I am not even sure how to start this. I have so much understanding of how this could happen. Well, let's just go with the facts first. It seems that when a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh landed in New York at JFK airport on Monday afternoon, one of those dweebs that insists on getting up and taking things from the overhead compartment before the plane has stopped taxiing, insisted on getting up during the taxiing process. When asked to stop by flight attendant Steve Slater, the dweeb dropped the f bomb and the lid to the overhead bin on Mr. Slater. The lid hit Mr. Slater on the head. The f bomb hit him in the brain. (Editor's update: There seems to be some variation in when this happened. The bin lid hit may have happened at the start of the flight, with Mr. Slater having to referee between a female dweeb and a male dweeb fussing over overhead bin space, and the cussing in New York was simply the coda.) Whatever. There was at least one passenger acting like a spoiled-brat over-entitled self-absorbed asshat on JetBlue Flight 1052. Did you know that if you leave the "l" out of "flight," it becomes "fight"?
The plane by then had taxied to a stop. Mr. Slater then got on the intercom, dropped a few f bombs of his own, thanked the considerate passengers, then collected his personals, popped the emergency chute on one of the jet's doors, slid down it, ran to the terminal, grabbed the shuttle to parking, got in his car and drove to his home in Queens. One hour later, the police arrested him there.
OK, I should not be laughing, but I am, as I review the news about him that has come out this day. So many times you have these half formed asshats, running around all self absorbed and self important, wanting everything their way. As I consider this post further, I have a couple of things bouncing around in my head. 1. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, in the book Nuts, recounted times that he told unhappy customers that maybe Southwest was not the airline for them, and that they really should use another carrier. 2. There was a story, posted on MSNBC, about how ER nurses are being assaulted in greater numbers by patients in their ERs. 3. That the general comportment of people has become ruder and ruder over the years, with less and less consideration and respect for others. 4. The capacity to correct said rude behavior has become less and less. 5. Generally, people seeing the stories on line are supportive of Mr. Slater, understanding why he finally snapped.
These photos, taken from his My Space page, do not look like the photos of someone who does not like his job. Both his My Space and LinkedIn spaces appear to reflect pride in his work, which he has done since 1990. He was active on committees in the workplace as well. So what happened to cause this man to basically risk his career? Well, he did have stressors outside the workplace. His mother has ALS. His father died recently. But why is there someone acting so self-entitled, self-absorbed and spoiled that he/she/it ended up standing on Mr. Slater's very last nerve?
The accepted philosophy is that the customer is always right. That philosophy needs an update. The customer has a right to have his requests considered. The customer has a right to be treated with consideration. The customer does have a right to get what he paid for. The customer does not have the right to act like an asshat. Back in March, Dr. Edwin Leap blogged on how people behave in the ER, acting in a way they would never dare to act elsewhere. The post garnered several comments, including one that noted that some concerns would rather put up with this behavior than risk losing a customer. I think that is just wrong. Customers are not in the right when they act inappropriately, and they need to be told so. Customers that physically assault those trying to serve them need to be arrested. Customers who repeatedly abuse the people who try to serve and help them should be "fired"--and issued restraining orders to stay away if they can't act right.
Steven Slater did not do right. When you get that angry, it is best to step away. Go do a task that does not involve contacting the public. Take many, many deep breaths. Whatever it takes to step away from that line of breaking. But the idea that it is OK to push service people to this brink of losing it, well, that is not OK either. Mr. Slater is charged with felonies, and could serve 7 years in prison. My guess is this will be pleaded down. If I were the prosecutor, I would take one misdemeanor (for blowing the emergency chute inappropriately) and have him pay some amount to JetBlue. If I were JetBlue, I would take him back, perhaps suspend him for a bit, insisting on counseling, and then expose him slowly to the flying public again. That last is not likely in this litigious time. I hope Mr. Slater makes some money of his 15 minutes. If I had any I'd donate to his defense fund.