I’m standing as I write this article. Well, not just standing. I’m also periodically jogging in place, practicing my Zumba moves and throwing in an occasional downward facing dog. You see, I’m preparing myself for a brave new world. It seems that while I was sprawled on the couch watching The Matrix again, sitting had fallen from grace.
There are very few times when both Huffington Post and Fox News agree, but they have both declared that “Sitting is the new smoking.” Watching the rush of celebrities, exercise equipment companies, desk manufacturers and efficiency experts dive into the business of “not sitting” is just a small harbinger of what is to come.
Remember smoking? Everybody did it; in elevators, on buses, in theaters, after dinner, after sex, while writing the great American novel, while thinking, while driving, even while eating. Coffee and a cigarette after breakfast was the great laxative. A cigarette provided the perfect pick up line – whether it was “Have you got a cigarette” or “Would you like a cigarette?” In fact, the very act of having your cigarette lit by someone became an intimate moment of shared potential.
Then some places began to create non-smoking sections. A few fussy people, or delicate creatures with fragile lungs, sat in a not very well sheltered section of the restaurant, disdainfully fanning away any stray smoke that drifted over. Slowly, the non-smoking section grew, and the smoking section shrank. Still, there were those who loved to smoke. They would choose non-smoking seats in the airplane, and then drift back and hang out (in the days when you were allowed to hang out in the aisles) and hobnob with the jolly smokers in the back.
Soon ashtrays disappeared from parties and cars, guests guiltily sneaking outdoors for their smoke. There, they could still find a few folks flicking ashes in the lawn, French inhaling and blowing smoke rings. But when they came back in, inevitably someone would say, “Wow, I used to smoke too, and never realized how much it smelled,” or some equally condescending sentiment.
Used to be, everyone had matches or a lighter in her purse. Now, if you pull one out, eyebrows raise. You are either a Girl Scout, always prepared, or a secret smoker. In many places now, it is even illegal to smoke outdoors, except in designated areas. Smokers have become untouchables. Still they sullenly cling to their cherished L&Ms and Salems. After all, we’re all going to die anyway, right? They shrug.
Sitting is already in trouble. Standing desks are appearing in offices and classrooms. Some desks are equipped with treadmills, making the metaphor of the office treadmill even more poignant. They are fitting children’s desks with bicycle pedals, which not only burn calories, effectively attacking the nation’s obesity problem, but apparently increase productivity in children with ADD. How long before we just wire these machines to a central unit for producing our own electricity?
I can see it now. Airports will start replacing some of those uncomfortable plastic seats with ellipticals and treadmills. Those who are still in the habit, will have their designated seating section. This section will slowly shrink as chairs are replaced with a dance area. There is already a technology being used at discos where people, using earbuds can all dance to music they choose, alone together. Near the dance floor will be a complete aerial workout area with optional poi and hoop dancing. Eventually, only a couple of sad, outdated chairs will sit in a corner, while everyone else is whirling, walking, or standing on their heads. They will occasionally cluck, looking sadly at the losers in the chairs. The challenge of course will be retrofitting actual airplanes so that we can be strapped standing up and still have access to wifi and movies.
Our living rooms will be transformed. The sofa industry will go out of business. Instead, all homes will be equipped with balance balls and yoga mats. Forget the dining room. Many people already eat dinner on the run, so now they’ll be able to buy prepared meals that they can ingest as they jog. No longer will it be considered polite to say, “Come on in and have a seat.” Instead that would be considered the height of insensitivity.
There will be chair rebellions. Some people will take to carrying a chair with them to the movies or to concerts, just to be obnoxious. Retro fashionistas will install chairs as objets d’art in their salons. As chairs become scarce, people afraid to be caught sitting will pretend they are meditating.
And once the world has stopped sitting, and everyone feels they have it all figured out, someone will announce that thinking is the new sitting. I’ve got my balance ball and Zumba mix ready. Do you?
(And of course, if you want to know WHY sitting is the new smoking, check out this video.),