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Kevin Smith, I feel your pain!

By Cathy Ladman, Special to CNN
  • Cathy Ladman laments Kevin Smith's getting bumped from a flight because of his size
  • She says such treatment is routine for fliers now, unlike the days when flying was fun
  • Indignities -- security measures, no food -- begin early and last till you've landed, she says
  • Ladman: It's only a matter of time till Smith's treatment becomes routine even off the plane

Editors note: Cathy Ladman is a comedian and a winner of The American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-Up Comic. Her latest show is entitled, "Does This Show Make Me Look Fat?" Her Web site is

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- As many of you already know -- because Tweets travel faster than airplanes -- Kevin Smith, the portly film director of the movie "Clerks" and the upcoming film "Cop Out," was "politely" asked to disembark from his Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank because he was too large to fit in the seat.

Okay, let's be frank: He was kicked off the flight. The reason he was given was that his size infringed upon the space of the person sitting next to him and it could cause a safety risk in case of an emergency.

Does it surprise you that an airline that has charged a customer several hundred dollars for the service of transporting him from one place to another would subject said paying customer to the indignity of being told he's too fat to fly? I don't think it does.

Because this is what flying has become: barely one rung above bus travel. Southwest may have apologized to Smith, but what about the rest of us?

Scratch the surface of any frequent flier and you will find a raging cauldron of resentment (or endless angry tweets, like Smiths), a bottomless pit of despair and rage with no hope of satisfaction because, after all, fliers have no choice but to accept every humiliation if they want to fly. Most of us don't have our own planes -- or fly business class.

Myself, I'm old enough to remember when flying used to be fun -- but not quite old enough to remember when people used to "dress" to fly. But they did. It was an event to go on an airplane. Like going to a Broadway show. Pretty ladies with hats and smiling men in uniforms would bring you snacks, blankets and pillows. Beverages in real glasses. But at some point, the airlines started to lose money, started charging more and giving you less in return.

The tragedy of 9/11 hastened the end of any kind of special treatment. Boarding became a cattle call -- complete with prodding with a stick -- where you had to basically undress before you could get on the plane, take off shoes, coats, sweaters, get "wanded," step out of the line for frisking, and other debasements too horrible to mention. Soon they will be swabbing your hands for explosives. Really! I know one woman whose underwire bra had security stumped. (I have to check a bag just for the hair products for my frizzy hair; they don't come in less than three ounces.)

By the time you get on the plane, you are like a refugee -- the tired, the poor, the huddled masses in middle seats. Flight attendants can't dote on you any more, they are too busy scanning the group for potential terrorists. No more meals -- bad as they were -- no more cutlery. If you're lucky, something called a "snack mix" in a bag is thrown at you, making you beg for more water.

And less and less room. If you drop something on the floor, you can't reach it without putting your face in the lap of the person sitting next to you.

It makes you long for the fat days (you'll pardon the expression) of People Express, that 1980's no-frills airline that operated out of Newark. It seemed pretty terrible back then, but really it was just a preview -- every man for himself. Basically anything you got during the flight, you paid extra for.

When they did the safety announcement at the beginning, I would wait for the day they'd say, "In case of an emergency, please pay two dollars and fifty cents to have an oxygen mask drop above your seat." (Ha ha ha, right? Don't give them any ideas.)

But you flew with them, because they were so cheap. Now I'm wondering if that's a good enough reason anymore. How much can a body take, even a skinny one like mine?

Kevin Smith, I feel your pain!

I cringe for the person who has to sheepishly ask for the seat belt extender because the one in the narrow little seat doesn't make it around his body. The world is not built for fat people, and airplanes are not the place to look for gentle treatment.

Video: May: I flew with Kevin Smith

I will not be surprised when airlines start to weigh people's luggage at the ticket counter, and then ask the traveler to get on the scale and be charged by the pound. It's coming, you watch. Or they will have bench seats on the airplanes, measure people as they board, and seat them accordingly.

If a fat person has to pay extra to fly -- Smith usually buys two seats on Southwest because they don't have first class -- then this could be a precedent for more suffering in the world away from the tarmac. A fat person will have to pay extra for a larger size in clothing. Or pay more for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Or pay extra to use an elevator.

But what do I know? I was just turned down for health insurance because I have a history of anorexia. Well, that's what they said. I know why they really turned me down: It's because I'm fat.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cathy Ladman