Ever Tempted to “JetBlue-Over-and-Out?”
Who knew a flight attendant having a meltdown at work would draw so much media and public attention? If you’re under a rock and missed it, a JetBlue employee unleashed an expletive-ridden tirade at passengers, quit and exited via the emergency chute. This Wall Street Journal article by Sean Gardiner, “Flight Attendant Grabs Two Beers, Slides Down the Emergency Shute” describes what happened. Steve Slater, the flight attendant, was arrested on several charges and faces a possible seven-year prison sentence.
What’s really interesting to me as a mental health professional is how much Steve Slater’s actions are resonating with the public – and that the reactions are weighted heavily in his favor. Here’s a sample comment on the WSJ article, “I think the only way this story could’ve been better is if the guy cracked both beers and did the Stone Cold Steve Austin pre-wraslin’ beer chug before he peaced out!”
I’m not condoning offensive language, rude behavior towards customers/bosses, etc. but most of us can relate to this man’s actions. We’ve all witnessed horribly nasty people interacting with flight attendants, retail sales clerks and restaurant employees. Some of us have also worked those jobs and experienced the behavior first-hand. I remember working in a women’s clothing store. I had a customer who was literally splitting the seams of things she tried on because she was about 4 sizes bigger.And she was nasty. I really wanted to say to her, “Face it, lady, you’re a– is a size 16, not a 6!”
But I think the reaction to Slater’s actions is more complex than just the satisfaction we might feel when a service worker stands up for himself in the face of bad behavior. Our negative reaction to the rude passenger who precipitated this event also reflects our need for fairness. We don’t like to see people who are in a less powerful position mistreated. There are also those common violations of societal rules that infuriate us – people ditching in line, bringing 40 items to the Express Lane or misuse of handicapped parking spaces. So in some respects, although extreme, Slater’s reactions might be seen as “settling the score” for all of us who witness or experience nasty behavior but can’t or don’t respond.
So, on which side do you find yourself? Were Slater’s reactions justified or punishable?
Related: How to Quit a Job
This is a post by Nancy LaFever. You can read more from her at the Centre for Emotional Wellbeing blog.