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Going Postal on a Plane

Is the Jet Blue Quitter a Hero or a Baby?

08/11/2010 Comments (12)

Splash News Online

It seems everyone is talking about former Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater’s famous “bad day” at work.

Slater, fed up with a passenger who refused to apologize for allegedly hitting him on the head while retrieving luggage from the overhead bin, reportedly used the PA system to unleash a torrent of curse words before ditching the jet at New York’s JFK International Airport.

The 20-year airline veteran was arraigned Tuesday and has been charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, but the case has left many cheering him on – and wondering if he deserves praise instead of prison time.

As someone who has put in no small number of hours in various service industries over the years, I can completely understand the temptation to “lose it” with rude customers and quit your job in a dramatic fashion. I would imagine that the “freak out and quit your job” fantasy, born of frustration, is a fairly common theme among service workers of all kinds. And it’s for this reason that Slater appears to be attracting a fan club of sorts.

He “did what everyone always wanted to do but never did,” says the “Free Steven Slater” Facebook page – one of many overnight shrines for the 39-year-old, who quit his job in dramatic fashion on Monday ...

“We (flight attendants) secretly have thought about doing this … you are my hero for taking a stand on flight attendant abuse!!!” one commenter wrote on another Facebook fan page.

Like I said, I get it. But I do worry about the ramifications of us making a hero out of someone who ... really just lost his temper and acted like a big fat baby.

Freaking out, screaming, and cussing? This is how a hero behaves? It sounds a lot more like the kind of tantrum that would earn my 4-year-old some serious corner time.

Of course all service workers should be treated with dignity and respect, but dealing with rude customers is an unfortunate yet inevitable part of any job in any kind of service industry.

I don’t think Steven Slater is a working man hero because he had a temper tantrum at work. Real working man heroes are people whose names most of us will never know. They are the ones who show up, day after day, faithfully performing hard, thankless tasks without complaint. Because they know the value of a dollar. Because they are grateful for the opportunity to earn a living. Because they are driven to provide for their families.

I know some people in my life who work as hard as that, but they don’t have Facebook fan pages. They don’t, but they should.

Filed under anger, job, quit, service, steven slater, work

About Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean
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Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.