It’s been one of the hot topics of discussion all week – the flight attendant who had had enough and couldn’t take it anymore.
Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, became an instant celebrity on Monday after he allegedly used a plane’s intercom to swear at a passenger with whom he had an earlier argument. He then grabbed a beer from the plane’s galley, deployed and jumped down an emergency slide and drove home from Kennedy Airport.
By Tuesday, Slater had received folk-hero status from more thousands of fans who empathized with him, even though there are conflicting stories about what really happened.
Certainly not among the fans were the authorities who charged him with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.
Slater didn’t seem too concerned after being released on bail, displaying a slight smirk as he talked to reporters.
“It seems like something here has resonated with a few people. And that’s kinda neat,” he said.
According to prosecutors, Slater said upon his unconventional exit from the plane, “Those of you who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for a great ride.”
I don’t believe Slater deserves to be hailed as a hero, but he does have a point about showing dignity and respect.
And I do know we’ve all had our own Slater-like moments when we’ve wanted to vent.
What about the times you’ve had to endure an annoying conversation while trying to watch a movie at a theater? Or put up with a cashier at a store who was too busy talking to a co-worker to acknowledge your presence? Or had a driver pull out in front of you, only to slow down?
Yes, these are moments sure to test your patience, love and understanding for your fellow man and woman.
But the amazing outpouring of support for Slater’s actions shows that we’ve all lost a good bit of civility and respect for each other.
Which also seems to void the old rule of thumb that the customer is always right.
It’s not easy being in business, whether you’re a small retailer, a big box store, a restaurant, an airline, a bank or a widget salesman. It’s a constant juggling act to keep up with taxes, bills, payroll, insurance, inventory and a host of other issues.
You want to have the products or services that customers want and provide good service at the same time.
You have employees who buy into your plan, who understand that treating the customer with respect is paramount to keep the business running. But you also wind up with some who don’t.
And then you have some customers who don’t care what you’re trying to do. Your job, they think, is to treat them like kings and queens. But no matter what you say or do, it’s never enough.
It’s people like these and moments like this that turn on that Steven Slater switch inside of us.
Maybe the lesson here is that we need to treat everybody better, no matter the situation. And leave that Slater switch alone.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Seid / NEMS Daily Journal