I’ve never been a fan of flying. I don’t have a phobia, exactly, but I’m not completely at ease either. Particularly if there’s turbulence. It’s not like I scream, “We’re going to die!” Not out loud, at least. But that’s certainly what’s echoing in my head. And by now, you’re probably getting an idea how my head works.

My dislike of flying intensified as I gained weight. I hated feeling like I was crowding my seatmates, encroaching on their space.

And then there was the humiliating time I had to ask for a seat belt extender. The flight attendant was very nice and discreet as she handed me the belt, but I was mortified.

airplane seatIt wasn’t the last time I needed an extender, but it was the last time I asked for one. When I got off the plane that day, the extender went with me, secreted away in my backpack. Yes, I nicked a seat belt extender from what used to be America West Airlines.

By the way, seat belts on airplanes are not cross compatible. I learned that the hard way when my ill-gotten extender did not work with the belt on another airline’s plane. I just went without for that trip.

Nobody likes sitting next to the fat person, and I was the fat person. I’m not sure how much of the judgement I felt was real and how much was perceived. The effect was the same.

Embarrassment and shame. They were my longtime companions, accompanying me everywhere.

For years now, I’ve been super conscious of the space I take up, particularly when in close quarters.

But a funny thing happened when I went to Vegas to meet friends last weekend. I didn’t even think about the space I occupied. The flight over was not full, so the middle seat in my row was empty.

The return flight, however, was another story. It was oversold, which means every seat was taken.

I was in the window seat and for the first time, I did not feel like I was invading the space of the man next to me. At least no more so than is normal on a plane that crams people in like cattle.

My seat belt was on with plenty of room to spare. The guy and I shared the armrest with none of my bulges, which are still very much present albeit shrinking, flowing over or under. I was fully contained in my own 17-inch wide seat.

I was fine. He was fine. Everybody was fine. And although the descent into Phoenix was rough enough that the pilot had the crew cut off drink service and strap in, we didn’t die. Obviously.

TonsOfCats.com

TonsOfCats.com

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook (or anywhere on the Internet, really), chances are you’ve seen pictures of cats in boxes, bowls, baskets, or any other kind of container. They all tend to have some variant of the same caption – “If I fits, I sits.

Guess what, folks. I fits in airplane seats! I like progress I can see. Baby steps are good, and they add up.

Now that I think about it, though, the “If I fits, I sits” thing might not be the best comparison. If you’ve seen those cat pictures, you know there often is some question as to whether the featured feline actually fits into whatever container he or she has claimed. Of course, cats could not care less what others think.

P.S. Next flight I take on US Airways (formerly America West), I will happily return the extender with which I absconded all those years ago. I promise.