LESLIE CRISS: In big picture, keeping courteous more worthy of praise

“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.”
– Francis Bacon Sr.

“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I first heard about Steven Slater’s workplace antics early last week, I chuckled.
Unless you’re in a news blackout, you’ve heard the story – or at least the parts of the story that have been told.
A flight attendant with JetBlue, Slater’s patience and good will ran out last Monday after a flight from Pittsburgh, Pa., to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
So far, we’ve been told there was a rude passenger and Slater took all he planned to take before publicly lashing out at the passenger over the plane’s intercom, grabbing a beer, exiting Flight 1025 by way of an emergency chute then heading home.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of folks have become Slater fans, elevating him to hero status on Facebook and beyond.
A part of me understands that. Who among us has not, at least once, had an urge to scream the Tom Coe/Johnny Paycheck lyric, “take this job and shove it,” to anyone who might have ears to hear?
But most of us have held our tongues, settled down and kept on working.
When my sister and I owned and operated a restaurant, there were days our patience was pushed to the precipice. There were customers whose unwarranted complaints made us want to speak unkindly, grab a co’cola and vacate the building, just like Slater did.
There was the summer day a group of teenage girls had lunch at our place. Their wrists were overloaded with WWJD bracelets. They ordered our chicken salad, but apparently did not like the pecans, so rather than push them aside on their plates, they pitched them all over the floor.
WWJD indeed.
We were inclined to escort them to their cars and offer them a piece of our minds. But we didn’t. Our mama taught us better than that.
There were many days when we’d be sweating in the kitchen preparing lunch when folks would call to ask what we’d be serving special that particular day.
Honestly and with sincere humility, we thought everything we served was special. But we’d rattle off the casserole, soup and dessert of the day, often to hear the caller snidely say, “Is that all?”
I can’t tell you in a family newspaper what we’d like to have said in response. I can tell you we bit our tongues and kindly thanked them for calling.
Why?
Because our good Southern upbringing urged us always to be nice.
Sure, what Steven Slater did was brazen. And it’s garnered him lots of attention. Possibly some jail time or a fine or two.
Losing one’s temper is easy.
Continuing to be courteous and kind, even under stress, even in the face of another’s wrath, is difficult.
And certainly more admirable.

Contact Leslie Criss at (662) 678-1584 or leslie.criss@djournal.com.

Leslie Criss / NEMS Daily Journal