If you follow Kevin Smith on Twitter (or know someone who does), you’ve probably heard what happened to the Clerks director on a Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank this past weekend. Smith, who had purchased two tickets for a later flight, found himself getting to the airport early and wanted to see if he could get onto an earlier flight home. The earlier flight was full up, but one seat remained, so Smith boarded the flight, found his seat, stowed his bag, and before he could put his seatbelt on, was told he’d have to leave the plane because of his weight.
Cue the outrage on Twitter.
You can listen to the entire story on Smith’s latest SModcast, and as a “person of size” myself, I can completely sympathize with the situation, but I doubt I would have handled it as gracefully as Smith or the woman he sat next to on the later flight home, who was also chastised for not also purchasing an extra seat.
I can understand that sitting next to a bigger person on a plane isn’t comfortable. Hell, it’s not comfortable for me either. I’ve been flying since I was six months old — and all but two flights were trans-Pacific — and I can tell you that the problem isn’t only with Americans getting bigger. Airline seats have been getting smaller. And smaller. Like Smith, I can fit into an airline seat, with the arm rest down, and not need a seatbelt extender. But only just barely. On my last trip to Sydney, the seats were so small, I couldn’t get out of my aisle seat because the skinny jerk in front of me kept his reclined for the whole trip, and the arm rest wouldn’t raise up so I could slide out. I had to call over a flight attendant for help, which was absolutely mortifying.
What really gets my goat about Smith’s story though are the comments on the news stories about this whole fiasco. People were leaving comments like, “He should’ve bought two tickets, or lose some weight” or “If this guy wants to shorten his own life by being morbidly obese well good luck to him but overweight people who take up two seats on a plane should pay for two seats and not make life miserable for passengers who may have to sit next to them.” Right. Because obviously, Mr. Smith and I WANT to be obese. Because we love food so much we just can’t stop eating.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t always eat healthily. But I do not overeat. Most of my skinnier friends eat more than I do. I have the unfortunate luck to be born into a family who were all big. Plus, I am on eight different medications (none of which are weight-related I might add). I am frequently put on steroids for my asthma. I have to take birth control pills to manage the effects of polycystic ovary syndrome, which not only makes me incapable of having children, but affects my weight as well. I have managed to lose 50 pounds from my top weight ever, but it took five years of trying to do so.
So if you’re ever stuck on a plane in a seat next to me, I apologize. While I can fit into the seat, it’s still a bit claustrophobic. But to the people leaving unkind, rude comments about this situation, remember this. You may not like sitting next to me, but if you have a kid, I don’t want to sit next to you. If you like to chat, I don’t want to sit next to you. If you snore, I don’t want to sit next to you. If you’re a smoker or wear really heavy perfume, then I really don’t want to sit next to you, and you won’t like sitting next to me because I’ll be sneezing the whole trip.
I paid for my seat, as did Smith, and I can fit in it. If you think I need to buy a second, unnecessary seat so I won’t “crowd” you, perhaps you should take it up with the airline who is more concerned with cramming as many people into their planes as possible, regardless of their patrons’ comfort.
As I see it, Smith was perfectly justified in his anger at Southwest. He broke no rules or regulations and he has not (thus far) been offered an acceptable apology. He fit in his seat and the two women sitting next to him didn’t have a problem with it. Even if Southwest had been justified in removing Smith from the plane, they sure as hell could have been more apologetic and sympathetic instead of the shitty customer service that was given not only to Smith, but to the poor woman sitting next to him on the later flight, who was also berated for not buying two seats, even though that flight wasn’t nearly as full as the first one.
I’m not as thick-skinned as Smith. Thanks to making this situation public, I have possibly spared myself a situation which would have killed my fragile self-esteem.
Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Smith’s next movie is titled “Too Fat to Fly: Mistakes on a Plane.” I’ll be first in line to see it.