One of the most frightening experiences of my life was on a crowded flight sitting in the back one-third of a plane that held roughly 120 people. I was at my full-figured zenith and had taken an aisle seat.
The plane was almost boarded and then a young man came through the first class portal and started maneuvering his way down the aisle.
The fellow was of such height and girth that he could have been Bryant McKinnie, other than that he was of the Caucasian persuasion.
As the man passed several rows with empty middle seats, the sweat started to trickle off my forehead. I peered into the aisle and backwards, trying to calculate how many other options there might be for him farther back in plane.
Answer: Not many.
He was getting closer. I was suffering high anxiety. The poor fellow at the window, a slim gent in his 50s, was paging through a magazine and unaware of the drama that was unfolding.
And then the potential NFL left tackle arrived, placed his large left hand on the back rest of the seat in front of me and said, “I’m in there.’’
I pushed myself upwards, stepped into the aisle and said, “I was afraid of that, as I’m sure was also the case with you.’’
Now, the guy at the window looked up and a brief gleam of horror flashed in his eyes. Bryant II sat down, I moved one third of my bulk (100 pounds, maybe a few more) to the left, and the slim gent basically was pushed face first against the window.
“How are you doing over there, fella?’’ I said, and then added: “Don’t worry. If we take off on time, it will only be a three-hour flight.’’
I’m not exactly slim these days, but the frightened looks aren’t quite as severe when I waddle onto an airplane these days. There was a level of sheepishness for quite a few years crashing down the aisle, but eventually I began to relish the expressions – much like the TV ads allegedly showing an audience for the “Blair Witch Project’’ in 1999.
My favorite large person on an airplane anecdote comes from “Rookie,’’ the legendary producer at AM-1500. Occasionally, he will talk of his friend Gary S., a very big fellow who traveled often.
Gary would barge down the aisle humming the theme from “Jaws.’’ When he spotted an empty middle seat, he would give a shoulder fake as if that was his seat. Apparently, people would do everything but shriek when Gary gave a convincing deke.
Of course, eventually Gary the Great White would arrive at his destination.
I was encouraged to review the adventures of fat men looking for their seats in the back cabin of airplanes after reading the information that Alan Linda, a long-time humor columnist at the Fergus Falls Daily Journal, was let go.
Linda was an unpaid community columnist who had written the “Prairie Spy’’ column in Fergus Falls for three decades. His sin in these sensitive times was to write a recent piece on sitting next to a fat person on a flight.
The Daily Journal’s editorial board announced the end of Linda’s columns based on this:
“Last Friday, his column was about sitting next to a larger person on a flight. In the column, he called the person ‘fat’ and went on to describe a lack of sympathy for the man’s weight issue.’’
I don’t see the problem. Other passengers don’t like sitting in coach next to fat people. I can confirm from years of experience as said fatty.
What we fatties all should do is follow the lead of Rookie’s friend, Big Gary, walk down the aisle humming the “Jaws’’ theme, and watch people respond as if they are at the beach on Amity Island when the big shark makes his first summer visit.
Either that, or lose a few, which is more difficult than having a sense of humor about it.