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Saturday, January 13, 2018

So I Have This New Job, See...

...and for the first time ever, I am Management.

This is deucedly weird.  I have been one of the rank and file for so long that I thought the rank never ended and the file expanded indefinitely.  But no, I am really Management. I have an office, though not a secretary, and I am in charge of some stuff. In short, I am more responsible for making sure other people get stuff done than I am for getting things done myself, though there are still things I am supposed to get done.  That is probably the best definition of Management there is.

So how does one Manage Things, you are no doubt wondering.  Well, so far, it's pretty mundane; I answer email. People send me email, I look up the answer and answer it.  And people, I get a crapton of email.  I mean about two hundred a day.  And true, a lot of them are reminders or things that don't apply to me, but a lot of them are actual things I have to do.  It's like trying to keep up with falling snow.

(Just incidentally, one of the email accounts I'm monitoring is actually my boss's. And that man gets more solicitation email than anyone I've ever known.  But almost all of it is from the good guys.  I won't say who the good guys are, exactly, but if you know which way I lean on the great political wheel, you can probably guess some of their names.)

Besides email, I'm also chasing folks around and getting things, documents and information to give to other people.  That's not so different than what I was doing before, but instead of writing up the documents myself, other people are writing them for me.  I'm kind of the litigation border collie, I guess you could say.

One thing I am in charge of, though, is travel.  When my boss goes somewhere, I make sure he has a way to get there, a place to stay at the other end and a way to get around. Well, that doesn't sound so hard,nyou are probably  thinking. How many places can one guy go in a single month? Uh, try the Virgin Islands, Mississippi, Colorado,  Thailand and Japan. Thats the first month.  Then the next month is Sweden, Washington and Florida.  Then--well, you get the idea.

But let me tell you; I'd MUCH rather arrange somebody else's travel than hop on a plane myself.  Travel, for me, is a logistical nightmare. Part of it is the sheer mental energy that it takes to get oneself to an airport and through the TSA lines and find the right gate and the right seat and so on. That's hard on a normal person,  let alone someone like me or (horror of horrors) a single mom with three under 3. Then there's the sleep problems that come with crossing time zones and having to figure out what medication to take when because it's really three in the morning, not six in the afternoon like everyone else seems to think. Top it all off with being too fat to fit in a single airplane seat and I'm serious, just forget the whole thing.  I'll just stay in Texas for the rest of my life.  Honestly, I can't do it without an Ativan.  Some days I can barely do it with an Ativan.

In case you did not know this, airline seats are getting smaller all the time.  In the 1990s, the average coach class seat was about 19 inches wide with a pitch of 35 inches (that's the distance from the back of one seat to the back of the next seat). As of 2016, the average coach class seat is now 17 inches wide with a pitch of 31 inches. In fact, some of the discount airlines like Spirit and Jet Blue have pitches of only 28 inches, barely enough room for an average-sized person's calves. Forget it if you are tall, or fat.  You can either pay for a roomier seat or you can just not fly.

My solution, and it is not a great one, is to fly only Southwest and buy 2 seats. Most airlines, including Southwest, will require me to buy two seats anyway.  If you fly Southwest and buy the two seats in advance, rather than be pulled out of line and forced to buy a second seat in front of two hundred other people, they treat you like any other disabled person and they're usually very nice. They let you preboard, for one thing. They also refund you for the second seat if the flight happens not to be full. The main problem I run into on Southwest flights is shooing people away from my second seat when they're trying to find two seats together. Nobody wants to sit next to the fat lady, until the prospect of being separated for two hours from one's beloved/child/parent/friend becomes too much to bear.

Now, I've been lucky so far. I've always been able to keep my second seat empty and nobody's complained about me or told the flight attendants that I kept repeating "Allahu akbar" or something in an attempt to get me thrown off the plane (yes, people do this).  I've never been asked how much I weigh or kicked off a flight to make more space for skinny people. But I know that happens, most often to women (fat men are less expendable; they must have Somewhere Important to Go, whereas fat women are just frivolously jetting off someplace and who cares about them anyway).

Here's the thing, though. As  airline seats continue to get smaller, this too-fat-to-fit-in-one-seat thing is going to affect more and more people. The average American is not getting any smaller. The average airline seat is. The more seats they can cram onto the plane, the more money the airline makes.

This might be something to address with your Congresscritter, because Congress ultimately tells the FAA what to do and the FAA regulates the airlines. You might also check out Flyers Rights, www.flyersrights,org, a grassroots organization that advocates for the safety and comfort of airline passengers. But in the meantime, be nice if you end up sitting next to a fat person on an airplane, folks. Trust me, she doesn't want to be there any more than you do.

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