Four years ago, I tried sitting on an exercise ball at work, and I've been doing so every day since. Here is what I wrote after the first day.
I sit in my desk chair like a model posing for a portrait, my head cocked to the side, one elbow on the armrest, my spine curved like a slinky. My shoulders and lower back round forward. I know my horrid posture needs fixing. I, like Dante Alighieri, realize something in my life needs to change. Dante goes looking for salvation. I embark on a slightly less arduous journey to discover the joys of sitting up straight.
Virgil cannot take me across this Acheron. My co-workers at the television station suggest The Office’s Dwight Schrute. Apparently, he’s got some experience in this area.
Circle/Hour One — Limbo
I roll the exercise ball out off the back room at work and kick it up in front of my desk. I take a second to roll it forward and find my perch. This doesn't seem so bad. In fact, this doesn't even seem like hell, but in fact like a so-so Hooters. You know how there are good Hooters and bad Hooters? You can tell. Either the waitresses are all models, or the waitresses have never flossed. But once in a while, you find one that’s firmly in the middle. That’s a rare find.
My seat is bouncy, fun and new. As I type, I dream of what this must be doing for that mild case of scoliosis I had in middle school.
Circle/Hour Two — Lust
I am a bit taken by myself, actually. Oh, what people must think of me, sitting on my exercise ball but still able to perform my job at the highest level. I look at a picture taken of myself, sitting on the ball. Oh man. I look good.
I do wish I could slump though. Perfect posture requires a little more concentration than I realize. In this level of Hell, lustful souls are blown mercilessly by a violent storm, unable to find shelter. I am being thrown to and fro by violent exercise ball kicks from co-workers. But they are just jealous.
Circle/Hour Three — Gluttony
I feel my core tightening as my mind starts to slip. Cerberus, the three headed monster, guards the circle of hell meant for gluttons: those who have committed that sin must remain in the slush of a pounding icy rain. I qualify for this punishment by wasting my burned calories on a Two Cheeseburgers Value Meal from McDonald’s, which I inhale in three minutes without bothering to use a napkin. The ball kicking continues.
Circle/Hour Four — Avarice
My playful bobbing turns into nervous bouncing as my daily deadline approaches. My upper back starts to become tender. Every time I get up, I feel tension in my quads. A production tech winds up like Ronaldo and gives my exercise ball a free kick.
The Greek god of wealth guards the level of Hell I have now entered. Oh, how I wish I had not squandered my comfortable albeit posture-killing office chair for this. For years, I have tried to hoard the best seats in the newsroom. Now, I feel like I am carrying a great weight on my body as punishment from Plutus, although that’s probably just my abs cramping up.
Circle/Hour Five — Wrath
I cross the river Styx with weakening legs, fusing vertebrae and congealing spinal fluid from this damn ball. I don’t know why I thought it would be easy. If I were really sullen about my experience, perhaps I would find myself horribly immersed under the black water of the Styx for all eternity. I guess I am not all that sullen. Instead, my wrathful side takes out my anger on my rundown. I’ll teach you to mess with me, Soundbite On A Boring Topic. You’ll pay for my pain.
A total of ten people have now kicked the ball.
Hour Six — Escape
I roll the ball into the control room and I try to ignore my stiff back by bouncing harder. I am so near escape that I can barely concentrate on the weather forecast. As the show ends, I emerge from the control room, triumphant and beaming. My co-workers are happy too. The lowest levels of Hell are reserved for heresy, violence, fraud and betrayal. I’m sure they don’t want any part of that.
I vanquish the fitness orb to the back room from whence it came. I strut into the newsroom, under the twinkling fluorescent lights, with a new appreciation for ergonomics and a properly adjusted office chair. The ball was my ferry through the underworld of mild exercise at work. It could have been worse. I mean, I could have to sit next to the police scanners all day. Now that would be hell.