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.