Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You Can Fly Friendly Sky, Just Don’t Expect Anything on the Ground

A fabulous news story emerged this week regarding the Jet Blue flight attendant who deployed the emergency chute to escape the aircraft on the tarmac at JFK. [You can read the story and see video here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/jetblue-flight-attendant-steven-slater-arrested-flight-jfk/story?id=11361298&page=1]. After exchanging unpleasant words with a passenger, and allegedly hit by said passenger, flight attendant Steven Slater grabbed a six pack and jetted to the ground. Now he is facing potential criminal charges for reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Oddly enough, there was no mention of the beer theft in the police report. Even so, Slater potentially faces up to seven years in prison, for simply having a bad day at the office.

Slater's reaction, though questionable, sheds light on the one of the glaring problems in society today. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, "can't get no respect." Does anyone else find it alarming that there is no further mention of the bad behavior of the passenger? Post 9/11 passenger rules anyone? Slater is disrespected, cussed at, allegedly hit, and yet everyone is more upset that Slater chose to exit the escalating situation on the emergency chute? Was anyone truly in danger? The plane was, at least, on the ground. And lest not forget those passengers who might have just been offended at Slater's choice of words upon exiting the aircraft. I imagine we might hear from a concerned parent, whose child was exposed to the F-bomb over the plane's intercom. To me, this is as silly as the parent who was offended when their child was exposed to foul language at the KISS concert, or better yet, caught the millisecond flash of Janet Jackson's breast on CBS during the Super Bowl.

Nowadays in society, people get angry at the slightest injustice. The passenger was inconvenienced by being asked to sit down and not retrieve baggage until the plane was in the terminal. Of course this called for yelling at the flight attendant, because the rules of flying and not getting your stuff from the overhead compartment before the plane parked just changed last week, right? Slater has a bad day at work, but instead of calmly reminding the passenger about rules, he overreacts and jumps off the plane.

I am always amazed at the odd behaviors of people in general. One of my favorite reactionary responses to judge is rioting, specifically when the rioting is a reaction to an event warranting celebration (e.g., the riots in California following the Lakers' NBA victory this year). Nothing says yay my team won a championship like destroying property. Even advocates for immigration rights held protests after the government injunction banned parts of Arizona's SB1070 and several people were arrested.

Slater's actions have spawned an unbelievable amount of attention. People magazine currently has an online poll for folks to vote hero or felon [http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20409276,00.html]. I find this amusing, yet it is indicative of a paradox in our culture. I speak out often against the ever decreasing level in customer service. My opinion is if you don't like people, or can't work with them, do not work in a service industry. And before anyone uses the "at least they have a job," or "there are not equal opportunities for everyone and for some people it is all they can do," you need those drugs Robert Gibbs was talking about today [Read that story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/richard-adams-blog/2010/aug/10/robert-gibbs-crazy-liberal-critics-obama].

Just this weekend, I had the opportunity to shop in the big city. In one store, I asked the salesperson for the location of an item, and was rudely informed they didn't know, and I should keep looking. This exchange of bad service outweighs all the memories of good service I received on my trip. The paradox is we don't often think of the plight of the worker in customer service, although in the above example, I can't quite come up with an excuse for the girl's bad job performance.

Whatever Slater's excuse, I say kudos for illustrating the paradox. Thanks for letting the world know the customers are jerks too.

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