I don’t condone the Jet Blue flight attendant for launching the emergency slide to escape the wrath of ugly passengers and creating a scene at the airport in New York the other day. But I fully understand how Steve Slater finally hit the wall and fled the airline industry for good.
Because, my friends, the simple fact is airplane passengers are idiots.
We don’t put on our seat belts when we’re told.
We don’t put our seats into the upright position when we’re supposed to.
We fiddle with our Blackberries and cell phones (“Hi, hon, the plane’s just pulling up at the gate. I had a wonderful chicken dinner with broccoli and six Heineken’s. Yeah, babe, I love that little spot under your xxxx, too.”).
We consistently stand up before the plane reaches the gate and try to wrestle 500-pound suitcases from tiny overhead compartments, even though we’re at the back of the plane and getting down our bag won’t get us into the terminal even five seconds earlier unless we trample the kids and old ladies in front of us like George Costanza escaping an apartment fire.
We slam our seat backs into the person behind us on the plane when we feel like taking a nap, notwithstanding the guy behind us hasn’t had his tray cleaned and still has (or had) a half-glass of red wine in front of him.
We bring children onto planes for five hours at a time without the slightest thought given to how we might make sure they have liquids or something to suck on so their ears won’t hurt when the plane descends from 35,000 feet, or how we might keep the poor little things entertained with a few crayons, some paper and a couple books but instead hope little Johnny finds it really amusing to pull on the seat in front of him and wail and scream and fiddle with knobs and slam HIS seat back into the guy behind him who’s still trying to dab the red wine off the white shirt he’ll need for that job interview that he can’t get to because the flight attendant has finally had it and pulled the escape cord.
Anyway, he’s clearly gone around the bend more than a touch, and he overreacted by a mile or six. But I sympathize with the guy. And I can’t get out of my mind the mental image of him sliding down that chute and dashing to the employee parking lot and making a run for it.
I also love that he pulled a Jon Montgomery (our famous Olympic athlete) and grabbed a beer on the way out. How Canadian is this guy?
As someone with a relative who works for the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S., I also fully understand that this sort of henanigans is frowned upon by airport security folks and that this guy has to be taught that toying with an airplane’s emergency exits for his own pleasure, notwithstanding the provocation of years as a flight attendant/babysitter, is not something to be tolerated. He has been charged with some pretty serious counts, as TSA folks point out the emergency chute easily could’ve conked someone on the head. That would’ve hurt more than the suitcase that landed on Slater’s noggin in New York, thus prompting the angry exchange with a passenger that led to his highjinks.
As I said, I don’t condone what he actually did. But I admire the guy’s sense of reckless theatricality, and I think it speaks volumes about the frustration that flight workers must feel in an age of workplace cutbacks, heightened security…and increasingly stupid passengers.