Thursday, December 4, 2008

No seat for you!

As a former "top-heavy" (read: overweight) person, I am sympathetic to the plight of our generously proportioned fellow humans. However, at certain point, I believe personal responsibility needs to kick in for people who weigh, say, 450 lbs.

Apparently, our friendly neighbors to the north disagree. Starting January 10th, Canadian airlines will be forced to comply with a new court ruling that mandates that disabled persons who must travel with an attendant can only be charged for one seat on domestic flights.

Okay, that makes sense. But this ruling also applies to persons who are considered disabled due to morbid obesity. Not so fast, people (no pun intended).

It is not like an obese person goes from a pleasantly-plump 250 lbs. to a blimp-like 500 lbs. overnight. You have to literally make an effort to become that large. And I would argue that people become obese with a certain awareness of what they are doing. I mean, wouldn't you notice that perhaps things are getting out of hand at around 300 lbs. or so and you cannot sit in the chairs at the movie theatre? Or get into your car?
On the other hand, people with developmental or physical disabilities are forced to live with debilitating conditions through no fault of their own. They are often born with their conditions or acquire them, usually through no fault of their own.

I fear that this ruling is another instance of rewarding bad behaviour. In this case, the specific bad behaviour I am speaking of is the inability to take personal responsibility for the consequences of your actions on your body. And if somebody out there would like to make the argument that obesity is a disease, I would respectfully challenge you to a duel. Or a debate, whatever.

I could very well be obese myself. Eating is my second favorite thing to do in life. And I used to do it like it was my job. But when it came to the point that I could not fit into any of my clothes anymore, I realized that I had to start to take it easy at meals.

And I am not against this ruling because I'm a fattist or a jerk. I happen to think that if you choose to engage in reckless behaviour by choice, then you also implicitly have made a choice to accept the consequences of your reckless choices. For example, sometimes I drive over the speed limit. Is it reckless? Yes. When I get tickets, do I argue with the policeman? No. Why? Because a ticket is the consequence of speeding.

My reckless eating led me to look like this (below on the right - weighing in at over 200 lbs.)...
...and then I (below on the left) took personal responsibility for my eating choices...Voila! Success after decisive action. By the way, please ignore the fact that this picture is demonstrative of a specific night when I made other reckless choices completely unrelated to food consumption. Don't ask.Maybe the responsible party for an obese person's attendant's plane ticket should be the parents of the obese person who may have stood idly by while their beloved child was pushing maximum density. I don't know about your mother, but mine was always more than willing to remind me of the reason why she was always having to buy me new pants. I did not always appreciate it back then, especially when it occured in front of my sister, but I see why it was important.

Here's another interesting situation that could come up with this new policy. Airlines are required to provide wheelchairs for travelers who require them. Question: will airlines now also be required to provide free peanuts to obese passengers who get hungry? It would, after all, be considered accomodating to their "disease."

Three final points:

(1) How widespread of a problem is this? Most of the morbidly obese people I know are either bed-ridden or afraid to fly.

(2) This rule applies only to domestic flights. What happens when a domestic flight is scheduled on an E190 or CRJ? No obese person could even walk in the door of one of those planes. Would the airline have to completely renew it's fleet to accomodate this ruling?

(3) Shouldn't obese people pay more for air travel, as some argue?

Oh Canada...(not the anthem, that was more of a sigh).

No comments: