Steven Slater, a 38-year-old veteran steward for JetBlue, became a folk hero to frontline customer service workers everywhere yesterday, when he went totally Howard Beale after a confrontation with an unruly passenger. The incident is already shrouded in legend but apparently Slater asked a female passenger to sit down, as legally required, while the plane was taxiing. The woman suggested that Slater perform an anatomical impossibility on himself and continued to take down her luggage from an overhead bin–a piece of which happened to hit (accidentally or otherwise) Slater on the head.
At this point, Slater took to the plane’s PA system to deliver a colorful, profanity-laced lecture on rudeness and airline travelers. He then grabbed a couple of beers, muttered something about “Well, there goes 15 years,” deployed the plane’s emergency’s exit chute, slid down, and made himself an ES-cape, as Arlo Guthrie might say. He was later arrested at his nearby home.
I don’t know about you but I can’t help having some sympathy for the guy. Being trapped inside a metal box for hours on end with demanding, frequently hostile, strangers, screaming babies and drunken sales reps has never been an easy job but security delays, fewer flights and cramped seating has made flying even less pleasant and customers more unhappy and difficult to appease. The amazing thing to me is that there hasn’t been more pushback from cabin crews.
I have now added working for a week as a flight attendant to my list of tests that everyone should be required to pass before they can become a CEO or run for public office. (My other tests, so far, are work as a barrista at Starbucks for one week and care for a two-year old, without help, for a week.)
When I looked just now, 11,957 people had “fanned” Slater on to a Facebook page that someone set up for him.