I'm Fat -- And I Love To Fly!

It's super easy to feel like a target, to try to minimize ourselves to prevent anything bad from happening when we, as fat people, have to or choose to fly. But I do want to present an alternate example.

Dec 15, 2011 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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So, here's a thing about me: I love to fly. I weigh 300+ pounds, wear a size 28, and have personal space issues (as in, gimme my personal space, y'all). But I still love to fly.

It's true that there are a lot of stressors for those who fly when fat. Lesley talked about it just the other day. But I still love to fly -- and the good experiences outweigh (see what I did there?) the bad.That's not to say flying is a super comfortable thing. It's just that I think we scare ourselves silly when we only read and talk about the horror stories. It's good to prepared -- but there's a difference between being prepared and borrowing trouble.

To be perfectly clear: I am a great big fat person. I'm 5'4" so I don't have the tall thing going on, but my fatty fatty two by four hips and butt occupy some seat real estate. There is a part of my brain that gets really super confused when I hear from people who are much smaller than me having anxiety about flying. Because I fit in the seat! If I fit in the seat, chances are good you will fit in the seat as well.That's not a scientific assessment, obvs. Everyone is fat in different ways.

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Here is what flying is like for me, almost every single time: I forget to check in online as early as possible, so by the time I do check in, I am saddled with a middle seat in the back. My last flight, my first seat assignment was, like, 34B. It would have been sucksville.

But while I forget to check in early, I am a PROFESSIONAL about getting to the airport early. This is one of the ways in which I am a super control freak. I get there two hours early. Woe unto the husband who gets me to the airport late. (Not really, I do actually appreciate the ride and the smooching.)

Because I get there so early, I don't give so much of a crap if the security line is slow. I don't check luggage, so I have what needs to come out easily accessible in my carryon. Really, that means I have my ipad in my purse and shoes I can get out of easily.

I'm nice to everyone. Even if I'm in the worst mood ever, I grit my teeth and I smile, dammit. Because the TSA workers take a lot of bad attitudes and, while I agree that there are a lot of horrible people working for the TSA, there are also a lot of regular people who just want their shift to go smoothly and easily. A TSA worker scanning luggage once thanked me for smiling. Not even smiling at him. Just, you know, looking happy in general. 

I've been through the radioactive super naked scanners once (in fact, leaving JFK on this latest trip was my first time). Not all airports have them -- and even airports that do don't seem to always use them. I have never been subjected to the fully invasive pat down either. The courthouse patted me down more thoroughly when I was there for jury duty.

Here is my super secret to having a good flight and the real reason I like getting to my gate all kinds of early: Go talk to the gate agent.

Gate agents are awesome people. They put up with all kinds of ridiculous nonsense from unhappy travelers. They aren't empowered to do as much as they used to, due to all sorts of security restrictions. But they can, if you are a nice person who is first in line, usually switch out whatever seat you've been assigned for something more to your liking. It is vital that you be nice to the gate agent. 

I just wondered if I could get an aisle seat next to an empty seat -- on my way from MCO to JFK, I had an aisle (much further forward in the plane) next to a person; on my way back, I had an aisle next to an empty seat, again thanks to a helpful gate agent.

Gate agents (and flight attendants, too) aren't out to make anyone miserable, as a general rule. They are regular people who take a lot of abuse (I'd rather work at the DMV than at an airport gate, I swear). They are aware that flying is not a comfortable endeavor for anyone.

In my entire flying career, I've had one gate agent (who was frustrated about something else) tell me if I wanted an empty seat next to me, I should have bought two seats. Y'all, that stung. But it also wasn't personal. And it isn't like she was suggesting I needed to buy another seat.

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When I made it onto the plane in MCO, I was next to a woman who was arguing kind of viciously with a partner or ex-partner. That woman had other concerns than my fatness. Halfway through the flight, I asked if I could raise the armrest and she agreed before the words were out of my mouth. I’ve had a few people insist on keeping it down -- I’m not going to lie, that is uncomfortable. But I don’t expect a 16- or 17-inch airplane seat to be comfortable. I do not have that expectation so I am not disappointed.

Another thing I know: the tray is not going to sit flat over my lap. I tuck a bottle of water in the seat back pouch and plan around not having a horizontal surface.

It's super easy to feel like a target, to try to minimize ourselves to prevent anything bad from happening when we, as fat people, have to or choose to fly. I am definitely not saying fat people don’t have valid concerns about flying. But I do want to present an alternate example, because I have flown so much and been just fine.

There are awful people everywhere. As a fat person, I am more likely to interact with awful people in a relatively tiny metal tube in the sky. But the odds of everything being just fine are actually pretty high.I don’t know if that’s comforting to anyone else but me. All I do know is that, even with the discomfort, I am FLYING THROUGH THE AIR, hurtling toward my destination in a way that was impossible a hundred years ago. Going from Florida to Wisconsin (as I do once a year for Wiscon) would be nigh impossible given the meager amount of vacation time I get at my day job.

Flying is never going to be mega luxe, not unless I shell out mega dollars (that I don’t have). But it’s also probably going to be just fine. I am willing to bet on that all the way to the airport.

Posted in Issues, fat, flying