Sunday, March 4, 2012

Please Leave the Chair and WALK: Soapbox Sunday March 4, 2012

I am not judging anyone else with this
photo. It could be my former ass. 
Just touching on this first: Disney cancelled plans to officially open a new attraction that showcased excessively obese characters created for the purpose of showcasing obesity inducing behaviors. Upon exiting the attraction, guests are pushed back out into a theme park full of fat-laden, sugar encrusted, deep-fried faux food. Perhaps the next big opening will be a ride mocking the deaf and blind?  Imagineers who planned the this thing without visiting the park and looking at their own guests - you know: the people spending big dinero to visit the parks who will be offended. . . . .They made a mistake. They have taken it 'off stage to rework it'. Enough about that. I want to discuss something else. 

Thirty years ago, three, four and five hundred pound theme park guests were a rarity. As a former 385 pounds guest, I feel I speak with a view from within the ranks of the chubby. Why were there less obese guests? There were less super morbidly obese people at that time. Super-morbidly obese was not even a description back then. Most of us fatties could not have made it from the parking lot to the monorail to the theme park gate in the heat of summer without dropping over with sun-stroke or full out death. Those of us who did (I was a particularly dedicated visitor to the worlds of fantasy) had to do so on our own two feet. They didn't have extra large sized wheelchairs and if we squeezed into a regular wheelchair and pressed out the seat side panels with our hips, the metal would rub against the tire wheels. The side panels would heat from the friction and sometimes people left the park with burns on their hips from those chairs. (I know I did).

1982: Enter the electronic convenience vehicle: a mobile lounge chair for people too fat for their feet. Back then the Disney parks started offering electronic convenience vehicles (in Epcot) but you had to get to the park gate to rent them. Guests didn't arrive at the parks in their own chairs back then. Insurance didn't pick up the cost of electric wheelchairs and hover-rounds for the obese and the cost of people having their own was very prohibitive. Two decades ago there weren't multiple companies in Orlando ready to rent these assistance devices to guests, in various chair sizes to correspond to weight and girth, delivering them directly to the door of their hotels. 

I know my hips were bigger than hers
Yeah, as I huffed and puffed my way around the park on my over-taxed feet I looked longingly at the chairs and at times wished I wasn't too embarrassed to be so fat so I could use the chair and not carry myself around the theme park. Now I look back and realize that feeling of embarrassment probably helped save my life. It kept me moving - and when you are close to 400 pounds every calorie you burn and every chance to force your lungs get to suck in breath and make fresh, oxygenated blood for your muscles, is good. Sitting on my ample posterior as I 'carted' my way around the park was simply going to lead me to be stiff and less likely to move the next time I needed to exert myself a few steps.

I used an ECV - twice. One time I hurt my ankle in California's Disneyland and needed a chair for one day. At some point I accidentally ran a foot and took the shoe off with the cart. I sometimes wonder if that person ever walked again. . . . Another time I was having a melt down with my kids in Epcot, in the middle of July - and a well-meaning cast member brought me an ECV to use for free - I think she was afraid I would keel over dead. It was a blessing to have the chair that day but I knew I would feel really uncomfortable eating ice cream while riding around the park in a ECV - so I got out of the chair and sat on the bench when eating so I would not look like "one of those people." Hell, I was one of those people. I just didn't accept it.

It is one of the few things that helped me finally let go of the food. The idea that I was in a theme park and my chosen ride was the electric wheelchair sickened me. It was one of the things that helped me change. I see people in the theme parks every day for whom getting in and out of the ECV chair has become their only physical activity, besides lifting a fork and spoon.

My dad tried a cart, liked it and bought himself one for his home in NYC.  Having one meant he no longer had to walk two blocks to and from the grocery and carry home his bottle of soda, cookies and chips. He now had a cart to take him all around the neighborhood and could ride the city buses to get across town without climbing steps or walking anywhere. My mother believes this chair hastened his death. I know it did. He didn't do anything without his cart once he had it. He wasn't obese, but he was out of shape and the chair let him stay that way - to his detriment.

If you are morbidly obese or just fat and lazy (I've been both in my life), PLEASE do everything you can to keep moving. Life in a convenience chair isn't life. It is death with a battery pack. Don't let the 'convenience' of an electric chair take away your life.


This post brought to you by Soapbox Sundays


downsizers said...

I think our pride is one of the biggies when it comes to the enough is enough moment. It was for my sister who had the surgery. She couldn't take it anymore after not being able to fit into a seat at an event where she and her daughter were to watch a dance review. She cried and cried over having to ask to sit somewhere else because of her size. Pride is something that is hard to come by when one is obese but it is there and when it cannot be ignored any longer, we get serious. I hope I never have to use one of those chairs but if I do, it will be because of advanced years not obesity.

Caron said...

I read about that Disney snafu. What were they thinking?!

My mother in law got one of those chairs free only to find out that it would not go through the doors in her house. She is no longer with us but I think it was a good thing that she was not able to use it and had to walk a little more.

Cathy said...

Fear of the chair was a prime motivator for me to lose weight. When I stepped on the scale and I was 215 (pretty far from needing a chair, but still), I thought "will this end with me riding around Wal Mart in a chair?" It is easy to kid yourself and think "I will never get that far", but if you can get to 215, you can get to 315, and so on ....

Princess Dieter aka Mir said...

I can only shake my head when people say "the obesity epidemic is a hoax"...and don't believe we're all radically fatter than we used to be. Um, I don't remember but only a couple of "fat kids" in my elementary school. Fat was..different. Most kids were lean. Ditto high school. Fat was more common than elementary there in the 70s, but nowhere near the fatness I see now in high schools when I drive by and kids are out milling about.

I think the fact that my butt would not fit into concert seats or sports stadiums 15 years ago tells me that those venues, built 30+ years ago accomodated leaner folks than the 200+ crowd common enough today.

And anyone with family albums..unless there was a serious genetic component, will note that family photos from the 30s, 40s, 50, 60s, and even 70s, will show a leaner crowd than those in the new Millenium.

I do not want to be in those chairs. I realized my lousy knees, getting lousier with abuse from fat, were gonna land me there. This was not THE motivator for me, but it sure was in the side of my brain every time I hit Publix and saw the increasing numbers of big fellow fatties using them...

Vickie said...

such a good post. thanks for sharing. I was nearly immobile at (a mere) 215+ pounds because my knees could not handle that weight. And my lungs were compressed enough between that and my asthma, I could not breathe. Good points about the seats and the pictures and how different things were just 30-40 years ago. (not to mention 100 years ago).

Diane Fit to the Finish said...

We lived in FL during my morbidly obese years. We "did" Disney several times and they are some of my most vivid, most embarrassing times. I know exactly what you are talking about. No chair for me then - like you said - it wasn't an option.