Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steven Slater's JetBlues

Good-bye, crew world.

Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, jumped onto an emergency slide and into the headlines. Now he is being touted as a folk hero in some quarters.

Sorry, no.

It's easy to be sympathetic to him. Flight attendants are under the gun from the airlines they work for and recipients of various degrees of "air rage" among passengers in a foul mood from the impersonal regimentation of today's airline travel. The flight attendants are servants who spend hours daily in a cabin with bad vibes where they are expected to be cheerful and accommodating. Honestly, I don't know how they do it. I've encountered a few whose demeanor was icy or who seemed to be "working to the rule." But mostly they return good for evil, and I admire them for it.

There are several versions of what pushed Steven Slater over the edge, but it's safe to assume he OD'd on passengers' abuse. And if maintaining a hold on his self-respect required him to jack the job in, very publicly, then more power to him.

But he shouldn't have deployed the slide for his grand exit. What he did was dangerous for anyone in the plane's vicinity.

Slides are inflated by the rapid release of pressurized nitrogen and carbon dioxide in a matter of seconds, since time is of the essence in an evacuation. The rapidity exerts considerable force. That's no problem when the evacuation is on a runway or outside the airport. But the area around the parking gate, which is where Slater did his stunt, is likely to be populated by ground crewmembers, for instance taxi-in guides and tug drivers.

Anyone unlucky enough to be in the path of the slide inflation could have been badly injured or killed. Slater had practiced slide evacuations — it's required of flight attendants by FAA — and he knew what was entailed.

He was supposed to be a professional, and professionals are supposed to know where to draw the line.

Still, "there but for the grace of God … ." We've all "lost it" at times in ways that might have ended badly. I'd say Slater should be sacked from his job, which he almost certainly will be, but any legal punishment should be minor.

EDIT 8/12 I originally used the term "slide/raft," but that only applies to airplanes flying overwater routes. This plane probably was used only for land routes.


1 comment:

Sheila said...

When I first read of Slater's exploit, I was hardly impressed by his impulsive and childish reaction to what admittedly sounds like an obnoxious passenger. When I further read that port police later found (and arrested) him at home in bed with his boyfriend, I was further unimpressed. However, in my readings today I've come across the view that while the race of the obnoxious female passenger was not specified, most are assuming it was a black woman. I can only assume this is because most have had similar experiences with loud and obnoxious black women. A good point was made that while Slater is apparently extremely gay in mannerism, and while most people are not particularly comfortable with this sort of deportment, they are more than willing to overlook it and celebrate Slater as a hero because they are unwilling to silently tolerate any more black abuse of whites (service industry people or not). It's a really interesting way to look at this - the average white heterosexual is fully prepared to celebrate an otherwise objectionably homosexual individual because it's a rare opportunity to demonstrate, with outward sanction, disgust with and anger at blacks. It's interesting, but it's far more than pathetic that this is the only legitimate way many whites can see to respond to the orgy of black savagery this country has been subjected to.