Tahlequah Daily Press

June 4, 2012

Might as well go for a soda, if it’s 16 ounces or less

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — He may have changed his political party a few times, but whatever it says on his voter registration card, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is clearly a socialist, or a communist, or a fascist, or one of those other really bad “ists.” He’s no capitalist, because if he were, he wouldn’t be trying to separate porky New Yorkers from their super-size soda pop.

The nerve of that guy, declaring war on obesity and blaming its prevalence on sugary drinks! We ignorant Okies had thought he was a financier and media mogul before he took the mantle in Manhattan. Obviously we were wrong. He’s a nutrition consultant.

Actually, the man’s up to snuff on scientific theory. Most experts agree the major contributors to the obesity epidemic are fast foods and sugary drinks. Right now, it’s just uber-gulps at restaurants, delis, movie theaters and ballpark concessions, along with the ubiquitous sidewalk carts. But it’s only a matter of time before Bloomberg sets his sights past the soda fountain and to the grills and fry vats at McDonald’s and Burger King.

Forget about investing in Facebook, folks. There are some serious dividends to be made by those with a stake in New York City billboards. Wouldn’t surprise me if Bloomberg’s portfolio lists Clear Channel and Lamar. If I had any capital, I’d be down for some shares myself. I’m told by people who live there that the pop peddlers are spending big bucks on billboards and especially subway ads to protect their interests. Perhaps subway riders are getting so fat the transit authority can’t squeeze as many people onto each train, thus bleeding the city of cherished fare revenues.

Bloomberg considers public health a top priority, and he believes his constituents support his approach. After all, obesity does cause health problems, which in turn boosts the cost of health care – which no one except the 1 percent can afford to seek these days. So if Bloomberg is aiming to save his peeps some money and get them better bods in the bargain, what’s the problem? And besides, as he acidly pointed out, one can always buy two or three smaller drinks, in lieu of the humongous one. Seems a small price to pay for someone determined to take plus-size to a whole new dimension.

Perhaps Bloomberg thinks his sugar policy will be as successful as his battle against the tobacco industry. Many cities have now banned smoking in public places. But of course, secondhand smoke is a key factor. If you smoke, your habit could very well damage the health of those around you. Shoving unwholesome consumables down your gullet isn’t likely to have much effect on the guy next door, unless you tend to undress in front of a large window facing the neighbor’s house.

But I might be wrong. Have you ever been forced to share your seat on a plane with someone who needs a seat and a half? Plane seats are barely large enough to comfortably accommodate a skinny, buck-toothed 10-year-old, much less a regular-sized adult. Spending an entire flight accordioned into half a seat could seriously cripple a person, especially on a flight to somewhere like, say, Singapore.

Every time we go to an amusement park, we see at least one episode of a morbidly obese person trying to squeeze into a roller coaster seat. The ride attendants will employ every technique and tool short of a crowbar and a can of axle grease to stuff the patron into the car, but if the safety bar or belt won’t click closed, the rider is politely told to exit the train. Usually, the rider slinks away in embarrassment. But occasionally, an oversized patron will get in the face of the hapless pimply-faced teenager who turned him away. Allegations of discrimination against the portly, and threats of lawsuits, are likely to ensue (though I’m not sure how a mechanical object like a coaster train can muster the cognitive ability to discriminate).

Why anyone would subject himself to this public humiliation is beyond me. It’s bad enough that all those folks on the platform are whispering and rolling their eyes at the delay. Then there are the little kids pointing and yelling, “Mama, look at that FAT man!” Worst of all, though, are the expressions of abject terror on the faces of other riders on the train under stress from the extra weight. You can tell they’re wondering if the overburdened vehicle will leave the tracks, sailing unfettered through the air before crashing into the concrete and sending all occupants to meet their maker.

A few amusement parks – like Universal Orlando – have retrofitted some trains to accommodate increasingly larger patrons. Such attractions bear discrete signs suggesting that “rows 3 and 6 may be used by our larger guests.” Regular-sized riders can use these rows, too, but unless you’re morbidly obese, you don’t want to, because other riders will look at you as if you ARE morbidly obese, and this is particularly disturbing for those of us who are plump to one degree or another, but nevertheless still able to latch the safety belt.

The last time we were at Universal, in line for the “Dragon Challenge” (which, alas, has not been retrofitted), a woman who was indeed fat, but well-proportioned really wanted on. She sucked in her breath several times, and three or four kids were working on her like EMTs at the site of a bad wreck, but to no avail. Finally she announced to all in the vicinity: “Well, I’m gonna lose me some weight, honey, because I wanna ride that ride!”

I saw her later, carrying a 48-ounce cup of what I presumed to be soda. But it may have been an alcoholic beverage. After what she’d been through, I wouldn’t blame her.

Kim Poindexter, who is currently plump, is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.