A WEIGHTY ISSUE
by Bill Monson
The Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has (have?) released a new study that says the average weight of American adults increased by ten pounds in the 1990s. (It takes the government a while to digest statistics.)
It's part of the CDCP campaign to make us more aware of what they call "the obesity epidemic." To get some headline space, the federal agency said that in 2000, U.S. airlines had to spend $275-million to burn 350-million gallons in fuel just to carry the additional weight. (That's $1.38 a gallon--but let's not forget this is the year 2000 we're talking about.)
Now this is an interesting fact--but it has the smell of a study which the airlines will use to ask for more federal money and also use against those of us who fly with them.
After all, the airlines are always trying to fill their planes, aren't they? Haven't they driven hundreds of travel agencies out of business by cutting off the agencies' booking fees? Don't they urge us to use the Internet for "cheaper fares?" Don't they offer special flight packages to get us aboard? Don't they overbook?
They shrank seats in the 90s so they could get more into each plane. They stopped serving decent meals in the 00s so they don't need to use their kitchens. We tourist class fliers now get sack or box lunches--which we usually have to pay for!-- instead of a dinner with silverware. Many flights now smell like MacDonald's has a counter in the back. (Now there's an idea; a fast food restaurant in every cross-country airliner!)
They've also reduced what can be carried aboard. I'm in sympathy with that since some people seem determined to bring their own weight in carry-ons; but after all, it was the airlines losing our luggage that spurred even the most conservative of us to carry aboard our necessities. Then they put in those magazines about gifts to encourage us to spend money--and put tax-free boutiques in the airports for last-minute impulse shopping--so what did we do? We bought gifts on the ground and wanted to fly them back with us. I've been on some overseas flights which looked like bazaars during debarking.
I think the CDCP has goofed on its choice of object lesson. Even their statement that the extra fuel burned also had an environmental impact was off-base. The agency estimated 3.8-million extra tons of carbon dioxide were released into the air to carry our fat butts into the blue (soon to be gray) skies. Nobody cares about that kind of pollution. If they did, there wouldn't be so many SUVs on the road.
No, I'm afraid the CDCP is going to have to find better ways to publicize "the obesity epidemic." After all, these Atlanta folks believe that 99.7 per cent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. That's their statistic--99.7%! I guess the rest are astronauts, anorexics, or models. I'm not denying that Americans are F-A-T. We are. Just look around you the next time you're in a crowd--or at the heaping plates at some North Henderson Street buffets. BUT--according to the CDCP, I'm fat; and I can circle my wrist with my thumb and index finger. My legs belong on a chicken and my neck on an ostrich and my backside is nearly non-existent--but I still weigh nearly 200 pounds; and the CDCP says that's overweight. Twenty-five pounds overweight! Now I admit to a bit of an old man's gut--but what standards are we using here--the Depression? Well, I suppose the CDCP will find new ways to publicize their fears of our fattiness--the medical costs, for example.
But if the airlines are really worried about extra pounds, let them take the practical solution. My dad used it when he owned a butcher shop on Cherry Street. Weigh that meat!
Let the airlines charge us by the pound; and the problem will take of itself. After all, they already treat tourist class like cattle!