The predicament of Kevin Smith, the plus-sized film director who got tossed from a Southwest Airlines flight last Saturday for being too big for the comfort of whomever would be seated next to him, may raise a question for our times.
Not, "Would you want your sister to marry one?" but: "Would you want to sit next to him?"
Is it bigotry or just good sense to exclude people because of obesity?
Southwest has a policy—requiring people to purchase two seats if they cannot get down the armrest that separates their seat from the next passenger. Southwest says Mr. Smith initially purchased two seats, then tried to fly standby on an earlier flight, with just a single seat available.
He says he was seated, but then told to deplane.
Mr. Smith, who is also an actor, author and comedian, began to tap out his outrage to 1.6 million Twitter followers.
"Wanna tell me I'm too wide for the sky?" he wrote. "Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM SOUTHWEST."
He says a Southwest employee told him, "'There are safety issues . . you were taking up more than your allotted space."'
"That's a euphemism for fat!" he told his followers. "I AM fat ... if I die early because I'm fat, that's my choice ... but I'm not fat enough to be ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight!"
Kevin Smith is 39. I don't know how much he weighs.
Southwest Airlines apologized, and offered Mr. Smith a $100 travel voucher. He refused the apology, calling the airline, "fatty-haters."
I suspect he doesn't need the voucher, and has enjoyed more than a hundred dollars worth of publicity that mentions his new film, Cop Out.
But I'll bet that there's also hurt behind his bombast. Being thrown off a plane for being—I'll say it; he does—"fat" must be humiliating, whether you're a famous film director or a corporate road warrior who looks more like Kevin Smith than George Clooney because the only exercise you get is walking through airports.
We may feel sorry for Kevin Smith. Yet how many of us can say that when we see someone of his size in line for a flight, we say, "Hope I get the seat next to him!"
Or, that we'd want to be behind him if the plane had to be evacuated?
People have a right to be obese. But do companies have a right to limit obesity, like smoking, in certain areas, for safety and health?
One reason the incident has gotten so much attention is that as Americans grow famously larger, US airline seats get notably smaller and cost more. Getting in and out of them resembles doing origami with your body. An average airline seat can make Tinkerbell feel like Kevin Smith.