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Saturday, August 6, 2011

All bad relationships...

…must come to an end!

I travel several times a year for work, which requires quite a few flights. When you are a person of size flying can be embarrassing because typically the smaller the plane the smaller the seatbelt. I have been on many types and sizes of planes over the years and I will never forget the first flight I took when my seatbelt did not fit. I was too embarrassed to say anything to the flight attendant so I faked as if I was wearing it (which was not hard from a window seat). I thought for sure they had a red light blinking somewhere indicating I did not have mine on (like the one in cars when the driver does not have their seatbelt on). I prayed the entire flight that there was not a moment when I actually needed it to keep me safe. I was relieved when we landed.

It was on my return flight from that same trip when I experienced my first true public humiliation from being overweight. I was in an aisle seat this time and once again, my seatbelt did not quite fit. I figured I would just fake it again (I also made a pledge to myself that as soon as I got home I would go on a diet so I wouldn’t be faced with this scenario again).  It was not until after we pulled out and were heading to the runway when a flight attendant came running up the aisle yelling, “Why don’t you have your seatbelt on”. For a moment I thought, “Crap, they DO have an indicator light”. I quickly realized that half of the seatbelt was dangling to the side of my seat in the aisle. I gave him a blank stare because I did not know what to say and this very rude flight attendant (who was a man) kept yelling at me to put it on. I had to tell him, in front of everyone who was now listening, that it did not fit. He rolled his eyes and said he would get me a seatbelt extender. Even though it has been several years since that incident, I can still feel the shame and disgrace from not just him yelling at me but for having to admit something so embarrassing aloud and then having to travel with these people for two hours on a plane where I could not hide.

The next flight I took, I quietly asked the flight attendant if she could discreetly bring me a seatbelt extender (which she did) and when we landed, I decided to “borrow” it and I never gave it back. I would always make sure I had it in my purse or backpack near the top so I did not have to dig for it and before I boarded the plane, I would put it in my pocket. I was not about to go through the humiliation again and no one ever knew.

Since I had surgery, I have had to take several flights. I celebrated my first “no seatbelt extender” flight when I flew first class on a large plane. Yes, flying first class does have its benefits other than champagne and a nice meal. I knew that I would still have to use it on the smaller planes because for whatever reason the airlines seem to think that if the plane is smaller than the passenger must be smaller too. I have to fly on a plane that holds less than 30 people quite a bit so that darn extender and I had quite a bad relationship going.

This past week, I had to take another business trip. I have lost 30 pounds since my last trip so I was hopeful I would not need the extender. I knew it would not be until the last segment of my trip on the way home when I would be put to the test on that dreaded 30-seat commuter plane so I had to bring the darn thing with me. I got on the "plane", made my way to my seat, put my stuff under the seat in front of me, already had the extender near the top of my bag so I could quickly pick it up without anyone seeing in case I needed to use it, and then proceeded to attempt to buckle the actual seatbelt. I held my breath, closed my eyes and then I heard...CLICK. I thought it was lying to me so I opened my eyes to try it again and...CLICK. What a GREAT sound.

Needless to say, I bid farewell to my seatbelt extender. I pushed it to the bottom of my bag and smiled all the way home. Now, I just need to decide on whether or not I give it back or keep it as a reminder of how far I have come and where I will never allow myself to be again.


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