In case you missed it, movie director Kevin Smith was recently booted off of a Southwest Airlines plane because of his size. Some airlines have a policy that states if one can not lower the seat’s armrests due to the passenger’s size, the passenger must either buy two seats or deplane. Smith says that this was one of the most horrifying events of his life. I believe him. And I hurt for him.
A lot has been written about the Smith situation. I read his Tweets and to say he was angry would be an understatement. He claims his armrests lowered successfully and therefore he did not violate the policy. I wasn’t on the flight, so I can’t say who is right and who is wrong.
After reading several blogger’s posts on the topic I scrolled through the comments. I was really shocked and saddened by the hatred folks showed toward “people of size.” Really. The comments were disgusting.
Even before 9-11 changed the way Americans fly, I hated air travel. Seventy-one pounds ago I required a seat belt extension when flying. Asking for one was humiliating. While my armrests would lower (and dig into my hips), my table tray wouldn’t lower all the way. I had a lot of misdirected anger at the person sitting in front of me who dared to lower his or her seatback.
Thankfully, I no longer dread flying due to my size. But I still feel this little sense of panic when I fasten my seat belt. I can’t get used to the fact that it will fit. I even use my thumb as a one-inch ruler and measure how much extra belt material I have. (Sorry to admit such craziness, but when I started this blog I promised myself I would never lie to you.) And when I lower my tray table there is now loads of space between the table and my gut.
The airline seating issue has been sliced and diced in countless ways. I’ve read opinions on both sides of the issue and people are making good points. I can agree with some who are siding with Southwest as well as some who side with Smith (although I’ll never agree with the disgusting haters.) Having said all of that, I place a high premium on my personal accountability. Seventy-one pounds ago, if I had been required to purchase an extra seat, I feel it would have been fair for me to do so. The size I had gotten to was due to the choices I made. No one forced the Twinkies down my throat. I wouldn’t have liked it, but I would either have ponied up the extra money or not flown.
(Note to haters: I approve comments before they are posted. I am happy to approve comments made by people who disagree with me, but I will not post comments that are rude, hateful or disparaging to people of size. There are of plenty of other forums for such toxicity.)
Thanks for sharing some very personal feelings and memories. I firmly believe that all prejudices are learned behaviors, and I am certainly guilty of being jaded about certain issues. There’s so much about people we don’t know – appearances don’t begin to tell the total story. I’ll be blogging on this topic from a different perspective next week. Thanks for posting.
Thank you, Susan. I look forward to reading your post.
And Susan, I hadn’t really thought of that before, but I agree with you that prejudices are learned behaviors.