A few weeks ago a friend of mine made a public offer on Facebook to take some extra tickets he had to attend a pre-screening of an upcoming movie. I didn’t have anything going on that morning, so I opted to take them.
I got to the theater, a small place with just a few screens nestled into a mall known for higher-end shopping establishments.
I walked into the room of the screening and started looking around for my benefactors amongst the crowd. As I walked down the aisle looking for them, a slow dread started to creep into my heart.
This was an older theatre, not one of the jumboplex 200 screen theatres with stadium seating, 3D capabilities and sound systems using technologies with futuristic sounding names that aren’t even words.
So what exactly was the problem here? The armrests were not adjustable. The size of the seat was the size of the seat. Period.
My mind immediately started planning escape routes. I could tell my friends something came up. I could avoid finding them at all and just tell them later I couldn’t make it. Actually, that wasn’t an option as we’d been texting about my arrival a few minutes earlier. Dammit.
I find them and look down at the seats a bit ruefully. Graciously, the two of them scooted down a seat and allowed me the end seat, though they couldn’t have possibly known the panic mode I was in.
I told them I was going to get a drink and would be right back. I left the theatre and as I headed more or less towards the concession area, I seriously thought about just leaving. No explanation, not even a goodbye or expression of gratitude for the opportunity.
Somehow, against all odds, my secret fear and anxiety lost the battle against a sense of just trying to be…normal, I guess. I got myself a cup of black coffee and ventured back into the theatre.
I took my time getting back to them, looked down at the seat and made a quick scan of the audience, to see how many people would be witness to my humiliation when I didn’t fit into the seat, or worse, when it broke under me.
With my heart racing, I put my coffee into the cup holder, turned around and…
Fit perfectly into the seat. Not squeezed, not in clear discomfort, not even tight. Just sat down. Like a normal person. Like anyone else would. My efforts were paying off.
I was honestly shocked. It was kind of a big deal. And one that I wouldn’t share with anyone. Except with the whole world via the internet. Ugh.
This is another of those things that most people aren’t really going to be able to relate to, but some of you out there totally will.
There are long lists of things that heavier people fret over. We pay exorbitant prices for clothing (admittedly, we use more fabric, but not enough to justify doubling or tripling the price per item) which we cannot find in regular stores. Further, we are subject to whatever sort of ridiculous things the manufacturers decide the fatties get to wear. Going without clothing is not really an option. But I digress.
This fear ties to a lot of things. And by “things, “I pretty much mean “chairs of varying types.” Chairs with arms, lawn chairs, folding chairs, beach chairs, plastic or wicker patio chairs, these are all The Enemy. All of them fill my head with visions of them disintegrating under my comically colossal frame depositing me to the earth and sending up a cloud of dust-formerly-known-as-chair and shame.
I’m a little surprised these same visions don’t just have me keep going until I break through the earth’s crust and am eventually consumed by its core.
By extension, I’m hesitant to climb things or get on structures unless I’m pretty sure they would hold cars, which my wild imagination tells me I am comparable to.
This is extra fun when your kid climbs to the highest part of the playground and then is afraid to come down and needs Daddy to come to the rescue. I’m already 6 and a half goddamn feet tall BEFORE being overweight and having all of the accompanying fear issues.
Maybe you have a reason to have these fears. Maybe you don’t. For me, it started at a Dungeons and Dragons game wow…maybe 20 years ago? (THAC0, baby!) Yikes. I was in one of those plastic patio chairs. There were a lot of us huddled around the table and it was a crowded room. At one point, I start to get up from the table and as I began to lift/scoot the chair back a little to where I could lift it the rest of the way, the feet didn’t slide on the carpet (duh), the legs bowed and snap! They shattered into plastic shrapnel and dumped me on the floor. The room erupts into laughter. (yes, they also asked if I was OK) My body was just fine, but my pride (what little of it there was at that point in my life) took a bullet right between the eyes.
Oddly enough, I’ve sat in this style of chair with no difficulty at heavier points in my life. Also odd, I didn’t flee the country and join a new D&D game in Mexico under the alias Jose Babbitto.
Chairs continued to act as inanimate antagonists in other capacities of my life. When my (then) wife was planning our honeymoon (or any travel via flight arrangements). I added a considerable expense to the trip because regulations required that I purchase two seats. This issue was given national attention when it happened to Kevin Smith. So trips were a lot more expensive in addition to the quiet shame associated with the clear visibility to the other passengers that I wouldn’t fit into one seat. It’s bad enough my height is an issue there too.
The real heartbreak came the first time I went to ride a roller coaster that I’d ridden dozens of times before and found that that safety bar wouldn’t latch. I hauled myself out of the car in sight of everyone and imagined to myself that it was a mechanical failure on the part of the safety bar and not my absurdly unhealthy way of life.
You’d think that these things would have been enough to catapult this journey sooner. Writing about them, I wonder why they didn’t. Because change is hard. Effort is hard. Finding excuses and other things to do is easy.
However, what I get now that I didn’t get then (or maybe I did and just couldn’t convince myself I was capable of doing it) is that we get just one ride on the merry-go-round. All of these restrictions are something I can control, and WILL control.
Sitting down with no difficulty into that theatre chair was a win I can’t really begin to explain the importance of to those who haven’t felt those fears or experienced those excruciatingly embarassing moments. I proved beyond any of the other little perks I’ve picked up along the way so far that this was really something I could do.
My “grand prize” for successful completion of the Captain Hammer Project is a weekend at Cedar Point, riding enough roller coasters to make up for the years that I avoided them. Maybe I’ll even fly there in a single seat.
Next time: The update I didn’t write today. Also: Total Eclipse of the Heart.