If we learned one lesson from the Kevin-Smith-is-too-fat-to-fly debacle it is that we have outgrown our chairs. That's right, America, it's time for all new seating in planes, theaters, cinemas, and the like. Who should pay for it? Fat people.
Not only did we learn about this problem recently when director Kevin Smith—with all his girth—was asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight for taking up more than his allotted space, it was reinforced for me last night as I sat on a steep balcony of a Broadway theater. The couple in front of me and my companion were both so large that they could not sit in tandem in their $125 seats. They could fit their asses between the arm rests, but the mass of their arms and upper bodies were pushing them into each other and the people in the adjoining seats. How did they correct this? Well, one of the pair had to lean forward on his haunches so the other could sit back in her seat. Then everything fit. They were like a yin-yang of bulk, wrapping around each other to fit into their little, overpriced sphere. However, due to the incline of the theater, now me and my friend were kept from seeing the entire stage due to the obstructed view of this guy's wide back. That's right, he made our $125 seats even more of a rip-off. If we'd wanted an obstructed view of the stage, we could have sat behind a pole and paid less.
That is when I had what an ever-expanding Oprah would declare as a "light bulb moment": We need all new seats. Everywhere. What you are really paying for when you fly or watch a movie or go to a play is not the service itself but a set amount of space in a certain environment. Part of the social contract decrees that one must stay in that space and, since everyone paid the same for their little chunk of air, that they should not be disturbed by other people from their spaces. The problem is, we—as a country, as a collective whole—can no longer fit in the predefined areas in the public sphere without pushing our rolls into our neighbors, bending our bodies into each others' views, and generally ruining the experiences of other people unlucky enough to get stuck next to a fat person.
Get ready for a great overhaul of every public arena in American life as we rip out the chairs that have been there and replace them with ones that allow for more space. It's obvious that we, as a country, are not going to get smaller and more fit, but continue our slide into invertebrate sloppiness, like the floating blobs that haunt the Wall-E future. This resizing is really just an investment in our crumbling infrastructure, one that is literally buckling under our own weight. And we won't be able to stop there. Benches will have to reinforced, bleachers made from sturdier materials, and those chairs with desks attached to them which are used in classrooms around the nation will have to re-engineered to allow more space for flesh between the two conjoined pieces of furniture.
This is going to be expensive, obviously. Not only do we have to pay for the renovation costs and the new hardware, but there will be fewer spaces for sale in the current venues and planes where we park our fat asses. That means higher prices for movie tickets, airline tickets, etc. It doesn't seem fair to pass that along to the more slender among us who aren't forcing the nation into this. How can we accommodate larger bodies and still make those responsible pay? Instead of redoing all the seating, maybe we can just redo some of it and declare those seats "obese seating" and charge more for those seats?
The other answer is establishing a "fat tax." Like the government does with cigarettes, there will be a tax placed on fatty, unhealthy, and prepackaged food (which happen to be three of my major food groups!) and since larger people eat more of these things, they'll end up paying more of the tax, and the proceeds will go toward adequate accommodations for overweight people on planes, buses, and other public spaces, as well as for our (please, please, God) eventual universal health care system. (After all, with diabetes, injuries, heart disease, and all the other ailments caused by excessive weight gain, they cost more to keep healthy.)
This country is based on individual freedom, but there are times when a person's lifestyle and health choices interfere so much with the safety and comfort of others that they need to be regulated. That's why we tell drivers how many drinks they can have before they get behind the wheel, why we keep smokers outside of bars, why you can't make too much noise on the street in the middle of the night. If we can't keep ourselves healthy and our bodies small, the government will have to do it. Which means it's time for more rules, more taxes, and, yes, even bigger seats.