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General

“Are you stressed at work? Out of shape? Not sleeping well?”

“Yes, yes. And clearly yes, it’s almost three in the morning.”

“Are you looking for a fun, basic way to move around during the day?”

“Yeah, sounds good to me.”

“Do you want to become active however you can?”

“Yes, now just get to the point already.

“Do you have $19.99 plus shipping and handling to spend right now?”

“If you stop asking me questions, then I will.”

“Then try the best innovation in exercise balls to date, the Office Ball 2000! It mixes all of the fun and exercise of a bouncy fitness ball with your typical, dull office chair.”

The Office Ball 2000 was one of the oddest things you could think of, and I have no idea how anyone could think of such an idea. It was an exercise ball with a backrest hastily attached to it. The advertisement featured a woman sitting on one of the balls while behind a desk, smiling and saying how amazing and life changing the product has been. To the normal, awake individual, it would have seemed absurd. But I was tired, and was certainly not feeling like my normal self. It ended with an indoor aerial shot of a whole row of cubicles, in those cubicles were people sitting on the balls and smiling at the camera. In unison, they all yelled the name of the product and its company's telephone number.

I am not sure whether it was the absurdity of the product or my fascination of it brought on by a severe lack of sleep, but somehow I felt compelled to order it. Its infomercial was just as stupid as others typical for the three in the morning time slot, but it had a strange sense of charm to it. I did not completely know its purpose or if I had any reason to buy it. I did know, however, that I was going to put down my bowl of Cheerios right then and there to waste $19.99 plus shipping and handling on a mysterious product that was most likely not going to have any practical function. 

It felt impossible to wait seven to ten business days for the Office Ball 2000 to arrive. When the mail delivery man rang my door on the ninth business day, I opened my apartment door to see him with a box that held the Office Ball 2000, and the package was significantly smaller than what I expected. As soon as the man was gone, I opened it to see instructions on how to make the ball's backrest and another set of instructions of how to inflate the ball by using the tools and drawings included. It felt like the hassle of Ikea but for a ball. After an hour of sweat and tears over a bouncy chair, my boyfriend Tony walked into our living room, which was in complete disarray. He looked at me and then the mess with a confused look. 

“What are you doing, Heather? And why do you smell so bad?”

“Shut up, Tony. Help me make this thing.”

He kneeled on the ground next to me and looked at the box. “What is an Office Ball 2000? Oh wait, babe! You were up at three in the morning watching reruns of ‘Gossip Girl’ again, weren’t you?”

My guilty pleasure television series had brought me more shame than ever. He always knows me so well. “Maybe.”

“I can finish the rest of this, just relax for a bit. You seem exhausted.”

He was right. I was more exhausted than I had been in years, even the sleep deprivation I had suffered from for weeks had not taken as much of a toll on me than an hour of trying to turn a ball into a chair. I went to lie down in our bedroom and hoped for a long nap. And of course, after less than ten minutes, Tony yelled from the living room, “It’s done, you’re welcome!”

When I saw the Office Ball 2000, I was deeply disappointed. I realized that my tired mind made it more appealing than it truly was. It was a large, ridiculously tacky red ball with an office chair backrest attached to the top. Why would anyone buy something as useless and crappy as this thing? Only me, I guess. I regretted paying the $19.99 plus shipping and handling for the weird, surprisingly heavy object Tony was awkwardly bouncing around the room. He immediately saw my look of shame.

“Oh no. Was it from one of those infomercials that start off asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to get you hooked?” I slightly nodded, I felt beyond embarrassed. He continued, “They always make those types of commercials with an introduction featuring basic, generalized questions that almost everyone would answer ‘yes’ to. It’s a popular tactic often used to get people to spend money on crap that they would never normally acknowledge. That’s what my second cousin Timmy told me once, he works in the advertising industry.”

The amount of stupidity and embarrassment I felt rapidly increased. The morning after I had ordered it, I realized that purchasing a ball chair was maybe against my better judgment. It was not until the day that I had to see it in person that this ball was a result of one of the worst decisions I had ever made. Why spend $19.99 plus shipping and handling on a product that I would definitely regret? I did have a reason though to be thankful for it later on that night: I slept a full nine hours, uninterrupted. It was probably thanks to having to try to build the ball. I had not slept through an entire night for that long in what seemed like a million years, so I felt like paying that $19.99 plus shipping and handling for a perfect night’s sleep was close to a fair deal.

The next day, I drove to work with an obstructed view from my car’s rear view mirror. I had underestimated the height and weight of the ball when I ordered it, I expected it to be perfect for my work cubicle. My face was hidden behind the large red blob of a ball as I entered my office building, so I was stopped by security for identification. Out of breath with shaky arms and legs, I said maybe too loudly, “Heather Banks, fifth floor, cubicle seventeen for Fairfield Insurance Company. Ask upstairs.”

The security officer could not contain his laughter. He was trying to be polite, but the sight of an unknown woman carrying a huge, strange chair type of fitness ball must have got the best of him. “Alright, miss. Thank you.”

I quickly walked over to the elevators and while one of the elevator doors started to close, I squeezed through with the ball. Except I got stuck. The two impatient men waiting in the elevator helped me get through, and we awkwardly stood in silence until I got off at the fifth floor. I wanted to reach my cubicle unnoticed, but I think my arrival was much needed for a dull Tuesday morning. As I was switching out my chair for the ball, my friend and coworker Gina came over. As expected, she face palmed and asked, “Heather, what the hell is that thing?”

“It is the one and only Office Ball 2000, I ordered it a couple weeks ago and wanted to test it out here.” To be completely honest, I did not want to test it out there, or anywhere. Deep down, I wanted it gone. I had an overwhelmingly ominous feeling about this large ball and I felt like my time with it was not going to end well.

“It looks flimsy, Heather. I don’t know if that type of seat thing is best for an out of the house job. I have the feeling that it’s more for a home office. It is certainly less embarrassing at home.” Gina then gasped and wagged her finger at me, “Oh my gosh! It’s one of those crappy infomercial products! I saw that commercial last night and while watching the first few seconds, I felt like it spoke to me. Did you say yes to all of their questions at the beginning?”

I sighed and felt so embarrassed when I answered her. “Yes, actually. Did you?”

“I did too. In fact, everyone else who has seen that advert have probably said the same. ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That’s exactly how they convince you to spend money on their crap that would never sell otherwise. It is a luring technique. My cousin Larry works in the advertising industry and he told me that everyone uses that type of marketing technique.”

At that moment, I felt even stupider than when I had heard the same thing from Tony. I also wondered why everyone had a cousin in the advertising industry, whatever that was exactly. “That’s what Tony said! I can’t believe that I am really this stupid. The last 24 hours have not been the best for me.”

“I wish you luck, my friend.” Gina said and started to walk away. She then looked back and loudly whispered, “Conquer the ball!”

I looked down at the ball and after a minute of contemplation, I convinced myself to sit on it. Sitting on the large ball with its awkwardly positioned backrest was anything but pleasant. I felt like I was within seconds of falling off of it and it was more uncomfortable than anything I had ever sat on. I almost cried after the result ended up being exactly what I expected, I was in disbelief that I still had hope that it would not be as bad as I imagined it to be. After less than two minutes, I knew I could not deal with the ball any longer. I rolled it to a janitorial closet down the hall and put a sticky note on it that said “Property of Heather Banks, cubicle #17.”

The rest of the day was calm, the thought of the evil ball imprisoned in a closet was relaxing. I felt better knowing I did not have to deal with it until later that day. The same type of conversation that I had with Tony and Gina came up another three times with three of my other coworkers and I learned that all of those coworkers also had relatives in the “advertising industry”, and I continued to wonder what that industry really was. I was glad to go home at the end of the day. I left the building with the ball and settled on determining its fate when I would arrive at home.

As I was getting ready to back out of my parking space, I could see through my rear view mirror perfectly and completely forgot why I had difficulties seeing out of that same mirror that morning. I shrugged it off and slowly started to reverse. Within less than a second, the car made a weird movement and I heard a loud popping sound.

“Oh crap, my tire!” I yelled.

I opened my door and checked the front two tires of my car. I was relieved to see that they both looked normal, but I was afraid of checking the remaining two. I creeped over to see the right back tire was alright, and so was the left one. I asked myself, “If all the tires are fine, then what was that?”

The ball.

The ball’s appearance turned into one resembling a plastic pool of blood. It was completely flat and I was surprised that my car was capable of hitting something of that size. I had the ball for less than a day and its time was already up. I was honestly satisfied that my ball suffered the unhappy ending I had sensed coming, and not me. I reentered my car, sighed and said, “I am sure glad that’s over” and started to back out of my parking space again.

And then I hit a fire hydrant.



December 09, 2019 16:42

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6 comments

15:24 Dec 19, 2019

Story reflects the huge impact of advertising on our daily lives and how we can so easily get 'hooked ' on product, especially in the small hours of the night! Perhaps shorter, more focused dialogue would prevent 'flagging' in the middle. Good read.

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Natalie Schlegel
16:02 Dec 19, 2019

Thank you so much for taking the time to read it all, I appreciate the feedback! :)

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Yoomi Ari
22:13 Dec 18, 2019

Loves the ending! Good read👍🏻

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Natalie Schlegel
10:20 Dec 19, 2019

Thank you so much, and thanks for reading! :)

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Alyssa Shields
17:43 Dec 13, 2019

This was captivating! I loved that the story showed simplicity, but there was so much depth to it at the same time. I couldn't stop reading. Bravo! :)

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Natalie Schlegel
17:58 Dec 13, 2019

Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed my story, and I appreciate you taking the time to read it! :)

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