Some dude named Rich Wisken apparently achieved mild viral success a few years ago with a "hilarious" Craigslist ad, and, sick and tired of not being good enough at writing to get actual writing jobs, he's been chasing that dragon ever since. Unfortunately for Wisken, he recently hit upon one of virality's fundamental truths: There is nothing people like more than reading obviously fabricated bullshit about a fat person attempting to travel from place to place on a plane.
I say "unfortunately" for him because, though Wisken's viral letter to JetStar airlines did manage to garner a whole bunch of attention, it is also the Platonic ideal of hanging oneself with one's own rope. Rich and his letter are utterly inconsequential—there's nothing in there that I don't see daily in my Twitter mentions from 13-year-old boys—but, taken in the broader context of our culture's current conversation about fat people, they way that Rich undermines his own objective is rather spectacular.
In short, I have literally never seen a more effective advertisement for the necessity of the size acceptance movement.
Do you like riddles? I do, that's why I'm starting this letter with one. What weighs more than a Suzuki Swift, less than a Hummer and smells like the decaying anus of a deceased homeless man? No idea? How about, what measures food portions in kilograms and has the personal hygiene of a French prostitute? Still nothing? Right, one more try. What's fat as f***, stinks like shit and should be forced to purchase two seats on a Jetstar flight? That's right, it's the man I sat next to under on my flight from Perth to Sydney yesterday.
As I boarded the plane, I mentally high-fived myself for paying the additional $25 for an emergency seat. I was imagining all that extra room, when I was suddenly distracted by what appeared to be an infant hippopotamus located halfway down the aisle.
As I got closer, I was relieved to see that it wasn't a dangerous semi-aquatic African mammal, but a morbidly obese human being. However, this relief was short-lived when I realised that my seat was located somewhere underneath him.
Soon after I managed to burrow into my seat, I caught what was to be the first of numerous fetid whiffs of body odour. His scent possessed hints of blue cheese and Mumbai slum, with nuances of sweaty flesh and human faeces sprayed with cologne - Eau No.
Considering I was visibly under duress, I found it strange that none of the cabin crew offered me another seat. To be fair, it's entirely possible that none of them actually saw me. Perhaps this photo will jog their memories.
Pinned to my seat by a fleshy boulder, I started preparing for a 127 Hours-like escape. Thankfully though, the beast moved slightly to his left, which allowed me to stand up, walk to the back of the plane and politely ask the cabin crew to be seated elsewhere. I didn't catch the names of the three flight attendants, but for the purpose of this letter, I'll call them: Chatty 1, Chatty 2 and Giggly (I've given them all the same surname - Couldnotgiveash***).
After my request, Chatty 1 and Chatty 2 continued their conversation, presumably about how s*** they are at their jobs, and Giggly, well, she just giggled. I then asked if I could sit in one of the six vacant seats at the back of the aircraft, to which Giggly responded, "hehehe, they're for crew only, hehehe". I think Giggly may be suffering from some form of mental impairment.
I tried to relocate myself without the assistance of the Couldnotgiveas*** triplets, but unfortunately everyone with a row to themselves was now lying down. It was then I realised that my fate was sealed. I made my way back to Jabba the Hutt and spent the remainder of the flight smothered in side-boob and cellulite, taking shallow breaths to avoid noxious gas poisoning. Just before landing,
I revisited the back of the plane to use the toilet. You could imagine my surprise when I saw both "crew only" rows occupied by non-crew members. I can only assume Giggly let them sit there after she forgot who she was and why she's flying on a big, shiny metal thing in the sky.
Imagine going out for dinner and a movie, only to have your night ruined by a fat mess who eats half your meal then blocks 50% of the screen. Isn't that exactly the same as having someone who can't control their calorie intake occupying half your seat on a flight? Of course it is, so that's why I'm demanding a full refund of my ticket, including the $25 for an emergency row seat.
I'm also looking to be compensated for the physical pain and mental suffering caused by being enveloped in human blubber for four hours. My lower back is in agony and I had to type this letter one-handed as I'm yet to regain full use of my left side. If I don't recover completely, I'll have to say goodbye to my lifelong dream of becoming Air Guitar World Champion. If that occurs, you will pay.
To discuss my generous compensation package, email me at: email@example.com, or tweet me at: @RichWisken
Try to read this letter and then argue that fat people are not systematically dehumanized and abused for sport. Try to read this letter and then argue that size acceptance is a frivolous movement built on laziness and not a reaction to the deliberate marginalization of human beings. Imagine that you're a fat person and then read this letter. Imagine that every time you attempt to discuss practical solutions for shrinking airline seats you're called a shrieking, accountability-averse cow. Imagine that, like any normal person, you sometimes have to fly to get places—not someday, after you magically lose weight and "fit" better and "deserve" to access the services you pay for, but NOW. Imagine that you have to travel for work to afford food and rent and heat and school supplies for your kids. Imagine that your father just died and you have to fly home for his funeral. Imagine that you saved up for years to go on a long-dreamed-of vacation. Imagine that you gained weight because of the anti-depressants that are keeping you alive. Imagine that you're fat because life is complicated.
Then imagine having to get on a plane, as a fat person, knowing that our culture—the people crowded in all around you—gleefully rewards this kind of content with millions and millions of page views.
This letter and its author are nothing, and, after a week in the spotlight, are already being buried in the litterbox of history. (Also, though I don't doubt that Rich has flown in proximity to a fat person before, the details of his story are groaningly, embarrassingly fake.) But as an artifact, as a mirror, they are useful. This violently, gratuitously cruel (and sexist, btw) piece of "writing"—lacking any particular originality, humor, or skill—was picked up as a rallying cry by people all around the world. A catharsis. A validation. A satisfying amplification of their innermost thoughts.
And I can't think of any better way to foment widespread empathy and disgust among the normal, thinking, kind people of the world than to lay that ugliness bare. So, cool story, bro. Tell it again.
Image via Getty.