Posts Tagged ‘what the hell’

How are YOU?

October 12, 2009

I spend too much time on Twitter, probably, because it seems weird that I could get to know so many people in 140-character increments. But it’s turned out to be a good resource for news and networking for a lot of things, including fibromyalgia and other invisible illnesses and disabilities.

A frustration I deal with as a sick person is how to respond to the question, “How are you?” After all, it can be a loaded question to a person with a chronic illness, and for the most part the question isn’t meant to be answered with anything other than, “good, and you?” One of my favorite tweeters, @LilPecan, (who, to my knowledge, does not identify as a person with a disability) has mentioned how annoying it is to be asked the question, “How are you?” and I have to agree. It makes me giggle to hear that LilPecan and friends will greet each other with, “Good, and you?” beating the “how are you?” question to the punch.

But this does make a point. Even people who aren’t sick think this question is silly. As a sick person, I really don’t know how to answer it. When it’s asked by another chronic sickie or someone who understands what I’m going through, I’ll usually be honest (“I’m ouchy and tired, but had a great weekend, thanks for asking!”), but when it’s asked by someone who doesn’t fit either of those categories, I usually just say, “Okay. How are you?” I suppose it’s deceptive, but I really don’t think acquaintances are that interested in which body parts hurt worst on a given day, or how I just want to sleep for a week from fatigue (not depression, which is a common assumption), or how I really shouldn’t have done that extra load of laundry today.

It can also be kind of disheartening, because it’s a bit of a reminder, albeit a tiny one, that I’m always going to feel like shit, at least to some degree, and I’m never going to BE “good.” I might feel good emotionally, or I might have a good day physically, but I don’t think I’ll actually BE “good.” Or “fine.” Or “Great! Thanks for asking!”

Does anyone remember that George Carlin skit about being asked “how are you?” I can’t seem to find it anywhere, though. I’m a bad blogger.

I understand why people ask this and make small talk, but I’d still like to challenge us all to find a better way to open up discussions. Asking how I am conjures up thoughts of my health and my abilities, and while I will talk about those things if you’re genuinely interested, I’m smart enough to know that you *really* don’t want to hear the details of my boring fibro-filled life when you ask how I am. I’m okay with that. You don’t have to hear the gory details, and if I were you, I probably wouldn’t want to hear all the gory details myself. This shit ain’t fun. So perhaps you could ask me, or any chronically ill person in your life, “What’s new?” And if you’re actually interested in how we’re feeling, you could ask, “How are you feeling?”

If I do get asked “How are you?” which I do, because I have polite friends, I don’t get upset. But I do get tripped up, because I’m not sure if they’re asking to be nice, to start conversation, or because they actually want to know how I’m feeling that day. We can blame “fibro fog” for that confusion, I’m okay with that. But if you’d just be a little more specific, I sure would appreciate it, so I don’t talk your ear off when you just wanted to know if I enjoyed my breakfast. ;)

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Friendly Skies Not So Friendly for the Fat Traveler

April 19, 2009

UPDATE: There’s a petition that’s been started on the subject here. click for link.

I’ll continue to update this as I receive responses. I’m optimistic that someday United Airlines will see the error of their ways.

I know this isn’t about fibro, exactly, but traveling is stressful (and painful) enough without worrying about fat-hatred from the airlines.

United has a new fat-hating policy on their airline:

Under the new policy, obese passengers — defined as unable to lower the arm rest and buckle a seat belt with one extension belt — will still be reaccommodated, at no extra charge, to two empty seats if there is space available.

If, however, the airplane is full, they will be bumped from the flight and may have to purchase a second ticket, at the same price as the original fare, Urbanski said.

there’s a great blog post about it here:
http://kateharding.net/2009/04/16/funited/

i wrote a short bitter note to United and got a response.

my note:

I am shocked and disgusted at your new discriminatory policy regarding
reseating or removing “obese” passengers from flights. I find this
policy to be clearly bigoted against people of size when your seats are
clearly undersized for the average size of the population. Not only is
this just an offensive policy in general, but it’s also sexist, as your
policy implies that people with larger hips will have the biggest
problem meeting your ridiculous size requirements. People with larger
hips tend to be women, so again: not only is this police sizeist, but
it’s sexist, too. your “customer commitment” website states “In the air
and on the ground, online and on the telephone, our customers have the
right to expect * to demand * respect, courtesy, fairness and honesty
from the airline they have selected for travel.” Obviously United has
decided to be anything but respectful, courteous or fair to fat people.
(At least you’re honest about what you’ll do to us, though , so I’ll
give you that.) Consequently, I’ve decided to select another airline for
travel. I travel several times per year, as do my friends and family,
and I can assure you that NONE of us will EVER choose to fly United so
long as this policy is in place, and not before you issue an apology for
your anti-fat policies.

their response:

Dear Ms. F,

I regret to learn the disappointment you have expressed in your email
regarding our new Seat Policy.

Ms. F, please know that we care about the comfort and well-being of
all of our passengers throughout their travel on United. This policy
will enable us to ensure a comfortable travel experience for everyone
onboard. This policy matches what is already in place at other U.S.
airlines.

Let me apprise you that we received almost 700 complaints in 2008 from
passengers who did not have a comfortable flight because the person next
to them infringed on their seat. This policy addresses that feedback.
This policy will also allow our front-line employees to reference a
clear policy when these situations occur.

Additionally, our higher management team in United Airlines Headquarters
that reviews our policies, is monitoring customers’ comments regularly.
I have shared your comments in a report with them for their information
and thorough internal review. Based on customer feedback such as yours,
they are able to identify areas to make necessary procedural changes,
wherever and whenever possible.

Please know that all of us at United are firmly committed to our most
important asset – you. It is always a privilege to serve you.

Regards,

Saurabh Kumar Srivastava
United Airlines Customer Relations

My response:

Thank you for your unhelpful response.

You stated that you care about the comfort and well-being of all your passengers. This is in great contradiction to what happens when you decide to enforce your new policy by singling out a fat passenger, telling her that she is too “obese” to remain in her seat, and must be reseated or, worse, must be removed from her flight, forced to buy a second ticket, and be inconvenienced not just financially, but by her forced schedule changes, as well as the cruel and undignified experience of being told she’s too fat for the flight.

You claim you have had 700 complaints last year from passengers who had the horrible misfortune of being seated next to a fat passenger. Can you tell me how many passengers flew on your airlines last year? By comparison, I suspect 700 is a ridiculously small percentage of people. I’m also curious how many complaints you receive about screaming babies and ill-behaved children on your flights. Personally, I have had plenty of flights ruined by people’s offspring, but I understand this is one of the chances one takes when flying. Just like I take the chance I could be seated next to someone with offensive body odor, a contagious illness, or loud snoring (all of which has actually happened). When will you start charging more for screaming babies, foul body odor, excess germs, or loud snoring?

Or, better yet, why don’t you tell those 700 complainers that if they don’t like taking the chance that they may be seated next to someone they don’t like, they should be the ones to be reseated, removed from their flight, or forced to buy a first class seat? Let’s assume that for the 700 people who complained about fat seatmates, you had 700 fat paying passengers. Did you receive 700 (or more) complaints that your seats are ridiculously small and uncomfortable? I suspect not, because that’s common sense when flying: overpriced undersized seats.

I’m glad to hear you’ve forwarded my complaints on to people who may actually care someday, when fat travelers all over the country stop putting up with your bigoted policies and fly friendlier airlines, or avoid the unfriendly skies altogether. I’m actually flying in about a week, on April 28th, and again on May 4th. I’m relieved to say I will NOT be flying United, and as I’ve said before, I will not ever fly United until this policy changes. The same goes for my husband, my family, friends, and anyone who asks me for travel advice.

I hope someday you realise that size prejudice is unacceptable and that fat dollars are worth just as much as thin dollars.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

their response:

Dear Ms. F,

I’m sorry you’re dissatisfied with our response.

Ms. F, we recognize we have many complicated rules and processes. We agree some are difficult to understand, and we often review our policies. So, your comments are important and helpful. While I can’t undo the circumstances you are disappointed with, I commit to you that United is dedicated to providing you the service you expect.

Your feedback – whether positive or negative – makes a difference. It lets us know what we need to consider in order to earn your future friendship and support. Please give us another opportunity to serve you better.

Regards,

Saurabh Kumar Srivastava
United Airlines Customer Relations

my response:

I will be happy to give you another opportunity to serve my family, friends, and me better when you change your policies to be less prejudiced towards large people.

In the meantime, I recommend that you look into the legal ramifications of discriminating against people based on their size, and consider taking the initiative to be a leader in your industry (at least in the United States) and look into how Canada is providing equal treatment for their larger and disabled airline customers. I have provided links below for your convenience.

http://www.michigan.gov/homeland/0,1607,7-173-23583_23678-16288–,00.html
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22599803/

Sincerely,
Jennifer

EDIT: i received a response from United (i actually thought he’d given up).

Dear Ms. F,

I am sorry you continue to be disappointed with United.

Ms. F, every year United serves millions of people representing cultures all around the world. United is strongly committed to the equal and appropriate treatment of its customers. Our company philosophy does not condone acts of, and strictly prohibits, discrimination or discriminatory practices of any sort. We maintain a strong corporate commitment to a simple value to recognize, respect and support our customers and our employees. Please be assured we continually evaluate the products and services to ensure we are offering those that our customers most value. We know we can’t take your business for granted. We must earn it and we will work harder to do just that.

We appreciate your business. Your feedback will make a difference and will help us evaluate our decisions that impact your choice of airline.

Regards,

Saurabh Kumar Srivastava
United Airlines Customer Relations

my response:

I appreciate your response and continuing to discuss this very disturbing matter with me.

Since you’ve pointed out that United is strongly committed to equal and appropriate treatment of its customers and does not condone (and actually prohibits) discrimination of any sort, I hope that you are able to see your company’s admirable stance on discrimination is clearly in direct opposition to its very own policy– the policy dictating that United employees are to discriminate against customers based on their size.

Additionally, I’d like to point out that you’ve said you received 700 complaints about customers who were upset by being seated next to a fat passenger. In your response, you said you serve millions of people all over the world. I’d like to conservatively estimate that by “millions of people,” you mean 2,000,000 exactly (multiple millions). If 700 of those customers complained, that is actually less than four one-hundredths of a percent of your customer base (0.035%) were offended by having to share your obscenely small seating arrangements with a fat passenger. I’m curious to know how many customers have complained about your small seating in general (rather than specifically about fat passengers, which I am assuming was the impetus behind your new discriminatory policy). I also wonder how many fat people and fat advocates are speaking up right now about your anti-fat policy. Is that more than 700?

If United requires less than 0.05% of its customers to complain in order for a policy to be created, I can’t help but imagine United is years overdue to renovate its seating on its planes to better accommodate the United States’ average body size.

I certainly hope you forward my emails to those who are responsible for rescinding erroneous policies like the one we’re discussing. I am optimistic that United will someday understand that discrimination of all people, including fat people, is still discrimination and therefore not acceptable if the company wishes to retain customers.

Sincerely,
Jennifer