Aug 11, 2010

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater has received all kinds of empathy from American workers similarly frustrated with their jobs and wishing for an emergency chute.
NEW YORK — JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater was apparently mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore.

After reportedly exchanging words with a passenger who had hit him on the head with a piece of luggage on a flight that arrived at JFK Airport here Monday, Slater took to the jet's public address system to curse the flier. He then bid the flight — and by his own acknowledgment, his job — adieu by sliding down the plane's emergency exit chute, but not before quickly grabbing a beer from the jet's galley.

Once on the tarmac, Slater made his way to his car and drove to his home in nearby Queens.

Slater, 38, was arraigned Tuesday in New York City Criminal Court on charges of criminal mischief, trespassing and reckless endangerment. Although his actions landed him in jail, they won him a legion of fans on the Internet and on talk-radio shows across the nation. His dramatic exit struck a nerve with many overworked, recession-weary Americans— or folks who have been frustrated by the conduct of fellow airline passengers. Messages of support for Slater flooded Facebook pages and Internet message boards.

"He did what all working stiffs have only dreamt of," a reader who identified himself as Brill Galt wrote on USA TODAY's reader response line. "Millions of Americans WISH they could have quit in that fashion. ... Free Slater!!!"

That a flight attendant has become an instant folk hero for allegedly telling off a passenger and abandoning his duties speaks not just to the frustration many people feel about a travel experience that has become riddled with inconvenience and rudeness. It also casts a spotlight on a broader anger felt by many workers who are fed up with jobs in which pay raises, if they exist at all, are smaller or less frequent than they were a few years ago and with the threat of layoffs looming constantly, some workplace specialists say.

Slater did what many workers fantasize about and may do with increasing frequency — albeit with less showmanship — once the economy rebounds. "I don't think we should be surprised that once the economy starts ... picking up, there's a massive relocation of workers who want out as fast as they possibly can," says economist Joel Naroff, president and chief economist of Naroff Economic Advisors.

"That's the warning that I don't think businesses really recognize: You can pull this off now because there isn't really an option, but once there's an option, it's going to be payback time," Naroff says. "You're going to be losing some of your best people."

Law enforcement officials said Slater's outburst on JetBlue Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York's JFK came after a passenger refused to sit down and accidentally struck him with her bags, the Associated Press reported. But at Tuesday's court hearing, Slater's attorney, Howard Turman, said two women began fighting over space in the overhead luggage compartment before the flight departed Pittsburgh, and it was there that Slater got hit in the head. When the plane landed in New York shortly after noon, one of the women told off Slater.

Before scooting down the chute, prosecutors said, Slater went on the jet's PA system where he said, "Those of you who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for a great ride."

Slater, a longtime flight attendant, could face up to seven years in prison if he's found guilty on all charges, which Helen Peterson, spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney, says are related to his using the emergency slide and "exiting the airport improperly," via an unlocked door. His behavior toward passengers on the aircraft is not a legal issue, she says.


How many of you have been there before?  You work countless hours and do everything you can to keep a smile frozen on your face because you know you have bills to pay, but yet even that's not good enough for some of the people in this world.  The saying, 'The customer is always right,' has made people think they can treat people in the service industry anyway they feel like.  People are fed up with the narcissistic attitudes of some and they refuse to take it anymore even in this economy.  Just because it is a person's job to provide you with a service does not mean you have to act like an ass to that person.  Courteousness and home training goes a long way and maybe we all should engage in it more often.
I've never worked in the service industry, but I know I'm supposed to treat all people with respect because at the end of the day that's the way my momma RAISED me!!!


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