stuck in the middle with you

“Can I get an aisle seat”, “Hi, yeah um I have some knee issues do you have an aisle seat?” “Did you get the aisle?”, “Is it possible to get something on the aisle?”. “I don’t care where the seats are as long as one is on the aisle”….

My fear of being seated in non aisle seats has been a long running issue. I am very conscientious of my girth, I don’t want to infringe on other peoples space and I don’t want have people lash out at me in disgust…anymore. When I thought about examples to illustrate this point at least 20 different situations popped into my mind but there is one that I will never forget.

I was dating someone in Toronto, Canada so for about 6 years I was flying pretty regularly and I had the drill down. If it was a flight were I knew it would be crowded I bought two seats. If it was a flight that I knew would be empty I only bought one and hoped for the best in having an empty seat next to me.  I had bought my own seat belt extender and would fold it up tight and fit it into my front pocket. I always sat at the very back of the plane and I would slip them out and click it in place faster than Houdini, I would buckle myself in and arrange my shirt so that the second “buckle” was hidden, so it just looked like a regular seat belt. There was a stretch that I was flying out of Dayton, OH instead of Cincinnati the flight was significantly cheaper so it was worth the hour drive to catch the flight out of Dayton.

I walked to the tarmac, this was a different plane that I was used to flying on, it was a turbo prop and very small. I climbed the stairs….and as I slid my massive frame into the small seat and went to click my seatbelt extender into place something was wrong…in would not fit, it was a different mechanism all together. “Just breath” I told myself to just grab a flight attendant and ask for an extension they are required by the FAA to have one on board. I quietly asked the “flight attendant” who was also the 1st officer if there was a seat belt extension available. What happened next is one of those situations that plays over and over in your head in slow motion, like all the great sports plays you see on television. The plane is full at this point, the officer yells up to the front of the plane and exclaims “Captain do we have one of the seat belts for big people who can’t get into the normal ones on?” Oh God, he did not just do that to me. I was the only super fat person on the plane so everyone knew it was for me. I sat there in the stagnant air of my shame and humiliation only to find out they did not have one on the plane. They made the announcement that they were going to check on other planes to see if there was an extra. We waited and waited and waited and people were getting restless, I was getting restless. The 1st officer comes back on the plane and says “try this” as he hands me the extension belt everyone in the plane turned to look at me. My heart sank as I knew it would not work, because it was the same one as I had in my pocket.

The groan from the people on the plane fueled my anger, and I was so, so mad. Mad at the 1st officer, mad at the airline, but most of all mad at myself…what a worthless disgustingly fat piece of trash I was for thinking I had any business on that plane. At that moment it was announced that I would not be able to fly on this aircraft and to please gather my things and exit the plane, I would be re-booked on a later flight. I got up with much effort and squeezed my body past 9 rows of seats as my backside hit against every row. Once out of the plane the tears came and I had a no way to stop them. I am sure people around me thought someone had died. I gathered myself together and went to the desk where I was told there was nothing that could be done. I would have to drive back on Saturday morning and try again. I then had to make the hard call to Toronto and break the news that I would not be there as planned that night.

Fast forward to 2:45pm today, I went to see a play at the Carnegie with my friends John and Natalie and John had purchased the tickets and they were not on the aisle. Imagine my surprise when I walked to the seats and sat down and it was not an issue. I fit, with room to spare and sat comfortably for the 3 hour show. This is a newer theater and I know the seats are roomy but it was still the whole experience of being able to sit without it being any issue at all. John and Nat were stuck in the middle with me, but somehow I know they did not mind! Little changes lead to big impacts on my world and how I walk through it. This one felt great!




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