The Price for Being Fat
Fat has become a hiss and a byword in the recent past--almost to the point of a hate-word! No person who is obese wants to hear from an observer, "You are fat."
A thoughtful Imagineer responds sarcastically, "Oh my gosh! I didn't know. Thanks for telling me. I could have gone through life thinking I was skinny or muscular!"
Just as there are psychological concerns, body dysmorphia that inflicts the sufferer to see his or her body incorrectly, some people see what is truly there without prompting from others. Being obese is not a commonly held desire in modern society. Those in that position are painfully aware of their body size and girth because society is designed for those with thin frames. Imagine trying to sit in a chair designed for a child. For many larger people that is how life is when going to restaurants with booths or any public place, especially public transportation.
Early in 2019, a story posted on Reddit caused no small controversy when a nightmare situation for a plus-sized person became a reality. In the section labeled with the equivalent title Am I That Jerk on Reddit, this man posted his experience of having an obese man sit next to him taking up a third of his seat. Understandably, having this stranger pressed against him in his seat brought discomfort emotionally if nothing else.
"After a minute," the man records in the Reddit post, "I decided to be upfront and tell him: 'Sir, I’m sorry but this situation is not working for me, you’re taking up quite a bit of my seat.'"
Neither man reportedly spoke rudely to each other. The thinner man felt in a bind and the larger man felt in a bind. Both wanted the comfort of flying to their destinations without issue; unfortunately, an issue arose.
The larger man would have to buy a ticket for another seat that was not available on that flight. Rather than have the larger man leave the plane, the thin man proposed that the other give him 50% of the ticket cost of another seat, $150, and he would deal with the discomfort of this other man touching him in the seat. Both agreed to the deal. No one would have to leave the plane, and the thinner man would get compensated for the physical discomfort of this forced contact when he paid for the pleasure of not having that contact.
On the one hand, the larger person did not have to leave the plane by paying $150 to the other passenger. Both parties accepted the situation and the flight resumed. The thinner man offered a service to the other passenger, who readily purchased it so that both could fly in relative comfort, supposedly. The only thing that changed for the obese passenger was the perspective of the thin person who turned a profit from the situation. In that case, $150 buys a level of discomfort.
On the other hand, psychological scars that fracture society may develop among people who feel their need to exploit others for things without their control--not to mention the targets of that exploitation.
- This teaches that people can be paid off for discomfort if the prices are right.
- This opens the opportunity for others to suggest other such comprises.
- This creates business opportunities for passengers.
- This calls into question culture norms for tolerance.
CAUTION: The Following Can Cause Offense!
Next, are satirical positions that a person could take on this issue. The sad thing about those positions is that people agree with them to a greater or lesser extent. The following words are not meant to offend, but to illustrate how hurtful and rude people can present themselves.
People Can Be Paid
This is not news! Of course, people can be paid off. Money runs the world and every person has a price for anything. If it were me in that situation as the fat guy and the person next to me offered me the option to pay him $150 to deal with my body taking up part of his seat, I would pay it.
That, my friend, is what makes America great! The ability to take a situation and turn it into an enterprising one where both parties benefit. That's one perspective.
What if the man did not have money to pay?
Well, he would have to get off the plane and buy two tickets for the next available plane that could allow him to purchase them side-by-side. Or, he would have to catch a bus, where he could have the same problem, but it would be more affordable to pay for two seats. Thin guy has a right for comfort, even if it is at the expense of the obese guy.
Suggest Other Such Compromises
As much as people loathe to admit it, this is a racially charged society and the possibility for race to play into the comfort factor with travel is more than enterprising. Take for instance an Islamic man traveling on the plane. If I were sitting next to an Islamic Arab, I would be uncomfortable. If the guy paid me $150 to assuage my discomfort, I would not feel apprehensive about flying with him.
It is true that Arabs don't have to pay for an extra ticket unless they are obese, but what if they turn out to be a terrorist?
What about the Black guy with the foul mouth? I should be given hazard compensation for sitting next to him or the Arab. what if I am mugged on the way from the plane. Sure, this Black guy is not taking up a third of my seat, but he intimidates me bringing me discomfort. Give me $150 to deal with that!
How about the Klansman and Nazi, for that matter? They all give me pause. I need $150 because one of them might sit close to me and touch one the plan. HOW ABOUT WE JUST BAN THEM ALL!
Maybe someone should create an app that obese people can search for thin people who are going to the same destinations. They could hook up and swipe right or something for travel companions who would accept $150 for sitting next to these obese people. Thin people would save money on their flight and obese people would avoid paying full price for a second seat. It's a gold mine that can set up another Ubber-type travel situation to lower the cost of fat people traveling on public transportation! It can be called Flubber Share Travel for all public transport!
Cultural Norms for Tolerance
In a free society where people are taught to respect differences, the whole idea shames the foundation of decency. Capitalistic opportunity should not prevail in every situation. Pay me to tolerate you.
If your odor bothers me, pay me. If your possible physical contact annoys me, pay me.
What happened to courtesy? The pendulum swinging does not meet the circumstance in all situation. If a person is obese for medical reasons, he or she should not be penalized. But he or she is penalized because society lacks tolerance for human touch unless it is paid touch apparently.
As humans, should we have compassion for people and offer a willingness to include them? Has no one ever allowed themselves to endure a moment or two of discomfort to spare the comfort of another person? Is that not civil?
Do unto others what you want to be done to you. Would any of us really want another person telling us something about ourselves we could not change and demand compensation for it bringing them discomfort?
What about disabled people? Personally, I fall into that category, a horrible place to be for someone who hasn't accepted his or her new limitations. If I had to pay more because my body is not as strong as others to use public facilities, how could I live when most of us disabled people earn less income?
Pushing people to the fringe of society who already live on the edge creates more problems down the road than teaching our families to treat people the way we would want to be treated had we been in the same situation.
Help the old person across the street. Let the lady have the seat on the bus. Help the person struggling with groceries. Let the obese person touch you for a few hours without cringing. You might find a loyal friend in the mix. Whatever energy you send out tends to return to you.
So, it cost $150 to be fat. That time at least. Society will change slowly, if at all. Rob Goldstone said it best in his 2010 New York Times article:
Over the years, I’ve sometimes wondered what it would feel like to travel with less physical baggage, to be able to check my Buddha belly before boarding and to know that I could settle into an airline seat comfortably without the need for the belt extender. And what it would be like to travel without being a curiosity.
This year, there’s hope for me yet: On my way back through Australia, I have planned a side trip to Fiji, where plus-size travelers are revered for their bulk. And on the way there, of course, I’ll try to upgrade to a larger seat. 1
Hope for better days and have a sense of humor waiting for them to come.
ROB GOLDSTONE - The Tricks and Trials of Traveling While Fat 1
© 2019 Rodric Anthony