between the large
Sunday, June 28 2009
setting: Concordia Neighborhood, Portland, Oregon
Gilley dropped Gretchen and me off at the Portland airport late this morning and so began our flight back to Albany via Southwest Airlines.
Back when I lived in California, Southwest was a useful airline, with connections to most of the places Bathtubgirl and I needed to go. But since moving to New York, my use of Southwest has disappeared. This was because there were no Southwest flights into the New York City area. Days ago Southwest began flying into and out of La Guardia Airport, but more important for our purposes is their presence at the Albany airport, which made them the preferred carrier for this vacation. Albany is easier for us to get to than New York City, and it's a lot cheaper to leave a car parked in Albany than at Newark or La Guardia. The problem with switching back to Southwest after so many years of disuse is that we'd forgotten the idiosyncacies of the Southwest check in protocol. Or perhaps those protocols have changed with the advances in technology, particularly web technology, and what we remember dates to a time when the web was full of grey backgrounds and rainbow dividers. Whatever the reason, once we'd checked in for our flight to Chicago (where we'd be transferring), it was clear that nearly everyone else on the flight had used the internet to check in the night before, and so had dibs on all the best seats. On the plane, which had been slightly overbooked, Gretchen and I found ourselves walking nearly to the back of the plane, finding no seats back there, and having to come back to the front. Without any other options, Gretchen had to tell an elderly couple to please take the bag from the seat between them, that she needed the seat. And then I had to shoehorn my way to a seat between two obese women, one of whom was morbidly so.
Whether they can help being that way or not, fat people are, by their mere existence, a tax on the rest of us who are not fat. It isn't just that they place an inordinate burden on our health system (much of which is already nationalized under Medicare and Medicaid). And it isn't just that they're always in the fucking way moving too slowly when you're trying to get through. It's also that they're invading your personal space by sitting next to you in an airplane seat designed for an ass only 55% as wide. On the flight out, I'd noticed that airport wheelchairs are suddenly about 60% wider than they used to be, and this must be to help with the transportation of the many land whales whose hind limbs have gone vestigial. I'd blame fat people for their fatness, but the fault actually lies with our society. I haven't seen the movie Food, Inc. yet, but I've heard interviews with Robert Kenner, the filmmaker (and, incidentally, uncle of Gretchen's boss). One of the biggest structural flaws with our food system highlighted by this movie is that our government subsidizes the production of high-caloric food with dubious nutritional value (things like sugar and hamburger) while not doing so with healthier food (broccoli). Consequently, as a mostly-vegetarian man who is not fat, I'm being taxed twice: once to pay for government support of unhealthy food, and once again when I'm on an airplane shoehorned between two women having stretch marks on their upper arms. The government also pays twice: once to hold down the prices of bad food, and again to pay for the healthcare of the people eating this bad food. I'm sure someone has laid this all out for Barrack H. Obama, although I'm doubtful he has the political will to do anything meaningful to fix the situation.
As the end of the flight approached somewhere near the Mississippi River, I decided it was prudent to empty my bladder, which had been slowly filling for the entire flight and was now painfully distended. No one was in the bathroom at the front of the plane, so this was my peeportunity. I tapped the morbidly obese woman to my right so I could get up, and she graciously rose to her feet, a process that must have taken a good two minutes. During this time, the man in the row in front of me (he was somewhat fat, though not morbidly so) rose to his feet turned my peeportunity into a personal pooportunity. This wasn't evident initially, but after several minutes had passed and I was still standing in the aisle, it was clear that some serious business was being undertaken up in that bitch. When the gentleman finished with his pooportunity, I walked to the front of the plane just in time to catch the flight attendant discreetly fetching a deodorizing spritzer about the size of a magic marker. "I was going to go in there and spray first," she said, "because it's not nice in there!" I made a sick smile as she beckoned me close so she could hand me the spritzer without anyone seeing. It didn't really matter to me; when I went into the bathroom I had not intention of breathing through my nose. I made one perfunctory spritz with the spritzer, but it wasn't pointed correctly and I only succeeded in blasting my finger with a clinging chemical smell that proved difficult to wash away.
The Chicago to Albany leg of the trip was equally-crowded, and this time I found myself in the rearmost starboard seat of the plane. This time I managed to take the aisle seat and by some miracle the guy next to me wasn't fat. But in a back aisle seat of a plane has its own problems because the flight attendants and bathroom users tend to run into you as they come out of the tail. This was aggravated by a little kid across the aisle who kept putting his skinny little legs out into the aisle, forcing people to steer around them.
In Albany, we'd actually parked in a non-budget parking area due to time constraints inherent in our hurried departure. This made getting back to our car an easy walking-only exercise, although we'd somehow managed to lose the ticket saying when our parking began. Not to worry, there's an app for that, well, actually it's a form you have to fill out. But there was no penalty and parking expenses had only come to $64 for ten days. We love Albany airport.
[I didn't know it at the time, but Southwest Airlines has a policy stating that if a customer is so large that he or she cannot put down the armrest, then that customer must buy a second ticket. In the flight to Chicago, the morbidly-obese woman to my right had the armrest up during the entire flight, and her mass intruded somewhat into my seat. The woman to my left was able to get her armrest down.]
Mount Hood (right foreground), Mount Jefferson, and in the distance at left, the Three Sisters, as photographed by Gretchen from the starboard side of the plane flying from Portland to Chicago.
Mount Adams (foreground) and Mount Rainier, taken by me from the port side of the plane.
Super-wide wheelchairs in Chicago's Midway Airport, presumably designed for the movement of the many land whales who cannot walk unassisted.
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