Help! The World is Shrinking!
By Patrick F. Cannon
I write this from Florida, where I’m spending time with my son, Patrick and staying for a a few days with my brother Pete and his charming wife, Mary Beth. To get to this earthly paradise, I had to fly from Chicago. I chose United Airlines, which had a decent fare and a reasonable departure time. It was only a short flight – a bit over two hours – so the potential for discomfort was minimal.
But, nevertheless, they did their best to torture me. Over the past few years, seats have become increasingly smaller. While a couple of inches of decreased width and leg room may not seem much, they were deducted from already tortuously tiny seats. If you’re a petite little thing, it may hardly matter. But if you’re six feet two inches tall and weigh close to 250 pounds, every inch counts. While it’s possible to survive being cramped for a two hour flight, try the same seat on an eight-hour flight to Europe.
Don’t hold me to it, but I read somewhere recently that Americans on average are three or more inches taller than they were 100 years ago. And surely you’ve read that an increasing percentage is obese or at least pleasantly plump. So, of course, everyone recognizes this by making everything smaller.
Airplane seats are only the most notorious example of the world getting smaller while we get bigger. Automobiles are also getting smaller. I own what is now considered a full-size sedan. It’s just fine for the front seat passengers. If, however, you have to carry some folks in the back, you have to adjust the front seats far forward, thus scrunching yourself so close to the steering wheel that your head almost touches the windshield.
In 1948, I think it was, my father was able to finally buy a postwar car. He wanted to buy a Buick, but he would have had to pay a high premium above list because new cars were still scarce and Buicks were then the Cadillac of the middle class. He settled for a Mercury. Even so, the back seat was so capacious that I could not reach the back of the front seat with my legs fully extended, and I was tall for my age. To get the same kind of room nowadays, you would have to spend big bucks on the largest Mercedes, or even bigger bucks on a Rolls or Bentley.
While most of them are hideous architecturally, I can almost understand why people are moving to the far reaches of civilization so they can afford a bigger house or “McMansion” as they are derisively called by the urban sophisticates. An affordable house in Chicago is likely to be a bit on the small side. I remember years ago looking at a townhouse development and thinking the interior looked reasonably spacious. Then I noticed that the furniture in the model was actually about two-thirds normal size. I hadn’t realized that such stuff existed; perhaps it was manufactured by the Lilliputian Furniture Company.
Back to the airlines. At present, they’re making a pile of money, what with the current decline in the cost of fuel. But apparently, they want to pile it up for future eventualities, so they have decided that if you want a real seat, you’ll have to pay extra. The “one percent” still gets to cavort with Champagne in their giant seats up front, while the 99 gets squeezed in the back, although you can pay extra to get back the two inches the poor slobs in the far back have lost. Why hasn’t Bernie Sanders taken up this cause? Maybe he’s flying first class?
Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon