Flying is often a hellishly bad experience. You’re crammed inside a giant flashlight, miles above the Earth, with only very tiny bags of snacks to get your through. You’re also squeezed into seats next to other irate passengers who all have feelings about who should get to use the elbow rest. They think it’s them, and they’re wrong.
It can be especially hard for bigger passengers, because seats are often smaller than what is actually average in this country, because they gotta sell those tickets! It’s cramped. We also live in a fat-phobic and body-shaming culture that gives anyone over a size ten a hard time about their life. It can be anxiety producing. A mother named Savannah Phillips wrote in a recent viral Facebook post that all her fears about her body while flying were brought to life during a horrible interaction on a plane.
But her story also has a happy ending, so stick with it.
I am only sharing this story of what happened to me today in hopes that the person who stuck up for me will somehow be recognized…
I’ve been on airplanes for the past three weeks. My flight to Chicago was changed to an earlier flight because of storms, so I didn’t get to pick my seat like a normally do. I always try to sit in a row where I don’t have to sit next to anyone. I’m not the biggest person on the airplane, but I’m not the smallest. My worst nightmare is someone being uncomfortable because they have to sit next to me.
My seat was assigned at the gate, and when we boarded I was sitting next to an older guy who said he was a comedian. He looked like he was in his 60s and had on bright yellow sunglasses. He stood up so I could get into my seat next to the window. As soon as I got buckled, he sat back down. The flight attendant started the safety speech and he got his phone out (with huge font and the screen brightness turned all the way up). His phone was maybe 12 inches from my face and he proceeded to text someone that he was sitting next to “a smelly fatty.”
I don’t even know what the rest of his text said. I turned my head away as fast as I could. I was shocked and it was like confirmation of the negative things I think about myself on a daily basis. Before I knew it, I could feel hot, salty tears coming down my face. I sat and cried silently, hoping this guy didn’t try to make small talk, because I didn’t trust how I would react and I didn’t want to get kicked off the plane. I was so hurt. The pilot came overhead and said there would be a 30 minute delay before he could take off- great. Just more time I would have to sit next to this creep.
We sat on the runway waiting for the OK to take off for about 10 minutes- I sat there unable to stop silently crying. I was scrunching myself up against the wall as far as I could. All of a sudden, someone from behind us taps on the guy’s shoulder and says, “Hey- I need to talk to you.” The guy next to me takes out his headphones. Someone behind us says, “We are switching seats. Now.” The guy next to me said, “OK- why?”
And I hear someone say (removing curse words), “You are texting about her, and I’m not putting up with that.” A guy comes and sits next to me and is shocked when he sees me crying. He asked if I saw the texts and I nodded yes. He encouraged me not to let that guy get to me and that everything was going to be fine. We talked about Ross and the kids, his two year old son, our jobs, amongst other things.
He said he just happened to see that guy’s text messages he started shaking he was so mad and knew he had to do something. He stopped the flight attendant and told her what he was about to do. I told him thank you for what he did and that it meant the world to me- and that he would be my husband’s new favorite person. The flight attendant kept trying to give him free drinks and told him that he was her hero.
He wasn’t her hero- he was mine. I told him that yesterday at church, one of my favorite people on the planet, Jeff McMillon, talked about how God sees you. Good time, bad times, in a mess- your own fault or not- God sees you. And God saw me today. I told him that he was a blessing sent to me and how thankful I was that he was there.
So- this guy’s name is Chase- he works for Whiskey Row in Nashville. Share this post, look him up- whatever- he did prove to me today that (1) not only does God see me, but (2) there are more good people in the world than bad.
Chase is now getting the recognition Phillips thinks he deserves.
He was interviewed for a local news channel and told his side of the story.
Chase says he could see the man’s texts from where he was sitting. At first, he wasn’t sure what to do. He debated kicking the guy’s butt or waiting until landing to say something.
In the end he did neither. He tapped the guy on the shoulder and said they should switch seats. Mistaking the situation, the man thanked him and asked why he was offering.
“Because you’re a heartless person,” Chase responded. “I read your texts. And the girl next to you crying also read your texts. And you should take into consideration other people’s feelings.”
Neither one said what the man did next, but he did switch seats. People were very touched by how the gesture turned Phillips’s experience around, and reminded her not everyone is terrible.
A few folks said they’d experienced similar discrimination on flights:
And at least one person claims to know and love Chase:
It’s a small world, so help our your neighbor when you can.