Thursday, February 18, 2010

Who's too fat to fly? A story and a rant.

I don't know what's going on with my blog these days. It seems my comments are dwindling away into nothing. Perhaps I haven't said enough how much your comments mean to me. How much the fact you read my words means to me. If no one were to read this blog, I would have no real reason to write it! So let me say this: Thank you to all you wonderful people who comment regularly, or semi-regularly, or even just once! You make this work for me! Without you, I don't know if I would have made it this far.

Maybe I've been to whiny with this darn cold that STILL HASN'T LEFT ME! So guess what? I'm not going to whine. I'm going to RANT.

First I have to tell you a story of a big man and an airplane.

This past weekend something rather humiliating happened to a somewhat famous person, as you may have heard. I'm talking about Kevin Smith being booted off a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat to fly. For those of you who don't know, Kevin Smith wrote and directed several movies: Clerks, Clerks II, Dogma, Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, and Zach and Miri make a Porno. He also played the role of Silent Bob in several of his movies.

Smith was on his way home when he realized he could get on an earlier flight. This put him on standby. He normally buys two seats, not because of his weight (he is a big dude), but because he doesn't like sitting next to strangers if he doesn't have to. So he told the ticket agent at the gate to not worry about the second seat, he's fine with one and they could just refund it. The agent kind of looked at him and said something about "safety concerns." Despite this, Smith was given a boarding pass, and he was on his way. Or so he thought.

After he had his gear stowed and was in his seat (between two small-ish ladies), the ticket agent, Suzanne, came onto the plane and asked him to leave. She said the pilot wanted him off the plane for safety reasons. Smith was confused. What safety reasons? She explained he had to be able to lower the armrests and not impinge on the seats of the other passengers. Smith said, ok, no prob. He lowered the armrests. He even asked his seatmates if they were at all uncomfortable. Nope, they were fine. Suzanne then insisted he get off the plane, and again cited the pilot's instructions as the reason. He had no choice but to leave. He had to gather all his stuff and exit with all 200 passengers staring at him. How humiliating. He even caught the eye of another passenger, MUCH larger than him. He said that this guy's eyes were just pleading with him to say nothing. Of course, he wanted to say, "Hey that guy is WAY fatter than me!" but as he said, he could never throw a "fellow fatty under a bus."

Basically after this experience Smith began a barrage of hate-filled profanity-laden Tweets about his experience. He was angry, and no one at Southwest had made him feel any better about it. They wanted to give him a $100 voucher. That's it. No apology. They have a policy for "persons of size," yes, fine. But if you say your policy is that passengers must be able to put the armrests down and not infringe on the space beside them, and a passenger proves he CAN do those things, why would you kick him off a plane!??!? It make NO sense. There's other details Smith mentioned on his Smodcast, which you can listen to if you wish, in Smodcast #106.

Smith also witnessed another heavy passenger get singled out on his re-booked flight home. This woman, Natali, was asked to step aside and a woman told her she had to buy another seat. It just so happened she was sitting in a row with Smith with his paid-for second seat between them. The woman told her she couldn't purchase the seat next to her because it belonged to the man in that row. Natali pointed out there were no other seats left that weren't middle seats, so what seat was she supposed to purchase? The woman apparently rolled her eyes at her and left. When she came back, she told Natali she could go sit down. WHY did they do this to her? There was no earthly reason to yank this poor girl off the plane and embarrass her. She was next to an empty seat! No one was going to sit in it! Was this just a cash grab? Were they trying to make a point about their "persons of size" policy? You can hear her story here. It's #107.

Smith took this picture on his flight home...

Smith has said over and over, he has nothing against Southwest, great airline, but he just wants them to admit they were wrong for pulling him off that flight. He plans on not flying SW, and he warns that larger people may want to think twice about flying with them, too. Now people say he's rallying everyone to boycott SW, and even that he's doing all this to promote his new movie! Please, really? So Smith is now saying a sarcastic, "I'm sorry" to SW. He says he apologizes for ever thinking he was not too fat to fly on SW. Clearly, SW is for the thin people and he should never have tried to fly on their airline.

So now the media have picked up on the story and it's all over the internet. Of course, this means people want to put in their two cents on the subject. What really gets my goat is that the brilliant masses of the internet are using this as an excuse to slam the overweight. People are telling Smith things like quit being a baby and lose some fucking weight. I've seen comments on news articles that are horribly nasty. It seems that some people feel it's ok to just unload shit onto a person just because they are overweight. It's ok, it's acceptable to call them names, like, "sweaty mouth-breathing lardass" as one commenter put it. Why do people think this is ok? Do we think it's ok to talk about any other group of people with such hatred, malice and disrespect. HELL NO!

Southwest, I say shame on you for being tactless and for your employees to be so unclear as to who needs two seats (despite your 25-year-old policy on the matter), and when to point out such a need. There is no need to humiliate any passenger of any size. To the cretins of the internet, I say find your humanity and treat everyone with some respect. We all deserve it.

To Kevin Smith, I say GOOD FOR YOU. It's great you used your Twitter to spread what happened. You are the voice of those who have no say. SW listened to and responded to you only because you have an audience. No one is reaching out to Natali to apologize (even half-assedly as they did to you). You are her voice.

I don't know what's to come of this, but I think it's important that so many people are now talking about it.

I've never had anyone comment on my size for any reason (to my face) even at 265 lbs. I am lucky. I know it.

What do YOU think about all this?

Next blog: My trip into Vancouver an the Victory Ceremony and my weigh-in!


Shane P said...

I have often thought that "fat" people are the only group in America that can be openly discriminated against and no one says anything!Where I live there are only so many places that I can go in and enjoy a meal. Why? Because they only have booths. Well they may as well have a sign on the door that says "No Fat People". The automobile industry only makes seat belts for those of average size and if you want one to work you have to get an extension. It wasn't long ago that I couldn't go to a movie because I couldn't sit in the seats because the armrests didn't raise up. Doctor's offices only have those chairs with sides on them. I can't sit in those chairs. Who the fuck can? On television who is always the girl or guy that isn't getting laid or is retarded. The fat person. Just because I am fat doesn't mean I am lazy, retarded, or smell. You are so right in your rant Tammy!! This is bullshit!!! If they made a black person or an Arab person buy another ticket they would freak!! If they had a sign that said no person of color can eat here then they would be shuttered. All they have to do to keep the "fat people" out is build it so they can't use it. Then it's perfectly ok. I say FUCK'EM ALL and feed'em fish heads!!

Anonymous said...

To the previous commenter: You might want to check out some blogs about/by disabled people, women of color, little people, trans-gendered people, older people, poor people, gay people, people with intellectual disabilities, folks with autism, and other marginalized people because (although you may be fat) you apparently remain largely oblivious of discrimination when it isn't being directed at fat people...perhaps because you have white male privilege that you don't even recognize. Prejudice and discrimination--of all kinds--are rampant. Some forms are more subtle and insidious. None of us are free until all of us are free...

Also, your use of the word "retarded" as a perjorative (slam) is offensive and hurtful. I doubt you would use the word in that way if your child or sibling had an intellectual disability.

Tammy: Great blog, great post! Being fat everyday is difficult enough without having humiliation and shame (and discrimination) piled on in public. I could rant about the irrationality and cruelty of fat-hate all day. And I'm gonna keep fighting against other forms of discrimination too.

karen@fitnessjourney said...

The airlines wouldn't need policies like these if they were to provide large enough seating for passengers.

What is next? Are they going to throw people off the plane because their legs are too long to fit properly in the tiny amount of leg room offered?

RFlatstone said...

Well, as I said in my FB status: If 2/3 of the US population is overweight, then Southwest Airlines has just narrowed its consumer base by 66.6% this week. "Just Plane Smart!" I guess you are only "free to move about the country" if you are svelte and slim.

And, yeah, Shane, the whole Sarah Palin v Family Guy feud is a very visible example of how people with intellectual handicaps (like my brother) are, apparently, equally fair game these days. Apparently, you can make any joke you want about any group you want as long as you use the "get a sense of humor" defense. I wonder why that one didn't work for Michael Richards.

Anyway, I got a little off topic there. Sorry. Yeah, I'm glad Silent Bob isn't being silent about this!

Madame DeFarge said...

I picked up on this over here and wondered about it. I'm surprised that SW took that attitude, but it seems to be an increasing problem everywhere. I thought Smith was right to speak out. Hope all well.

~ugly girl with a beautiful heart~ said...

SW can suck it. If I had a nuts my left would be bared for the company.