I’m tall. Tallness comes with various side effects—most are pleasant, but some physically hurt. (If you want an extended list of side effects we can get together later). At least I’m tall enough that I don’t hit my head on anything…?? What? You may think that sounds backwards but it isn’t. I know very well where my head is at all times.
Most doorways are six and a half feet. I’m six ten so I duck through almost every door. I feel for six-five guys. Even though they’re five inches shorter, their “tweener” height will break their head open one day.Most haven’t the habit of ducking because they don’t need to duck through most doors. A dude that hasn’t developed the habit of ducking through doorways who decides one fateful day to put on a shoe with a plus size sole… ouch.Door Jam meets Forehead Part IV. Thanks goodness I passed up that painful height as a junior in high school. One of my fondest habits in life is that of ducking through every doorway regardless of the height. This tall man information should be postscript to the subject of this post.
One side effect of my tallness that I can’t decide whether or not I enjoy is that people’s attention seems to naturally follow after the tall guy for some reason. I can’t hide or blend in to a crowd, believe me I’ve tried (like when I try to practice my moves on a dance floor without putting them on display for all to see). Sometimes my every move feels like it’s being traced by all-seeing eyeballs. If you’ve ever sat in the front row of a full classroom and felt like someone is staring a hole through the back of your head, that’s what it feels like, often… at least when in public places. (For that reason, tall people, in public places, seem to migrate to walls or solid objects for refuge from the “eyes”).
On the positive side of tallness: Harvard social psychologists have determined that tall men are considered more persuasive, attractive, and listened to; are higher paid, more likely to hold leadership positions, and memorable. That’s nice, but that’s just the way it is whether us tall folk like it or not. Now, of course we have to contribute by standing tall regardless of how tall we already are, dressing decent, and maintaining personal hygiene, or the positive results could plummet to profound depths in the opposite direction.
The tallman factor is part of a phenomenon dubbed “The Halo Effect.” This effect has to do with the way outward or external appearances of the perceived affect the inward or internal emotions of the perceiver. People make assumptions or knee-jerk judgments of others based off of simple, emotional, oftentimes meaningless, external “triggers.” If I went to the office looking like I did when I woke up in the morning (unkempt hair, bad breath, slouching, basketball shorts and a t-shirt), and I were to meet someone for the first time looking like I just got out of bed, they would make a judgment about my character based on those external triggers.. in this case a negative judgment. It’s sad but true. We do it all the time. However, if I was dressed to the 9’s and smelled nicely and walked confidently, and I was tall, their opinion is likely to be positive. We are quick to judge a book by its cover. We do it all the time. Now you know the scientific term that goes along with it. The cliché “Dress for success” has everything to do with the Halo Effect.
Similarly, making an effort to look nice and carry yourself confidently can achieve the same results. What you wear, how you walk, the look on your face, what you smell like, etc., all that and more affects the sub-conscious of the onlooker and is a part of the enigmatic halo effect. Luckily for un-tall people, the effect isn’t just achieved through tallness. One benefit of being tall, though, is that tallness is one of the only positive halo effect characteristics that is completely natural. I just have to get up in the morning and I’m instantly tall, no cosmetics or smell-me-good sauces necessary to spice me up.
So what does all this jibber-jabber have to do with flying? Here it is. In addition to the aforementioned side effects experienced by tall men, here’s yet another curse: traveling can be most unpleasant; not just for me (cramps and little practical use of the seat-back tray), but for the person sitting beside me (have to sit with my legs wide) and the person sitting in front of me (can’t lean his chair back). Accommodations just aren’t made for tall people when flying the “friendly skies.”
There are three places on a flight where a tall man will sit comfortably—depending on the make and model of the airplane sometimes not even that (sometimes the legroom in first class is even terrible). First class, the bulk head and the emergency exit are the tall man’s oases in the air.
I didn’t travel that often until a couple years ago. Before then I didn’t understand the Halo Effect and therefore didn’t achieve my desired oasis of comfort in the friendly skies. I settled for cramps way too often. Once I learned the power of the Halo Effect, however, I have since only settled for something less once.
Official segue to the punchline of these ramblings:
I made a resolution. I wanted to take full advantage of what the Halo Effect had to offer. On one day trip to LA I wore a nice suit. I quickly noticed that I was treated differently when I was well dressed (a suit or a blazer with a nice button up shirt, slacks, and tassel shoes–which make me look like a 30+ year old) I got what I wanted… my legroom and an extra drink or two. Hmm… Jeans and a t-shirt just didn’t get these results. This was intriguing to me. I resolved to always dress nicely when traveling so I could do so in relative comfort.
With Halo Effect in effect, I sometimes feel like a celebrity or somebody important because of the way people look at me… and I know I ain’t no celebrity. A few times I was treated as if I was a professional athlete, people assumed I was… of course I’m not. I would get people asking me which NBA team I played for and if I could get them tickets. They assumed I played in the NBA, an effect I never got in jeans and a t-shirt. A few times I was offered first class for no reason, because they couldn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be in first class. I never have to ask more than once to be reseated in the emergency exit or the bulk head when flying coach, even if they have to move someone out of their rightful seat to do so–the flight attendants accommodate my long legs rather nicely. On Southwest I pre-board with the little kids… I’m still mulling over the ethics of that one…
This passed holiday season I decided to travel comfortably and leave the tassel shoes at home. Sufficeth to say, I didn’t get that bulk head seat or the emergency exit and I returned to taste the unpleasantries of the unfriendly skies. Yup, this was that one time that I settled for something less.