Thursday, February 25, 2010

TBT* not necessarily TBTrue*

This is the cover of yesterday's (Wednesday, February 23rd) TBT*:

The TBT* ("TBT" stands for "Tampa Bay Times" but don't ask me what purpose the asterisk serves; I don't think there is one) is an off shoot of the St. Petersburg Times newspaper. It's a snarkier, tabloidier digest version of the regular paper. The big, surly looking fella on the cover is Mike Stuben and this story is obviously related to the incident last week when big fella film director Kevin Smith was embarrassed publicly when he got booted off a Southwest Airlines flight for being "a safety risk", in that someone determined (after he had already been seated) that he was too large to occupy a single seat on the flight. Smith was upset and vented his anger at the situation and Southwest by firing off several "F you!" messages via Twitter. So here we are a week later and the TBT* shows us a picture of another large, angry guy who seems to be saying "F you" and he's not even on the plane yet. Geez, where do these pissed-off fat guys get off, huh?

The problem is Mike Stuben is not pissed off. I've known Mike personally for over ten years and the word that would probably best sum up his overall demeanor would be sweet. He's just a sweet guy. Relentlessly affable with a self-depreciating sense of humor, always willing to poke fun at himself first before taking shots at someone else, and he loves sports, especially University of South Florida athletics. The truth of the matter is, Mike would probably like nothing better than to sit next to you and probably yack your ear off about the exploits of Marquel Blackwell or Chucky Adkins or some other USF athlete the whole time. Honestly, I don't know how they got a picture of him not smiling, unless the photographer started singing the UCF fight song just before taking the picture.

So what's the gist of the article that accompanies this cover photo? Well, what you find on page 16 (of a 22 page publication) is that Mike runs a web site ( that's "dedicated to making travel less expensive and more comfortable". Included among tons (HAW!) of tips for saving money and getting stuff for free (a Mike Stuben specialty) is an article he wrote back in January about the issue of oversize people and air travel. Some highlights:

  • "...little trick I learned with my years of flying Southwest was very simple - only make eye contact with someone who you wanted to sit next to you. Eye contact was often a subliminal invite to sit down next to me. If I knew every seat would be full, and I was going to have someone in the middle seat next to me, I would make sure I only made eye contact with thin, attractive women. This was before I was married, now I only look at my wife."
  • "Getting stuck between two passengers is the worst possible place to be. You end up uncomfortable, maybe even in pain, and you feel bad for those two unlucky people who you are making uncomfortable and possibly angry."
  • "When you get to the gate, head up to the counter and with a smile, inquire if the seat next to you is currently open. If the gate agent says yes, I politely ask them if they could try not to put anyone in that seat, since I am a big guy. Most gate agents are glad to try, since that is the best for everyone, but if a flight is full, then there is nothing they can do. Sometimes they choose not to help because they are having a bad day or are just mean. Take it in stride. There is no benefit to getting angry at this moment."

The tone and content don't exactly match the picture of the glowering man-giant above, do they?

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