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Modern Folk Zero Steven Slater

I recently quit my job.  I did it with a letter of resignation to my manager and another to my manager’s manager.  I offered a two week notice so they could find a replacement.  I didn’t want to leave my customer’s in a bind and wanted to make sure I left with some modicum of decency.  I didn’t pull the fire alarm.  I didn’t grab a beer and gave my employer the middle finger as I used the emergency exit.  I didn’t do anything that would cause more of a problem than I already had.  It wasn’t the first time I quit a job, although I do hope it’ll be the last.

So when I saw the story of the flight attendant who was so fed up about his job and so anxious to give his employer, Jet Blue, the middle finger that he pulled the emergency chute, grabbed a beer, and went down the slide to the waiting freedom of unemployment and the restrictive incarceration from committing a federal crime, I was disgusted.  From what I understand, all he had to do was wait a few minutes before the jet pulled into the gate, the gangway connected to the exit door, and he could walk off the plane while the passengers fumbled to grab their carry on bags.  Instead, dude wanted to go out like an indignant opera singer doping up on high intensity drama.

Since then, this man’s story is all over the broadcast news.  CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, FOX (I guess they’re still considered a news agency), and just about everybody else are heralding this man as some kind of folk hero whose high profile resignation was the epitome of the “take this job and shove it” maneuver.  He has been hailed as some kind of every man for doing that which other people only dream of.  His Facebook page zoomed from negative numbers to a gazillion hits over night.  He has become a media sensation.  But the only reason he’s a media sensation and a folk hero to so many clueless people everywhere is because the media portrays him as such.

Think about it.  Getting through the airport is bad enough with all the agents from the Transportation Security Administration going through bags, examining your DNA down to the last genome sequence with the latest gadget to strip away every secret of your physiology, and no fly list so long it would probably be simpler for the Federal Aviation Administration to produce a yes fly list.  You are on a flight that just arrived at your destination only to have some prima donna flight attendant blow one of the emergency hatches because he’s having a bad day.  I’m sure whatever anxieties those passengers may have had about exiting the plane and going through the airport just got a whole lot worse considering the investigation that’s about to take place.

Not everyone who hates his or her job is going to put the welfare of others at unnecessary risk.  One of the most stressful professions on the face of the planet is a nurse.  They catch shit from doctors, patients, patient’s families, their supervisors, and just about every other person in their life.  Imagine people’s reaction if they heard about the nurse in the emergency room that suddenly decided to quit, popped the lock on the medicine cabinet and pulled all the drugs out, downed the latest in synthetic Quaalude technology and told all the patients to have a nice day just before he or she went through the emergency exit setting off the emergency alarm.  Suddenly the idea of quitting in the most irresponsible fashion takes on a totally different color.  The same is true for the police officer, the judge, truck driver, the pilot, and anyone else who performs a role in our social collective.

Flight attendant Steven Slater is no modern folk hero.  He is quite the contrary.  He is more like a folk zero.  He is a criminal.  If he got pissed off because a passenger wouldn’t follow his FAA mandated commands then he had the authority of the federal government at his disposal.  TSA authorities or somebody relating to the government who cares that aviation rules are followed would have been more than happy to yank that passenger and make an example.

Before people start applauding his behavior, think about how you would feel if you were the one he was abandoning.  Think how you would feel if your flight depended on how quickly that plane was serviced and put back into operation, but now it needed its emergency chute repackaged while authorities combed over it for any evidence that could be important in an investigation.

People might quit jobs because other people are acting stupidly.  You don’t quit a job by doing something stupid.  With so many people out there putting stupid behavior front and center, we really don’t need to be encouraging others to be so foolish.  We shouldn’t be celebrating another sign that our social collective is unraveling.

Sunday, August 15, 2010 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts | ,


  1. It’s sad that so many people see him as a hero! For what? Letting his frustration get the best of him? So this is what everyone wants to do. Go berserk at the first signs of not getting your way. Very sad.
    Dare I ask? If he had been black…..

    Comment by Anna Renee | Monday, August 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. Oh come on! You’ve never had a job that you didn’t want to do something that dramatic? Of course you resisted the urge. Most of us do. Often we need the job so bad that we don’t want to even think about quitting. Then there’s the pressure to hold up our end and not let our fellow workers down.
    The thing is, we’re talking about the transportation industry here. Deregulation began under Carter and went into full effect under Reagan. That was a long time ago and things have only gotten worse with every passing year. Airline employees used to have job security, good wages, a great benefit package and generous pensions. Now many pilots actually qualify for food stamps.
    Slater didn’t go berserk at the first signs of not getting his way (Anna). He worked in the industry for 20 years. His mother had been a flight attendant. His father had been a pilot. He spent his entire life watching the airlines go to hell. Flight attendants are routinely abused and attacked by drunken passengers on miserable overcrowded planes. The airlines even ration the oxygen supply to their passengers to save a few cents. Air travel has become a squalid miserable experience and flight attendants are the only available targets for unhappy passengers.
    I was recently in a discussion about Slater. Several people disapproved of him. Someone called him a drama queen. Someone else suggested that he is an alcoholic and was probably drunk. Then the husband of a retired flight attendant spoke up.
    He said that it was unfortunate that Slater’s situation had come to that but given the job and the industry it made a lot of sense. He said his wife felt sad about the event but didn’t blame Slater at all.
    By the way, that’s just the airlines. The railroads have cut manning scales, maintenance and safety standards along with wages. And that truck you just passed on the highway wasn’t being driven by a well paid and rested knight of the road. Chances are good that the driver doesn’t even have a license, the truck is uninsured and the brakes have needed to be replaced for the last 30,000 miles. I’ve seen all of that with my own eyes. The gifts of the free market.
    Finally, What if Slater was Black? Given his family history and the fact that Black folks were largely excluded from aviation careers how could he be?

    Comment by Jon | Monday, August 16, 2010 | Reply

  3. You come on Jon! If you are a flight attendant, then be one! If you don’t want to be one, then don’t!

    No Jon, I’ve never had a job that I wanted to do something THAT dramatic! If everyone went berserk at the second signs of frustration, then society would be anarchic, now wouldn’t it? I bet if you were inconvenienced by someone going off like he did, you say something different!

    And finally, as I asked, if drama queen Slater were a black man or even a woman going off because of frustration in his workplace that happens to be the aviation industry as a flight attendant, he/she would be an enemy of the state, rather than a folk hero! I’d put money on that.
    And by the way, there are black people in the aviation industry, Jon! You see, Jon, people in general have more sympathy for a white loser like Slater. They explain why he may have done whatever. But black people don’t have that leeway, now do we? Ask yourself what YOU’d think if Slater was a black man! Or should I say if a black person did what Slater did. Be honest Jon! We don’t even have the right to complain about people like Slater, hunh Jon?
    So don’t think that your “come on” makes me shut up about this fool Slater, that you defend with inane crap! There are alot of people working their difficult jobs and doing so admirably. Slater doesn’t need to be made into a folk hero for thumbing his nose! He’s a major jackass! Hee haw!

    Comment by Anna Renee | Monday, August 16, 2010 | Reply

  4. Anna, I understand your point although I disagree. However, I never told you to “shut up”. Could a Black man, or woman, get the kind of approval Slater got? No, at best, at best, they’d be considered crazy, and you’re right he’d probably be considered an enemy of the state.
    My point was that the airline industry is falling apart and Slater is a symptom. Please don’t try to convince me that it’s just a question of attitude. Look how wages have fallen. Look how many jobs have gone over seas. Lots of people are frustrated and angry about their jobs. They’re not going to do anything stupid but they think about it.
    Finally, of course Black people are working in the aviation industry but how many of them are second generation? How many of them work in customer relations jobs?

    Comment by Jon | Monday, August 16, 2010 | Reply

  5. *Sighs* White privilege strikes again…

    Comment by Will | Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Reply

  6. Jon, Black folks have been frustrated about “our jobs” a long time before this screwed up economy and the Slaters of the world–can you feel me? No.
    What you’re describing is what black folks and other people of color have been enduring all along–even in good times here in America. We never had the luxury of going off like your boy Slater. So I gives Slater no love, feel me? No.
    Slater and the rest should just SUCK IT UP!!!!
    Feel me?

    Comment by Anna Renee | Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | Reply

  7. See this is the deal: the big corps have masterfully manipulated white folks once again. They have changed the game and took “your jobs” overseas, where it’s cheaper for them. They never had any loyalty to whites, although they made you all think they did. And now in this climate of let it all hang out, they are doing just that.
    They give less than a damn about white folks. They took “your jobs” and left white folks with their 1000lb gorilla racist superiority complex on their shoulders. The monkey they created through the mindfuck they did to the whites.
    Now they treating them like niggers and they can’t take it.
    And they not only have the monkey on their backs, but are alienated from and terrified of the rest of the world of color!! And most whites, (not Jon, if he’s white) don’t have a clue of what hit them!! So what will they resort to?
    History has the answer. The big corp have the money. White is the new Nigger. That is all.

    Comment by Anna Renee | Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | Reply

  8. OK, I get your points. I’m a union activist. I am retired from a very diverse work place. Most of my fellow workers were not white. I often found that when I was trying to bring something that I thought was universal before our membership I would have it explained to me that I was only seeing the white perspective on the problem. Sometimes it wasn’t so much that my facts were wrong as that I didn’t understand the feelings. I come to places like this looking for that kind of correction.

    Two of those facts though: Millions of well paid manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. In many parts of the country those unionized work places were the foundation of the Black middle class. I spent part of my youth in Detroit and saw how Black workers had worked their way into the hardest, dirtiest most dangerous jobs and by so doing had become home owners. In turn they struggled to get the next generation into management and skilled trades jobs. Those avenues of advancement are closed and not just to white people.

    The first workplace rage incident I ever heard of was the case of James Johnson, a Black auto worker who shot and killed several supervisors at his job in a Detroit Chrysler factory. HIs lawyer brought the jury into the workplace and showed them the many safety violations, the dirt and the danger of the workplace. The jury found Johnson not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. I don’t think a defense lawyer would be able to do something like that now but that was 40 years ago. Back then some people thought that workers had rights.

    Will, “suck it up”? I’ve spent my whole life telling people not to suck it up but to pick their fights and stand up. I’m an old man now and I won’t back off of that one.

    Finally, the internet is a mixed blessing. I”m here to share my understanding with other people but sometimes it’s like we’re shouting into the darkness and hoping someone hears us. I think that if we all, myself, Anna, Will and Brother Peacemaker were talking face to face we would agree on a lot of things. I appreciate your comments.

    Comment by Jon | Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | Reply

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