Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bringing the Spirit Home...Part 2

There is a lot that gets talked about surrounded fat people and flying, some by those who are fat and some about those that are fat. Either way it is never a pleasant conversation.

For an obese person travel and flying is one of the most negative experiences you can have. At a time when the airline industry is working to cram smaller and smaller seats on tinyer planes packed with more and more people even being "normal" sized is hard. I have watched many fit healthy sized people have to wedge themselves into rows where there is no shoulder room or arm room. But it is multiplied a million times when you are overweight or obese. I personally had only survived it through upgrades that I get as a high tier frequent flier.

If I am completely honest, my weight and flying probably had a lot more to do with my decision to move to a city with a hub airport three years ago than I realized. It meant flying on larger planes, for shorter amounts on time. It meant less awkward moments having to ask for a seatbelt extender or having to apologize to the person sitting next to me for encroaching on their space.

And YES to the rest of the flying public, overweight people do know they don't fit well on the plane and whether you realize it or not, we feel guilty about it. There is nothing worse than sitting waiting to see if the person who will be sitting next to you is going to see you, sigh and make a face because they got stuck next to the "fattie". I have even had seat mates go to the flight attendant and pitch a fit for having to sit next to me. We hate it as much as you do!!! But we get the added benefit of the embarrassment of knowing how we are making you feel and how we are being judged. One of the greatest changes in my weight loss has been no longer having to face that look when someone sits down next to me. The first time my seat mate actually flirted with me instead of scowling at me I nearly kissed him (yeah that wouldn't have been good *grin*).

But there is another part of flying as an overweight (and in my case also somewhat disabled) person that we don't admit to, and that is the fear. While I never said this to anymore, every time I got on a plane at 338 lbs I worried for my life. Because while I can recite the "Deltalina Safety Speech" with the best of them, I wasn't sure if there was an emergency I would live through it. I honestly feared if I could fit out the emergency door or not, particularly on a small regional jet. And even if I was on a larger plane I wasn't sure I would physically be able to handle going down the slide. I truly believed if I was ever in a flight emergency it would probably cost me my life even if others survived. I knew this was one of the ways that being obese was life threatening for me.

A year ago I was given the chance to find out how I would do, in a controlled environment. Delta Airlines offers a class called "Road Warrior Training". Think of it as flight attendant school light. Flight attendants go through 7 weeks of training at the Delta training center, Road Warriors go through two. The training is about medical emergencies, in flight self defense, fire on a plane (including exiting a smoke filled cabin), slide escapes and the pinnacle...a water ditching and use of the life vests and emergency rafts.

A year ago I passed on the class. I knew I couldn't do it, I knew I would look like a fool and I knew I would hold up the rest of the group if I even tried. Despite fearing for my life, I couldn't face it all. But this year, as part of "airline camp" I had the chance again and this time I went for it whole heartedly.

I have to admit going into it I wasn't sure how it was going to go. I still feared how my body and leg would cooperate, but I needed to know. I needed to know what would become of me if I was in a flight emergency.

In just those few hours at Delta I conquered 10 years of flying fear. If I hadn't admitted to those with me and those training me that I had had the challenges I did a year ago they never would have known. I slid down the slide, I went out the emergency doors, I jumped in the pool and best of all I was able to get in the raft (oh yeah and did that with cute toes showing *smile*).

At the end of the class they gave us a certificate and told us it was now our responsiblity to let the flight crews we fly with know we are an ABP if we are needed.

No greater words could have ever been said to me than ABP...ABLE BODY PERSON!!!!!!

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