Just an average fellow

It’s official: I’m an average guy.

I learned this recently while listening to a program on Maine Public Radio.

I like having pleasant-sounding invisible people speak to me, even if these days it’s usually through a computer rather than an actual radio. Hearing random thoughtful voices is a great way to keep my mind active while I’m washing dishes, making beds, folding laundry, sweeping floors, or carrying out similar mundane but necessary household tasks. Some chores aren’t compatible with radio listening because they involve too much noise, like vacuuming, preparing meals that require the fan above the stove to be operating, or cursing at the knife I cut myself with during an already-loud meal preparation session.

The program that informed me of my averageness concerned air travel, which is ironic, given that I’ve only been on an airplane four times in the past two-plus decades. But that’s what was on during the time I was doing the dishes that day, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to learn a little something about the commercial airline industry. The show began with the host introducing a distinguished panel of experts, and what followed was a lively and informative exchange of ideas concerning the many pros and cons of flying the friendly skies. Then, after a break for some public service announcements (and presumably a sip of water for the participants), the discussion was opened up to listeners.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first caller had something of an ax to grind. “How come,” he asked, “the airlines keep making the seats smaller and smaller? I travel for business, and it seems to me we’re getting packed in like sardines these days.” The responding panelist explained that for the sake of efficiency (a nicer-sounding word than “profitability”), airlines need to put as many people as possible on each flight. He then cited a study done some years back which revealed the average male American airplane passenger weighs 170 pounds. The folks who build airliners keep that in mind when designing the ideal width of the seats in the new planes they build.

My ears picked up when I heard that, because when I had stepped on a scale earlier that very morning, three red digits indicated that I weighed….170.0 pounds.

I’m not sure why, but learning I was in fact THE average American male made me feel a lot more important than I had previously suspected I was. Imagine that: a major American industry was designing its business plan around me!

I’m not really sure how helpful it is to the airlines to know how much the average American male weighs, though. For one thing, while I haven’t flown lately, I seem to remember that a fairly significant percentage of the people on past flights I’ve taken were female. Also, a person of any gender who stands six foot six and weighs 170 pounds is going to take up considerably less seat width than a 170-pounder who is, say, four and a half feet tall. And while I appreciate the concern over girth, what about leg room? It hardly seems fair that a 6’6,” 170-pound beanpole with three inches between either of his hips and a side of his airline seat has to fold himself up like an accordion, while his more corpulent 4’6”, 170-pound pal gets to sit snugly while his or her feet dangle an inch above the airplane’s floor.

I weigh 170 pounds, my height is between four and a half and six and a half feet, and I don’t have to fly anytime soon.

If that’s average, I’ll take it.

Andy Young
February 3, 2024

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