Thursday, October 04, 2012

Talk about an accident looking for a place to happen

As it happens, I very much like swinging. (No, not that kind of swinging. Swinging-swinging.)

Oh, I haven’t done it in years, but I did spend many enjoyable hours in the past, swinging away.

What’s not to like?

You’re outside and, more than likely, it’s a nice day.  Although swinging is pretty much a pleasant-weather activity, you might go swinging in the cold – or even gloom of night. But probably not during rain, snow, sleet, or hail.

You are experiencing the laws of physics up close and personal.  No E = MC2 to try and wrap your brain around. No Higgs bosun particle to parse. Want to swing higher? You – and just about every other six year old on the face of the earth – knows how to swing. Just put your legs together and pump.

And swinging can be as calm or as scary as you like. And you pretty much control which it is.

Calm, of course, is fine when you’re in junior high, and your best friend is sitting on the swing next to you, and you’re just gliding a bit back and forth, maybe not even taking your feet off the ground, but maybe twisting the ropes/chains so that you can do an unwinding twirl, but mostly you’re talking about your period, or whether Billy M is cuter than Billy T, or whether this year’s nun is crazier/nicer than last year’s nun.

As any swinger knows, scary is far, far better than calm.  Even a scaredycat little kid like I was knew that.

We had a swing set in our back-yard. By neighborhood standards, it was high end. It had three swings and a glider, rather than just two swings. And the green stanchions were thicker and sturdier than the skinny legs of the red and white low-end, two-swing sets. But my father never actually got around to anchoring the set very well. So if you got all three swingers, and maybe even a kid on the glider, and you all swung in time… Well, the legs of that swing set could lift right off the ground. Wheee!!!  I can still remember the wonderful thumping sound when the swing set settled back down to earth when we all swung forward. (Of course, by that point, the back legs were airborne.) It’s really a wonder that no one was killed. (Mid-century childhoods were hardly free-range, but compared to today’s constrained and planned-out middle class childhoods, ours were Huck Finn-ish.)

And then there was always the possibility – never achieved in the Rogers’ backyard, as far as I know it – that, even on your own, you could swing so high that if you just leaned back a smidge, you’d loop around on the swing set.

So, swinging is fun!

Business meetings, on the other hand, reside more or less squarely in the no-fun zone. Sure, there are outliers, where something amusing, interesting, or wildly, preposterously out of control happens. But mostly not. Even when meetings are “productive” and something is actually accomplished, they’re seldom fun.

And now British designer Chris Duffy is trying to inject an element of fun into meetings, and has:

…developed this swing table for the office. “When you’re on a swing at a formal table, there’s something quite hard for your brain to get, and it makes you smile. It really is fun.”

Duffy London, which started manufacturing the table in 2010, has so far sold five in Europe and is receiving inquiries from startups looking to furnish their offices. 0927_swingtable_630x420Each piece is made to order and customizable. “Some companies want each part in different shades of green,” Duffy says. (Source: Business Week)

Cost: £6,895 ($11,218), lampshade not included

To quote Wolfgang the Nazi from Laugh In, I think this is one of those “very interesting but stupid” ideas – at least for every place I’ve worked.

What happens if everyone starts swinging in the same direction? What about if everyone starts swinging in the opposite directions? What happens to everyone’s legs if they meet in the middle?

Oh, yes, I’m sure that in a calm, well-behaved office, this might work.

But what about in a scary office?

And, oh, yes, I’m sure that if your manager’s at the meeting, order will be maintained and everyone will be calm and well-behaved.

But what if – as has happened on occasion – your manager’s a complete and utter a-hole who just wants to stir things up?

And what if a bunch of employees who aren’t even at a legitimate, important, calm and well-behaved business meeting decide to have a little ad hoc, informal gathering in the swinging meeting room?

Collision! Mayhem! Calamity! Broken limbs. Broken teeth. Broken necks.

I note that Duffy has some startups interested in getting one of his swing sets.

My advice to them: stick with the video games or foosball tables. They might be just as big a productivity suck, but they probably won’t result in any loss of life. (Kids, don’t try this in the office!)


Duffy London actually has some other rather cool and interesting designs. My personal favorite: this magic carpet coffee table.

Flying Carpet Coffee Table

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