Saturday, October 15, 2011

Flying at 420 Pounds

Just heard today that AirTran will join Southwest and begin charging extra for over sized passengers. The news dug up a lot of previously buried sentiment from me, and I'm sure it will do the same in many others, given that more than 20 percent of the population is now considered obese.

I used to be what you'd call super obese, and I remember flying at 420 pounds. I took American Airlines to Mexico in 2008. I sat next to a friend -  a big guy in his own right - who squished in the middle. And I used a seat belt extender; I'd snagged one of those model seat belts flight attendants use in their safety presentation that barely assisted in spanning my 64 inch middle section (I couldn't really call it a wast at that time, now could I?).

I was anxious and worried they'd kick me off the plane, and I tried my darnedest to keep my arm from blocking the bathroom traffic and service activity along the aisle for the entire trip to Mexico City. By the time I was on the puddle-jumper flight to Acapulco, I just let it all hang out, because once in Mexico, I was seen more as a curiosity I suppose and treated quite well by the single attendant on that final brief leg to the West Coast.

It was a horrifying experience, looking back. But at the time I let my joviality and apologies pave the way to not being treated too badly, though I know my form was inconveniencing to others in such a confined space as a jam-packed international flight.

I still have that extender. I kept it as a sort of souvenir from the old days, to remind myself of those feelings I'd buried even then so I can use my desire to avoid those feelings again as incentive to stay on my path of health, fitness and mental well-being.

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