kill you is stressing me out so much, I’m sure that alone must be shortening my life span. I either need to get a standup desk or stop reading the news.

  4. AWB says:

    Whenever I feel like I’m sitting too much, I remember the opening words of William Gass’s terrifying academic novel The Tunnel: “LIFE IN A CHAIR.”

  5. J-Man says:

    Funny, I did something similar last week: I found a square milk-crate that was mostly just taking up room in my closet and repurposed it as a standing desk. I admit that I haven’t been as diligent as you have, Dave, but now I’m inspired. I noticed, too, that my feet began to hurt after about 1/2 hour, which probably means that I might have to give in and get proper athletic shoes after all, or one of those gel mats that chefs supposedly use.

    Erm, while I was reading this, part of my brain was sussing out what bad pun the title might’ve been. The only one came up with was “Standing Toward Bethlehem”.

  6. Tim says:

    “Stand Up for Good Health!”

  7. J-Man says:

    “Chairman of the Board” ?

  8. J-Man says:

    “Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up For your Life”

  9. Stella says:

    Sitting has giving me a degenerative disk and sciatica…stand and deliver.

  10. AWB says:

    I thought Donald Rumsfeld always stood because he has enormous balls, like a medical condition, in which one has enormous balls. I think it came from that delicious gossipy and probably untrue account of White House life by an anonymous Bush staffer, but that was my favorite part. He had to ice them all the time.

  11. AWB says:

    If you haven’t listened to this amazing interview of Rumsfeld by Louis CK, who is a genius, it’s here.