She tried holding the tears in. But it was too late, she had already seen more than enough. She quickly turned her head towards the window and tried to comfort herself.
That’s when she heard him. Confused, she lifted her head up and watched him confront the man in awe. Unknowingly to her, he couldn’t wait to make his move.
Savannah Phillips was a proud woman. As a working mother, she had a lot to boast about. However, there was one small voice in the back of her mind that told her she would never be good enough.
Every time Savannah flew, she booked a seat which had no one around her. But today, it was a packed plane. Her anxiety started to kick in as she prepared herself for her journey, but nothing could prepare her for this.
As a plus size woman, Savannah had a problem with her weight for most of her life. She endured constant ridicule and stares which really impacted her self-esteem.
Being overweight has been a big problem in America for years. What is more recent however, is the emergence of body shaming, which can lead to all kinds of problems. Something Savannah was about to be reminded of.
Savannah hated planes, especially their tiny seating but as a business woman, she couldn’t avoid the need to travel. So she bit her lip and got on with it.
She also found a way to manage her anxieties by booking isolated seats so that she could spare herself the discomfort of sitting next to somebody who was uncomfortable with her weight.
When Savannah reached the counter of her gate, she double checked with the check-in assistant that the plane was at full capacity. She asked if they could give her an isolated seat. They denied her request. The plane was simply too full.
She desperately pleaded but it was no use. She was asking for the impossible.
Savannah and the rest of the passengers walk out onto the runway to their plane. She already notices passengers trying to discreetly steal sideways glances at her.
She throws her eyes up to the sky. “It will all be over soon,” she thinks. However, a tinge of distress lingered in her subconscious. It was as if she knew something was going to happen.
As Savannah made her way onto the plane, she attempted to suppress her heart from pounding. She held her breath, wildly searching for her seat.
He greeted her with disdain as he rose to let her in to her window seat. As she squeezed past him, he let out a very loud passive-aggressive sigh. Savannah’s world caved. She knew this was just the start.
He was an elderly man sporting bright yellow sunglasses who detested overweight people. He took out his phone and began typing. He was going to let his feelings be known.
He adjusted the settings of his screen by increasing the brightness and text size to as large as possible. He tilted the screen towards Savannah so that she could see exactly what he was doing. Little did he know, the passenger behind him could see as well.
Savannah thought he was trying to grab her attention, so she asked him what he was doing. He said it was to help him see better, but this was a blatant lie. He continued to send a message to his “friend”.
When Savannah was able to make out what he had typed, she couldn’t hold back her tears. She quickly turned her head towards the window, shielding her sorrow. But it was too late, the man behind them saw everything.
Savannah now understood why he made an extra obvious effort to adjust his screen settings. He wanted her to see his message, a message he made no attempt of concealing from her.
Savannah broke down after she read it, “Sitting next to a smelly fatty”. It felt like she was back in school again and the man sitting next to her was the new class bully, but this time she had a savior by her side.
The old man received a sudden, vigorous tap on his shoulder. As he turned around he heard “I need to speak to you. NOW.” Startled, he rose and followed the young gentleman down the aisle.
Angry, Chase Irwin spoke firmly, “we’re switching seats NOW” he ordered. Taken aback by his confrontation, the old man cowardly agreed. Sitting back down, Chase addressed the tearful Savannah. Then he really became a hero to many.
On the plane ride, Savannah and Chase began to talk. Savannah couldn’t contain her gratitude. But all she learned of Chase was his name, profession and that he was a parent too. When they landed, Savannah felt compelled to share their story.
But she couldn’t find Chase on social media. So, she wrote a powerful Facebook post and urged people to share the post until Chase was found. But she didn’t expect the response she received.
Savanna’s post began: “I am only sharing this story of what happened to me today in hopes that the person who stuck up for me will somehow be recognized…”
“We sat on the runway waiting for the OK to take off for about 10 minutes – I sat there unable to stop silently crying. I was scrunching myself up against the wall as far as I could,” she continued.”…The guy next to me takes out his headphones. Someone behind us says, “We are switching seats. Now.” The guy next to me said, “OK- why?” And I hear someone say (removing curse words), “You are texting about her, and I’m not putting up with that.”
Savannah was taken aback by how many likes, shares, and comments her post received. Many users wrote encouraging comments, stating that Savanna was beautiful just the way she was and not to let the rude man’s personal opinion affect her.
Many users also praised Chase for his actions and said that his good deed needed to be acknowledged. And they were determined to find him.
It wasn’t long before Facebook sleuths identified Chase Irwin by looking for the page of the restaurant he managed, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row bar and restaurant in Nashville.
Soon, people who had read Savannah’s heartbreaking story began to flood the restaurant’s page with well-wishes and praise for the hero Chase. And it wasn’t long before the media caught wind of the story.
Chase said in an interview with NewsChannel 5 that he had not approached the stranger and intervened for the publicity. When he saw the texts that Savannah’s rude seatmate was writing, something inside of him snapped.
“I was going to wait until the end of the flight to say something but I could not have this guy sit next to her this whole flight and her thinking he’s making fun of her,” Chase said. “It really gets to me deep down when I see someone crying, and when I saw her crying it really hit me hard and I actually got sick to my stomach.”
Chase had been paying attention to the situation from the very start. He sensed that a situation would unfold as the elderly man was excessively rude to her.
As soon as he had seen the text, Chase knew he couldn’t let this old man get away with hurting another person so badly. But he had no idea how much of a difference his act of kindness would make.
The rude man had written “Hey babe, sitting next to a smelly fatty. She’s overflowing over my armrest. I think I’m going to be sick!” Chase couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I began noticing her wiping tears and my heart sank,” Chase confessed in an interview with Inside Edition. He knew he had to do something.
He took a short video of the man on Snapchat and wrote: ‘This guy, prob mid-50s just text his wife that he is sitting next to a smelly fatty and was about to vomit. I watched her read his text and is now looking sad.”
Deliberating over whether he should confront the man right there and then, he added: “Should I… just say something when landing?” Then, he decided that he wasn’t going to tolerate it.
In an interview with local news, Chase mentioned how much he hated discrimination. When he had seen what the elderly man was writing, he had to act on it.
But instead of waiting to have a word with him when the plane landed, he called a flight attendant over to let her know what he was about to do. Then, he confronted him.
According to Chase, he approached the fat-shamer and ordered him to swap seats with him, now. At first, the man was confused. Assuming that Chase was offering him a better seat, he thanked him and asked why. But Chase was about to set him straight.
“Because you’re a heartless person,” Chase told him. “I read your text, and the girl next to you crying also read your text. And you should really take into consideration other people’s feelings.” That certainly kept the old guy quiet. Then, before the rude man could say anything else, he sat down next to Savannah.
“He encouraged me not to let that guy get to me and that everything was going to be fine,” Savannah recalled.
“He said he just happened to see that guy’s text messages and he started shaking he was so mad and he knew he had to do something. He stopped the flight attendant and told her what he was about to do.”
Savannah’s Facebook post garnered over 7,000 comments and 1,300 shares. And when Chase was located by his Facebook fans, he was inundated with messages, thanking him.
Posting a story about the incident to Facebook, Dierks Whiskey Row said it was “so proud” to share the story about Chase. “Thank you to everyone who has messaged us regarding this story,” the company said. “It has warmed the heart of our entire team.” But how does Savannah feel now?
“I would like to add that I do forgive him,” Savannah said in an interview. “I have said lots of things in my life that I shouldn’t have, just like everyone else. If I hated him, I would not be any different and it is vital to respond with love. Only love brings change in the world.”
Savannah said that neither she nor Chase have spoken with the man again… she doesn’t even know who he is. “And I really don’t want to know. I don’t want this story to be about him – my goal was for it to be about Chase and how we should all be brave like he was and stand up for others.”
Thanks to Chase’s kindness and Savannah’s post, they helped raise awareness for the victims of body-shaming — an issue which has now been brought to the forefront of people’s consciousness.
Body shaming is an abhorrent practice that should be stopped. Chase will always remain a true hero in Savannah’s eyes, as well as many others we’re sure!