Tall men in planes

I am off to Spain today, for the conference, to present my unfinished, and unfinishable, talk. Why unfinishable? I am asking people to supply estimates for certain probabilities (see the previous post), on which there will never be agreement, nor will these estimates cease changing through time. I am somewhat disheartened by this, and would like to say something more concrete, but I am committed. So. It’s eight hours there and back, crammed into a seat made for, let us say, those of a more diminutive stature than I. There will be no more postings until Saturday, when I return, which is why I leave you with this classic column I wrote several years ago, but which is just as relevant today.

Burden of the very tall

Lamentations of the Very Tall

An alternate title of this article could have been, “Short People Rejoice!” for it’s my conviction that the world is mercilessly biased in favor of tiny people. That is, probably you.

I say “probably you” because of the firm statistical grounding in the fact that it is quantifiably improbable for a random person to be tall. I’m also assuming that you, dear reader, are a random person, and therefore most likely belong to the endless, but shallow, sea of short people.

Here’s the thing: since you are probably short you are likely to be unaware of how tall people suffer, so I’m going to tell you. For reference, I am a shade over six-two, which is tall, but not professional basketball player tall. This is still taller than more than nine-tenths of the American population, however.

Life as a tall man is not all bad. It’s true I’ve developed strong forearms from beating off adoring females who lust after my tallness, but there are many more misfortunes that outweigh the unending adulation of women. Showers for one.

Shower heads come to mid-chest on me. I’ve developed a permanent stoop from years of bending over to wash my hair—and then from scrunching down to see my reflection in the mirror, typically placed navel high, so that I can comb it.

The lamentations of the tall when it comes to airplane seats are too obvious to mention. As is our inability to fit into any bathtub or fully on any bed.

I once worked in a building that required, for security reasons, a peephole to be drilled into the door. I stood guard over two workers who dickered over where to place the pencil mark that would indicate where they were going to drill. Each in turn stepped up the door and put a dot in the spot where their eye met the door. The marks didn’t quite match but they soon settled on the difference.

Ultimately, the hole was about crotch high on me. To be fair, I was in Japan and the workers were Japanese, and therefore on the not tall side of the scale. Because I was in the military, I wasn’t entirely comfortable bending down to that degree1. This meant that I breached security each time I opened the door because I couldn’t see who was on the other side. Suspicious, is it not?

It was at this point that I began to believe that this discrepancy in height was not entirely genetic and that sinister motives may be behind the prejudices of the non-tall.

For example, I have to place my computer monitor on three reams of paper so that it approaches eye level, and I have to raise my chair to its maximum so that my knees aren’t in my chin, but when I do my legs won’t fit under the desk. No matter how I position myself I am in pain. I sit2 in a factory made cubicle-ette which, as far as I can tell, causes no difficulties for my more diminutive co-workers. This is more evidence of the extent of the conspiracy of the non-tall.

Shopping is suspiciously dreadful too. Short people can freely walk into any department store and grab something, anything, off the rack, while we tall men are stuck with places like Ed’s Big and Tall. These stores are fine if you have a waist of at least 46 inches and you have stumpy legs, but they are nearly useless otherwise.

Pants for the tall are a cruel joke. Even if they carry labels that promise lengths of 35 or more inches, we know that these labels are a lie. Yes, the legging material may stretch for yards and yards, but there is never enough space where it counts. These pants are called “short-rise” for obvious reasons. I asked a salesguy (a non-tall man, of course), do they make long-rise pants anymore? He didn’t stop laughing. Normally, I’d have my revenge by not buying anything from him, but I couldn’t buy anything from him in the first place. I could do nothing but fume.

I’m not sure how we, the tall, will be able to overcome these horrific adversities. In raw numbers we are but a small minority—a fairly imposing looking minority it’s true—but a minority just the same. Still, there is word that something can be done and I hear that we’re to discuss ideas at our next official Tall Man Meeting. Don’t bother trying to sneak in, though, because we take measurements at the door.

1If I would have been in the Navy, I would have been used to it, of course.
2This was true then; it no longer is. I do not have a desk now.


  1. Alan McIntire

    I’m 6′ 3″. What really bothers me is rainy days, with all of those
    short people waiving those umbrellas close to my eye level- I’m afraid of getting my eye poked out by one of those things every time it rains

  2. Wade

    This comment if unrelated to this thread, but I cannot resist having some fun at your expense…

    So, I’m reading the STA 282 text you have posted on this site, and thoroughly enjoying I might add….

    Until I hit page 29, when you are discussing a Bayesian problem about army recruits “who come form a deprived upbringing, or regious with little access to technology (like Ohio)…”

    I could not figure, for the life of me, why you would disparage myself and other fine Ohioans, until I read your resume. Apparently the “Michigan Inferiority Complex (MIC)” has spread outside Ann Arbor and into the Directionals…..

    The only reason I could think of why this disease would spread was….global warming. I mean, Al Gore nailed it, right? Plague and pestulance…everywhere! I guess the Michigan Inferiority Complex is funnelling throughout the entire state and all who contract direct their new found resentment towards us, genetically superior (not to mention in football acumen) Ohioans.

    All joking aside, loving the book, and soooooo much better to read than the countless “Statistics for Engineers and Scientists” books I’ve been subjected to.

  3. (Wet towel.)


    More MIC? My son is in the process of choosing Michigan or Kansas.

    I’ll let him see this post.

  4. Wade


    All kidding aside, I “chose” Ohio State over Michigan, Cornell, Southern-Cal, and Virginia due solely to being flat broke, but if your son is choosing based on anything other than desire to watch good basketball, you gotta go with Michigan over UK.

    Also, UM’s non-resident tuition is like 6x higher than in-state, so get your kid off-campus housing ASAP and stop claiming him on your taxes. You’ll be able to get him in-state status within a year or so.

  5. B. Durbin

    As a talish woman (5’9″), my clothing concerns are similar, except that I have a proportion issue that means when the legs are tall enough, the waist comes up and hits me in the chest. I wear skirts to work.

    But I hear you on the shower thing. We are currently renting an apartment unit that, for some absurd reason, has the shower heads positioned below the average male height. And the bathtub is usefull only as someplace to put your bent legs in, or part of your torso? not too useful when the overflow catch is a mere ten inches off the bottom.

    That kind of tub would be perfect for a kid’s bathroom. Why it’s in an area for adults is beyond me.

  6. W J B

    I’ve heard it all before, but try being average for a day!

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