Q: The flight attendant who melted down after a passenger's overhead luggage beaned him, has become something of a folk hero. Steven Slater cursed out the traveler over a loudspeaker and then slid out of the plane's exit chute, exclaiming "I quit!" Can blowing up -- even in a professional capacity -- be a good thing? Have you ever rebelled, or wanted to?
Clearly, Mr. Slater was having other problems before the final day of his employment!
I fly every week (I speak at about 100 conventions a year), and I see flight attendants freaking out about once a month. Just this past week, a female flight attendant told me the plane would have to return to the gate because my seat was not fully in that "severely forward" takeoff position. She said she had witnesses who could vouch for the fact that I was not trying hard enough to get it secured for takeoff.
I explained that if I looked straight ahead, I could see the "I'm feeling unwell" bag in the seat pocket in front of me, a clear indication that I'm not leaning back. I could only assume at that point that she had definitely failed geometry! I looked across the aisle and noticed one of her supposed witnesses shrugging his shoulders, indicating possible temporary insanity on the part of the overly caffeinated airline employee.
A few things are going on here. First, the airlines have overworked, underpaid, stressed-out people doing the best they possibly can. They fly constantly and deal with two types of people: (1) those who don't fly often and mistakenly think that the $350 they paid for a coach seat entitles them to real food, a comfortable seat and the right to yell at the "flying waitress," and (2) the spoiled and exhausted (that's a bad combo, and it includes me) elite business travelers who can't believe that the struggling economy has caused us to no longer get the good almonds and who, with only one choice of hot meal in first class, will now have to suffer through Kung Pow shrimp that lately seems long on Kung and a bit short on Pow. Daily encounters with people like this can make any airline worker bonkers over the long haul.
The other issue is that long lines, price gouging (the fare for flights to Mobile, Ala., more than doubled during the oil spill in the Gulf) and terrible customer service from people who think "bitchy" is the new apathetic have made good passengers angry and bad passengers dangerous!
So I can sympathize with both sides, but the truth is this guy is more lunatic than hero. It's only because people are losing their jobs, fed up with economizing and frustrated by the above-mentioned flying conditions that the word "hero" has shown up in the media. So it's just sign-of-the-times heroics rather than circumstantial insanity. If Slater did this back in 1997, the TV news reporters would have called him shockingly unprofessional and blamed his behavior on Bill Clinton! Any time you exit your public ranting episode by using an inflatable slide, your professionalism literally flies out the door.
Personally, I have rebelled many times in my life, with varying results. When I fought the manufacturer I worked for in the early '90s on an environmental product that we should create, I won -- and it's now a requirement in 30 countries. On the other hand, when I told my wife that I could not live in a house with dogs (as in more than one), it resulted in my having to get an apartment near my office so I could occasionally breathe in the joys of an animal-free environment. As ridiculously simple as it sounds, rebelling is only worth it when you win your rebellion.
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