The reincarnation of a Porsche tire
Monday, February 26, 2018
"What's the tire for?"
Lots of co-workers saw the thing in my studio, certainly a few had been meaning to ask, but this guy was the first. I looked down at it and then at him.
"Stretching," I said, expecting "hmmm" or some other canned response.
But he just dead-stared at the thing instead as if either intrigued at exactly how such a thing was performed or wondering if he had left the roast in the oven.
"Are we done here?" I asked, snapping him out of it.
"Neat!" he shrieked, bobbling his head, and shoved off.
I guarantee that we both muttered "weirdo" under our breath parting company.
The 18-inch Conti was ruined. A nail had poked through one of the 911's back tires on Route 78. By the time I felt the rear end sway a bit, enough air had escaped to chew up the inside of the inner sidewall rendering it trash. It had plenty of tread left on it, too.
It killed me to toss perfectly good rubber in the dumpster, so I kept it. A tire this pretty could have been repurposed dozens of fashionable and useful ways. It would stay in my studio and wait to be reassigned.
Ideas came and went. Each sketch examined ways of cutting the thing up, deconstructing it, reconstructing it — each of these semiotic analyses seemed more contrived than the next. I left it alone.
It lived in my studio for the next year and a half. When a new dumpster rolled into the back lot, I decided it was where it belonged in the first place. I grabbed it, rolled it down the hall and watched it slap against the double doors. It looked sad, waiting there overpowered by the contrast of the white walls and doors.
We had developed a bond, that tire and me. One beyond the dynamics of keeping the Porsche composed through switchbacks and rolling on.
The phone buzzed in my pocket, interrupting the melancholy; I sat on the tire as the conversation unraveled. Ten minutes went by before I noticed how comfortable I was straddled over it as if on horseback. I rolled back and forth on it, hopped up and down, and pivoted my weight from sidewall to sidewall.
"I've gotta call you back," I said, cutting the caller off.
I got up, picked up the tire, brought it back to my studio, moved my chair from under the desk, and shoved it out of the studio with my foot. The tire now had a noble, if a bit unorthodox, purpose to serve.
Days became weeks falling into months. It was clear that that chair was possibly one of the worst ergonomic interpretations concerning the subject of sitting. This 285/30-18 piece of engineering offered another dimension — one so far away from the standard recipe of chair development that should I have presented such a concept to my industrial design professors in college, I would've been crucified.
The chair in my studio was physically boring. Sure, it had moments of being comfortable, but it was a limited relationship — sitting and leaning back. What the tire offered was limited only to imagination and physical flexibility. Stripped of a backrest encourages an infinite number of sitting positions, allowing fluid transitional movements shifting from one to the next. This was going to be an interesting relationship.
Straddling it was my preferred method, as if letting it roll between the legs, sitting across its width. From this position, sitting at a desk, I could roll forward and backward. Doing either changed the contact points between it and my bum, allowing for a natural shift of the spine in relationship to movement and sitting position.
It's like rocking on a rocking horse. As the hips swing forward, the back curves inward (chest out) and as the hips go rearward, the back curves outward. Both movements are a result of trying to keep the head straight with eyes fixed on the horizon.
For posture's sake, while sitting at a desk, the optimal position is to sit forward enough on the tire for the thighs and floor to be parallel. In this position, in an effort to keep the body balanced, the back curves inward, the chest juts out, as shoulders and head lean back — perfect posture. The legs could also be crossed underneath and into the tire resting on the balls of the feet for added comfort and more relaxed posture.
If sitting at the desk for a while, I can roll forward or backward incrementally, or shift the hips to the left or right pivoting on the tire's sidewall to reduce fatigue. Performing these to-and-fro, side-to-side movements revealed an untapped potential of this tire's character — core strengthening.
Gripping the edge of the desk for support, I could roll backward on the tire far enough to bring my chest down to the top of it and roll it forward again using the abdominal muscles. Rocking on the sidewall to the left or right at acute angles, worked the oblique muscles. These qualify for new methods of "exercising while at your desk" routines.
Taking these exercises a step further, I rolled the tire away from the desk, straddled it and did a 100 crunches. If you've ever done abdominal crunches using an inflatable exercise ball it's the same principle, only on a tire. The same applies doing side crunches for the obliques.
The difference between the tire and an inflatable exercise ball is that the tire is stiff and won't bounce during the routine. This eliminates the momentum that bouncing creates to facilitate the exercise and instead allows a more isolated concentration of a muscle group.
Since the tire was stiff enough to support my 145-pound frame, I started mixing in some dumbbells for an upper body workout. The tire's shape proved superior to a traditional bench, allowing for a wider range of motion and positioning.
Whereas one simply lies on a bench focusing on the muscle group being worked out, the tire required the body's core to keep it in balance. Not only was it a fraction in size compared to a bench, it was also my chair. This solved both storage and spatial issues.
The fat Conti revealed another dynamic side of its personality, a yogi one.
A common prop used by those who practice yoga, the yoga wheel helps stretch the muscles in the back, chest, shoulders, hips and abdomen releasing tension from their fibers. Wouldn't it be obvious that this tire could be used in the same fashion? Not initially, but when I started using the thing to stretch muscles — well, let me tell you something; it's euphoric.
Deadlines, last-minute design changes, production issues — the work day's accumulated stresses atomized into the air the moment I draped my back over that tire and stretched the arms outward. Pop, pop, pop — a gentle roll backward stretching even further unlocked vertebrae releasing waves of dopamine.
"Pabliiito ... can I sit on it?" another co-worker asked, sheepishly pointing at the tire in front of my desk.
"Of course ... don't worry," I said. "It's clean."
"Oooooh, I like this!" she cooed, leaning back a bit.
Salvaged from the verge of recyclability, cleaned up and given a new purpose in pragmatism, this old tire was one of the most versatile elements of waste I've ever repurposed. And it required not a single stitch of alteration. The physical rewards are remarkable, but in the end, the psychological ones were narcotic.
Lie over a tire for a few minutes and think of nothing — you'll understand.
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