Unexpected consequences of obesity epidemic

I’m not entirely opposed to touching someone else’s body or having someone else’s body touch mine in appropriate circumstances like, say, a wet peck on the cheek from my Great Aunt Giuseppina, the handshake of peace at Mass if the other person hasn’t been blowing his nose and, of course, emergencies when I might require the Heimlich maneuver because something I shouldn’t be eating, like a Slim Jim, got lodged in my throat.

However, I have limits in the body contact area, and there are circumstances that turn me off completely, and I’ve encountered them a lot lately on the commuter train. How did this problem suddenly reach epidemic proportions after years of safe commuting? Simple. The new and improved train cars have smaller seats, which is just what America doesn’t need while we’re confronting a 21st century obesity crisis.

For years, Metro-North commuters have been waiting for new trains to replace cars manufactured when Dwight Eisenhower was president and gas was 26 cents a gallon.

As the new red and silver and shiny cars started arriving — and they should be arriving for the next decade or so — we quickly discovered the seats were smaller by several inches.

They must have been manufactured in Japan where people are smaller because they eat spicy tuna rolls for breakfast instead of Big Macs and Big Gulps. Anyway, the commuter experience has led to uncomfortable body contact, which is really annoying when you reach for your wallet and have to sit on the other person’s lap to get it.

Or when your knee touches his knee and he’s a pro wrestler. Or when you doze off and the next thing you know, your head is resting on her shoulder and you’re snoring. Not a pleasant experience for either of you, especially if you’re a big guy with biker tattoos. Sooner or later, I expect some woman will break out screaming that I’m rubbing my thigh against her hip in an unseemly fashion.

Didn’t the engineers who designed these trains realize Americans are getting fatter, not thinner, and didn’t they realize you can’t even buy a medium T-shirt in Walmart anymore because they’re all XX-large and XXX-large? There’s no seats on these new trains for people with those dimensions unless they go sit in the lavatory.  Is this discrimination or a lack of foresight in a country where all we talk about is innovation? Is it any wonder the Chinese are whipping us at everything from computer hacking to manufacturing dog treats that make our dogs sick?

At this time of year, all that body contact can get really bad. Last week, a guy sat next to me who was suffering from a chronic case of the sniffles. I wanted to reach into my pocket and hand him my handkerchief and plead, “Please take it and blow your nose.” However, in the interests of civility, I restrained myself even though I could practically see the germs parading out of his nose, down his Hermes tie, over his leg like Hannibal crossing the Alps and onto my knee.

Before I knew it, I was sniffling too and had to blow my nose, at which point, I could no longer offer him my handkerchief.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a chronic allergy sufferer so I understand the perils of a dripping nose. But from now on, in order to spare my fellow commuters, we have to keep our distance. Just tell me how to do that.

Joe Pisani can be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.