So the big news here in the NYC area – and probably around the country if the national news websites are to be believed – is the JetBlue flight attendant who made a hasty exit from his flight as it was landing at JFK yesterday, deploying the emergency slide and delivering the flight attendant equivalent of “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”.
And guess what? If what I’m seeing on Facebook and reading on websites is true – and I have no reason to believe it’s not – people are supporting the flight attendant. And to that, I have 2 reactions. The first is – to use my favorite computer acronym – WTF? But the second and stronger reaction is “Way to go”.
My first reaction is more of a logical one, the Mr. Spock approach to analyzing the issue. Violence begets violence and engaging in a shouting match with an unruly passenger – and, by the way, how come this idiot passenger hasn’t been hauled into a police station for setting off the chain of events that led to the flight attendant bailing out – is not something that’s supposed to happen. I still think some folks believe that flight attendants are nothing more than glorified waiters and waitresses in the sky when in actuality they are highly trained professionals who handle unhappy passenger issues, provide a safe and secure environment for all, ensure you have a smooth flight by reminding you to stay seated and keep your seat belt on, handle medical emergencies, and generally don’t get paid nearly enough to compensate them for all they do and – more importantly – all they have to deal with.
And if you need further proof about how great and how skilled and how heroic our flight attendants are, may I direct your attention to the Miracle on the Hudson where the pilot and co-pilot and flight attendants are absolutely and directly responsible for saving the life of every single person on that plane.
But my WTF gut reaction was more because I think that how has our world come to this. We have such a loss of civility these days in so many ways. Yes, I know that times changes and customs evolve and circumstances happen and times are tough, very tough for some folks. But I also think that there is an epidemic of self-entitlement in our country that fosters and ultimately is the match that lights these fires. Our instant access to all technology these days – computer, iPad, cell phone, blackberry – means that we know – or we think we know – everything that happens when it happens and that makes us, in our eyes, an expert – or, more likely, a blowhard know-it-all. And I truly believe there is a deep-seated anger in some people that makes them think that, just because they used to get a blanket and a pillow and some peanuts and didn’t have to pay for their bags on a plane, they’re now entitled to behave badly because someone has changed the way they expect things to be. And all I can say to these people is “Get over it”. Stop complaining because you have to pay to check your bag and you have to pay to get a sandwich or a drink and they don’t show free movies any more. Instead, how about giving thanks that you can afford to get on a plane and fly to visit your family at Christmas, or go to Disneyworld during summer break with your kids, or go on a business trip (because you’re lucky enough to have a job). Is that asking too much of all of us?
Now to my second reaction of “Way to go”. Our world is in such a mess these days for so many reasons and people are very disillusioned. We expect our leaders – on the local, state and national level – to actually lead and they more often than not fail us. We expect our clergy to inspire us and uplift us and – if you’re a member of the Catholic church, as I am – the news on that front has not always been good these past few years. We expect our employers to keep us employed, provide us with benefits, make our workplaces safe and secure and many people I know – many more than I ever could have imagined – are either unemployed or underemployed through no fault of their own and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. It seems we’re all looking, in one way or the other, for some kind of folk hero to inspire us.
Enter Steven Slater.
As I write this, Steven Slater – whose bail is reportedly set at the very low amount of $2,500 – has not been able to bail himself out of jail. Yet the news media is reporting that multitudes of people have come forward with the money to bail him out. There are 48 Facebook groups right now supporting him with well over 100,000 members. He’s become an instant folk hero to people who are giddy with emotion that someone finally did something. More people, from what I read, support what he did than those who don’t. People – maybe secretly – admire someone with the balls to stop tolerating the bad behavior that has come to pass in our society as normal or acceptable or commonplace or routine.
Kindness begets kindness. Politeness gets you the same in return. Respect for others entitles you to their respect. And wouldn’t it be nice if we all learned a lesson from this, that you get what you give. The golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you is not a bad way at all to live a life, or to teach to our children to use as a barometer for their behavior now and in their future.
We can affect change in our lives and in our behavior if we really want to. Things can get better. We can become better people and humans and citizens and parents and friends if we just do it.
And to quote my favorite philosopher, Yoda, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
So please just do it.