For those of you who haven’t been in contact with the world these past couple days, I’ll let the New York Times recap Monday’s incident aboard a Jet Blue flight:
Mr. Slater instructed the person to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Mr. Slater reached the passenger just as the person was pulling down the luggage, which struck Mr. Slater in the head.
Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public-address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear. Then, after declaring that 20 years in the airline industry was enough, he blurted out, “It’s been great!”
Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career.
On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said.
Slater is now a folk-hero. If you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out why, chances are you’re a rude customer, a corporate executive or an ambitious upper-management type with no clue as to how the rest of the working world feels.
People lucky enough to be working (hey, this is Michigan, after all) are full of stories. They’re working tons of overtime to make up for jobs eliminated. They’re told there are lots of folks standing in line to take their jobs if they don’t step it up or toe the line or improve their “contribution.” Stories about outrageously demanding customers abound. It’s a nasty, nasty work world out there.
Lots of people are scared to complain; to say, “enough”; to push back against the bullies. There are mortgages to pay and mouths to feed after all.
Lots of people are frustrated. If they’re working, they’re crafting Plan Bs and Plan Cs. They’re squirreling away as much money as they can. They sleep with one eye open lest they unwittingly hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. They take crap from customers and bosses because they believe they can’t live without their jobs, especially when there are so few of them to go around.
But just because they’re sleeping with one eye open doesn’t mean they can’t dream of doing just what Steven Slater did: throw off the yoke, grab a beer and slide away down a chute.