Does This Plane Make My Butt Look Big?

Recently I’ve begun to travel more, thanks to a new contract with a consulting and training firm. This wonderful opportunity often requires me to get on a plane, meeting a colleague from the firm in another city where we then serve clients. I love it–serving the clients, that is. The travel is something else again.

I remember the days when you could drive to Midway Airport, park in the parking lot just like a grocery store, walk a short distance to the doors of the building, stride to your gate and get on your flight, just like that. Those days, of course, are long gone. Midway is nearly as big a challenge to maneuver as O’Hare with six-deep security lines, the long trek to the gate and the endless waiting for flights delayed by weather or mechanical glitches. (I don’t mind the latter: I’d rather wait around than be on a defective airplane.)

Suffering the indignities of going through TSA challenges even the most seasoned of road warriors. Stripping yourself of shoes and jacket, walking into the machine while holding your arms over your head as if you’re under arrest and then sheepishly putting yourself back together (shoes, jacket, belt…) in front of strangers has a dehumanizing effect. But the planes themselves carry those indignities to new heights. Jostling for space in the overhead bin is an Olympic sport. The glory of scoring a seat on the aisle is dulled by the proximity to people who suffer from baggage body dysphoria, knocking you in the head as they swing their backpacks around to get settled.

Designers have laid out airplanes for maximum capacity and minimum comfort. While working my way down the aisle to use the restroom my hips manage to bump, brush into or bruise themselves on armrests, sleepy passengers draped over their seats or elbows jutting out while using electronic devices. Exasperated, I recently asked two flight attendants if it was just my imagination, or are the aisles getting narrower? The flight attendants commiserated with me, one saying “Every day is an exercise in humiliation.” The other added, “I used to have a button that said, ‘Does this plane make my butt look big?’”

Just as I’m beginning to complain about the vagaries of business travel, I remember a YouTube video I saw with comedian Louis C.K. sharing his disdain for people who complain about flying. He tells a story about being on a flight when the high-speed internet connection went out and the guy next to him uttered an expletive in disgust. Louis says, “Oh, really? Are you partaking in the miracle of human flight? Did this plane just take off like a bird?” He reminds us, “You’re sitting in a chair–in the sky!”

Next time I’m annoyed by a flight delay or having to sit out on the tarmac, awaiting take-off, I’ll remember what Louis C.K. said about how a trip from New York to Los Angeles, roughly a five-hour flight, used to take years. Old people would die along the way and new ones would be born, he says. “A whole new group would show up at the end of the trip!” That, my friends, is perspective.

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13 thoughts on “Does This Plane Make My Butt Look Big?

  1. Congrats, Vickie, on your new adventure. A few years ago, my brother flew me out to LA for a visit. On the way back, after several delays, I had just settled into my seat when another woman said I was in her seat. Yep, we both had the same seat number on our boarding passes. Well, I thought I was here first, I ain’t budging. The attendant called the outside agent and after a few minutes, we discovered that my brother had upgraded the ticket at the last minute to first class! Okay, you can have the seat over the wing – I’m moving up! Doesn’t always end like that, but it was nice that day!

    1. Wow, Beth, that is the kind of brother to have! I have had the joy of flying first-class in another life, when my business travel was heavy and I continually got upgrades. I also flew business class once to and from Taiwan which was like being in a cocoon for nearly 14 hours, complete with my own little “pod” and unlimited food and beverages as well as impeccable service. Reminds me of that old song, “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm now that they’ve seen Paree?” Hard to go back to coach after that kind of pampering.

      Thanks for writing and for your kind congrats. Stay tuned–I promise to share more stories.

  2. Vickie – great article and loved the humor. I will try to recall the miracle of flight when I buckle up in a few weeks on my way to NY.

  3. Thanks Vicki, I love this offering. My husband and I are about to fly off to the East Coast tomorrow morning and this was the perfect thing to read! We get so caught up with what we think we deserve…fast service, easy access and immediate gratification. I’m going to remind myself tomorrow as I’m squished into my seat and bumped and jostled…flying to your destination can be miraculous.

    1. So good to hear from you, Bill! Yes, it IS amazing what we take for granted. I just did an exercise with a team that I’m working with–the CEO asked us each to share 3-5 things we are grateful for. Julie, the VP of training, had a wonderful list, including her family and co-workers, then at the end she added that she’s grateful for running water. Amen to that! I told her that my former pastor Tracy visited Congo on a mission trip and vowed she would never take running water for granted again. So, corny as it sounds, it is important to stop and be grateful for those things–and, of course, the miracle of flight! Hope all is well in your world.

  4. Yes, Louis C.K. (whom you know I love) is absolutely correct but that doesn’t mean the miracle of flight isn’t also ridiculous and poorly designed. We MUST still call for a revolution in the quality of our flight experiences while still appreciating its amazingness. And since he flies weekly, I know LCK would back me on this 😉

    1. Louis CK is probably flying on private jets by now. Oh, to be in the 1%! Thanks, Joy, for reminding us we can enjoy his humor while still launching a “Does This Plane Make My Butt Look Big?” Revolution.

  5. Wow… this article was great. I too travel by air so much more with my new job. The read was very timely too since I spent last night on a cot in the “customer service” room at Midway. I should have looked you up and we could of had a late night drink to catch up. Hope all goes well with your new adventures. Life is treating me pretty well right now.

    1. Oh, my goodness, Carolyn! We have a spare room for just such an occasion! Don’t ever let me hear you were on a cot at Midway OR O’Hare without calling me. At the very least I will come w/ a picnic basket and keep you company. So good to hear from you and to learn your work (and life) are going well. You deserve it.

  6. I laughed out loud at the title because I had clipped a cartoon years ago with two elephants standing ‘cheek to cheek.’ One says, “Does this tail make my butt look big?” Hey, if your travels take you to Nashville, let me know!

    1. I just wish I had that button so I could wear it on my next airplane ride! Thanks, Natalie, for your wonderful comment… and yes, I WILL be in Nashville so I’ll let you know. Please send current 411.

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