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Home > Culture and Society

Silly Sue Storer and the Flatulent Chair Affair

24 March 2006

As most of us are only too well aware, employers can be cruel, vindictive tyrants. Most of them are in fact, at least some of the time. It's something to do with the newfound power they wield - the same power they were most probably oppressed by, or denied, as children, coupled with an instinctive, deep-rooted hatred of other people's weaknesses. And strengths. So, either they make no effort to disguise their disdain and toss it in our faces like so much putrefying salad, or else they subtly chip away at the uneaten scone of our self-esteem, littering our working day with all manner of obstacle, from painful jibes and broken promises to dirty looks and faulty equipment. Mind you, frankly speaking, some of us deserve nothing less. Sue Storer for example.

Sue Storer is the ex-art teacher who this week sued her former employers for a million pounds - wait for it - because of a squeaky chair. The 48-year-old, who openly admits that she never wants to teach again, claims that in the four years she worked for Bedminster Down Secondary School in Bristol, she had to endure endless amounts of overwork, intimidation and stress. The worst aspect of this maltreatment however, seems to centre on the noise emanating from her seat - at least if the media coverage, including these words here, is anything to go by. When she first started her job, she was given an old, uncomfortable chair which she asked to be replaced. Tragically, what her next chair lacked in discomfort, it more than made up for in farting sounds. 'It was very embarrassing to sit on,' Storer told a tribunal this week. 'It was a regular joke that my chair would make these farting sounds, and I regularly had to apologise that it wasn't me. It was my chair.'

Apparently, this was particularly difficult on parent evenings.
Imagine the scene. Storer rises to greet every new set of parents. When she retakes her seat, a great trumpeting raspberry erupts from the direction of her rump. The parents assume the worst, swap glances and suppress giggles. Miss Storer, her cheeks aflame with the blood of shame, looks frantically from one to the other. 'No,' she insists, 'that wasn't... that wasn't me. It was my chair. Look.' At which point she stands up and sits down again. Cue the odourless trumpet and parental hysterics. But instead of joining in with the parents, Storer feels the laughter is personal, directed against her, so, with tears springing up to her mentalist eyes, she runs from the meeting hall. 'Hey!' shouts one of the parents. 'You haven't told us how our Caroline's doing.' 'Fuck it,' says the other, 'it's only art.'

Clearly, one of the problems here - and you can see it in the unlined lugubriousness of Storer's petulant face - is humourlessness. Then there's the fact that she apparently put up with this farting chair for four years without getting off her lazy fat arse and doing something about it. Which, it has to be said, belies a certain uselessness too. Schools are full of chairs for fuck's sake. If she was that troubled, why didn't she just turf one of the kids out of theirs? She says her requests for a new non-farting chair were repeatedly ignored. Headmaster Marius Frank says that new chairs were ordered and left unclaimed in reception for two weeks before other, brighter teachers claimed them.

Clearly there must be more to Miss Storer's 'severe depression' than a measly chair. For even if male members of staff were all given reclining, vibrating, gold-plated chairs, even if she had to tolerate years of schoolchildren making humiliating jokes about 'Stinky Storer the Fart Teacher', surely to God there must be more to this million-pound claim than a fucking chair. We hope so. Otherwise, frankly, Miss Storer is quite clearly off her rocker.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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