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An apology to JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater

By Alexandra Petri

On behalf of plane passengers everywhere, I want to apologize to Steven Slater. I’ve been flying my entire life -- and boy are my arms tired! -- and I am that passenger.

For years, I was the crying baby. Then I was the kid who kept kicking the back of the seat in front of me. Then I was the person who refused to buy headphones to watch the in-flight movie and kept calling the stewardess over to explain the plot of “Pleasantville.”

Then I was the one who kept pressing the call button. What can I say? I like to feel attended on. “Do you know a seven-letter word for crossword enthusiast?” I would ask, when the attendants showed up. “I know one seven-letter word for that sort of person,” the attendants would say, but it’s not printable here.

Then I was the person who demanded that instead of showing “The Mirror Has Two Faces” three times on six separate channels in the course of a six-hour flight, they pull my entrails out with a long hook.

Then I was the person who accidentally didn’t unhook my seatbelt and became convinced that demonic forces were trying to imprison me on the plane forever.

Now I'm the person who falls asleep in the exit row. I’m not sure this is actually an offense, but I always feel like I am supposed to stay awake and be vigilant.

I’ve never actually read the in-flight safety card. I know that the nearest exit might be behind me, and that the white track lights lead to red lights which lead to -- I don’t know, something. I know that in the event of a drop in cabin pressure, oxygen masks are going to fall from above. In twenty years, this will be awkward because it will force me to reveal which of my children I secretly prefer. I assume that my parents’ desire to avoid this scenario is the sole reason I am an only child. I also know that in the event of a water landing, I’m supposed to wrestle the seat cushion out of the seat and hug it to my chest as a floatation device, but that conflicts with my plans to run around screaming in panic. I once watched a documentary about a man who hired someone to crash a fake airplane repeatedly into his pool to train him for crash landings in water. It seemed impossible to survive without the kind of rigorous training, and since I prefer to spend my discretionary income on things such as coffee and paintings of Miley Cyrus dressed as St. Teresa of Avila, I guess that’s the trade-off I’ve made.

All I can say is, Steven Slater, I deserved it.

Why send this man to jail? He’s been punished enough by years of dealing with me. When he directed a choice stream of invective at that one passenger, no one was hurt, he bailed before the plane took off -- and in the moment that will enshrine him forever in the hearts and minds of his countrymen, he even grabbed a beer. People talk about flight attendants’ coolness in moments of crisis. This was one of those moments. Forget the landing on the Hudson! Sure, Sully nailed a water landing and safely evacuated a plane full of passengers -- but did he grab a beer before bailing out himself? This was a stroke of genius.

I say we take any hard time he gets and give it to Lindsay Lohan. As anyone else who was forced to watch "Herbie: Fully Loaded" on that flight to Denver can attest, she's made more passengers suffer than Steve ever did.

By Alexandra Petri  | August 10, 2010; 11:04 AM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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Comments

Mr. Slater did something that many people only dream of doing. Show your support by heading over to http://okaytshirts.spreadshirt.com/ and buying an official “Take this job and slide it” t-shirt!

Posted by: TShirtMan | August 10, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

As a female who has experienced extreme rudeness from flight attendants, I say "give me a break." This man was not a professional, and neither are some others. I do appreciate the ones who are.

Posted by: dietpep | August 10, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

In a society full of entitled people I can only imagine the lengths that this poor flight attendant has been pushed. May I offer my apology to you Steven and to all flight attendants who must put up with passengers like this one. If I had been on the plane I guarantee I would have applauded. Drop the silly charges this man has been sufficiently punished in his 28 years on the job. He went "postal" in a totally nonviolent manner. No one should have to put up with type of behavior long term. How about fining and prosecuting the female who caused the incident?

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | August 10, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I've heard a rumor that the passenger was a US Representative. Anyone have good information on that? If so, this story will have a major third bounce. I'm hoping readers here might be tuned in to that.

Posted by: NomoStew | August 10, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I hope the flight attendant loses his pension and is required to make full restitution to the airline and all the passengers on that flight. No one forced him to work and he had better ways of resigning.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | August 10, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Geez! They arrest a man for losing his temper?
No wonder jails are overcrowded.

I'm no big fan of flight attendants, who I think have become all to short fused in recent years.

If you know you have a bad temper and can't handle people, if you're not a "people person" per se, THEN DON'T TAKE A JOB WHERE YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH PEOPLE.

I've actually seen people who can't stand typing, but work as a secretary.

Maybe it goes along with understanding your own limitations.

Nevertheless, it doesn't actually make sense to throw the man in jail for losing his temper.


Posted by: lindalovejones | August 10, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

kitchendragon50 - You sound like you're a lot of fun at parties!

Posted by: bobsewell | August 10, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

As a female who has experienced extreme rudeness from flight attendants, I say "give me a break." This man was not a professional, and neither are some others. I do appreciate the ones who are.

Posted by: dietpep

Go back on your diet. You've got a screw loose. These flight attendants put up with more bs than just about anyone, and they are trapped in the air with a bunch nasty idiots.

Posted by: mtravali | August 10, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Glad he had the presence of mind to grab a beer on the way out. Unfortunately, most of us don't have that option. Not to self: Bring beer to work.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | August 10, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Glad he had the presence of mind to grab a beer on the way out. Unfortunately, most of us don't have that option. Note to self: Bring beer to work.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | August 10, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate that flight attendants have to deal with the public, I know that is hard. But it certainly does not excuse behavior like this. Flight attendants are in general rude, nasty and surly to passengers for no reason, and in general, have an over-inflated sense of self importance. You are flight attendants, get over it! Know your role. If you don't like it, pick some other kind of work. As for this slater clown, throw him in jail and remaind the rest of the high and mighty flight attendant universe not to be so hateful all the time.

Posted by: coleary12 | August 10, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

We need more information.

That his erratic behavior included grabbing a beer suggest the possibility of an underlying alcohol abuse problem. I hope he had a blood alcohol level taken. That should be a standard part of the investigation of incidents like this, if necessary with a search warrant.

What is his work history? Is his the first and only incident of inappropriate workplace behavior?

To those defending or apologizing for him, he was not arrested for "losing his temper". He was arrested for deploying emergency equipment, a serious violation especially in the post 9/11 world.

He had many other options, from telling a colleague to take over for him, asking for supervisory assistance, or if the physical assault was as serious as he alleges, asking for security back up.

So along with his 15 minutes of fame which he may be able to keep going for 30, he'll probably lose his job and end up with a criminal conviction.

Posted by: Anonymous1952 | August 10, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

He made an outrageous & irresponsible statement and has been, and will be further, punished for it.

But nobody was hurt and in the grand scheme of things it's pretty small potatoes. Those who can't appreciate the humor in the occasional grandly pointless gesture have (in my humble opinion) let an important part of their soul wither.

It's also worth pointing out that the article being commented upon here is (intended to be) a pretty humorous look at things, and those who comment without acknowledging that context should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: bobsewell | August 10, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

bobsewell's right. I don't think anybody's actually saying that it's objectively good to have done what Slater did here; somebody on the tarmac, for example, could have been killed by that falling escape hatch.

But seriously, cut the guy some slack. According to the reports, he was not only verbally abused but physically assaulted as well by that passenger who didn't think the rules applied to her. Slater had lost one parent to illness and was caring for the other one; he snapped. Nobody on that plane was hurt (certainly none of them deserve "restitution" for anything), and everybody can move on. Good luck to him.

Posted by: simpleton1 | August 10, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Nobody was hurt. Stop whining, this guy's a hero.

Free Steven Slater!

Posted by: NYC123 | August 10, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

mtravall, you speak from your experience and I'll speak from mine. If any passenger had acted the way this guy did, someone from Homeland Security would have locked him up, no excuses.

Posted by: dietpep | August 10, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

@kitchendragon50 - your name says it all.

Lose a pension for what he did! He let a bully know what a jerk he was and he did it over the PA system. Good for him. He will lose his job, pay a fine, but stay for awhile in the public limelight for finally telling someone who needed to be told what a jerk he was. He will also get a better job because of this but hopefully this escpade will make him a calmer person. He won't get a second chance. I hope the jerk who hit him in the head is recognized and ridiculed as long as Steven Slater is talked about. Maybe 'bully beatdown' will get them together on MTV.

Posted by: sunlover_hawaiistyle | August 10, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

@sunlover_hawaiistyle - your ignorance of the incident makes your comments moot. The passenger was a she, not a he. The altercation was the passenger refusing to stay seated until the plane had stopped, and the attendant was hit in the head as she was retrieving her bag from the overhead.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | August 10, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

kitchendragon50 - Nope. It's your attention to the details that renders your comments moot. Did you by any chance get around to reading the blog post upon which you have commented?

There are many thousands of appropriate fora for the expression of humorless outrage about this incident. This ain't among them.

Posted by: Bob-S | August 11, 2010 2:56 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: tristonjo | August 11, 2010 5:56 AM | Report abuse

He broke the law and should go to prison. Making him a folk hero is nonsense. Flight Attendants are often rude, abrupt and sometimes down right nasty. Passengers have to put up a defense mechanism just to survive the abuse. Back in the late 1990s I flew at least once a week on shuttle flights between LA, San Francisco and Phoenix. As a business passenger (type B) I want to relate two outrageous incidents I personally witnessed. I saw a Flight Attendant open the jet way door leading down the steps to the tarmac and kick a passenger’s suit case down those steps. All because she claimed the suit case was too large to fit in the over-head. When she caught me watching her, she looked at me and said “they don’t pay me enough to be a baggage handler too!” Next on a flight from LA to Chicago on an Airbus aircraft there were 275 passengers with two lavatories for coach and two lavatories for 8 passengers in first class. An 82 year old gentleman was seated in the row opposite from me. About half way through the flight, after lunch was served, the man rose to use the lavatory. The line was three quarters of the way down the isle from the front of the aircraft to the rear by the lavatories. The man’s discomfort level rose so he left the line and tried to enter first class lavatory (both of which were empty). The Flight Attendant refused to allow him into first class, told him to leave and drew the curtain to the first class cabin. The elderly gentleman then went back to the long line. While waiting, the man could no longer hold his urine and wet his trousers. So let’s not blame it all on the passengers. The Flight Attendant in my book is no folk hero, just another hysterical spoiled child who doesn’t belong in a service industry.

Posted by: Bockscar | August 11, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Everyone’s hailing Steven Slater as a hero – but is he really?

TV Host RENE SYLER weighs in with her fresh take on the issue – and why Steven (and others) set bad examples for today’s kids…

http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2010/08/steven-slater-air-steward-acts-out/

Posted by: Roggiep | August 11, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

You whiners are gonna always whine about something. This guy QUIT his job in a non-violent way. After going 'postal' he didn't pull out a gun and start shooting!!!He put his 2 cents worth in, grabbed him a couple of beers(to chill out with) and EXITED the workplace. No harm. No foul.

Not like the *beer* warehouse guy in CA.

Posted by: justiceseeker51 | August 11, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

What a crock that you want to excuse this behavior. Do we excuse bad cops for losing their cool when provoked? Do we let nurses abuse patients for dirty bed pans? Do we let prison guards act out because they get spit on? NO. These people choose jobs that put them in tough positions and they are expected to act professionally. The same thing applies to Slater. He works a job where every day he is supposed to deal with tired and moody passengers. Let’s not forget that this was not a spontaneous act. He cut his head prior to that leg of the flight and waited until arrival at his home airport to act out his tantrum.

Posted by: ETMETM | August 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we all have bad moods and you’re the customer... but it doesn’t mean you have the right to be abusive or you think you can do whatever you want. But if you're a customer and you're flying a plane, the flight attendant tells you to wait until the plane completely stops before pulling your luggage... but you rudely disobey and in the course, hit this guy in the face? I'd be pretty pissed off too by the customer's action. Wherever you go, there are rules and policies. You may think it's dumb but it has its reason why it is in place... and the outcome of the customer's action is exactly why he told her to wait until the plane stops... resulted in his injury... the selfish customer rudely hurts the flight attendant and refused to apologize? Wow, tells you a lot about her character doesn't it? It's rude people like this who think the world revolves around themselves, it's the same people who are immediately become aggravated when seeing a line-up and the same people who think they can bud people in a line-up but when people bud them it isn't allowed. Yeah, customers may come in having a bad day, but it doesn’t give them the right to do whatever they want to do or to be mean, selfish and rude to everyone around them. It’s quite sickening that the same people who have poor attitudes and behaviours are the ones that feel they have a right to verbally abuse people who are in the service side and they take advantage of abusing people because they know the person who is on the service side has to friendly to them or take the abuse from them or else they would lose their jobs... these customers who come in aggressive or abuse others do these to people who need the job and are in a position of vulnerability. Sales people have to take abuse, cannot complain or else they lose their job. I can say that I have been in the service side for a while and there are those few customers who hold your back and are very friendly to everyone they meet no matter where they go. It’s unfortunate that there are those handful of rotten customers that have that abusive personality that I’ve talked a
I’ve talked about above... the ones who feel that the world owes them something or everything, the attitude that if they are in a bad mood that even if the sales person has been nothing but kind and friendly to them they feel they should ruin their mood too and the ones who feel they can spew the most rotten and abusive things out of their mouth to get their way. It’s people like this that really boil my blood because their world and way of life is full of hate and it really seems to me that they are unaware or just don’t care about how it impacts others and how their actions are really destructive.... it shouldn't be this way though and it's a very sad and sick world when service people have to just swallow it and take abuse from abusive customers or else face the possibility of getting fired.

Posted by: randomgal99 | August 12, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

swallow it and take abuse from abusive customers or else face the possibility of getting fired.
I’ve work the service industry... and I kind of take it as... you know.. you only run into these people once in a while... but I really do feel sorry for the people who have to deal with this person everyday... cause I can bet you, these are the same kind of people who abuse the circle of people around them constantly... and though i have to face it once in a blue moon... i pray for the people around this hateful person for the continued patience, strength and courage it takes to be around these people on a daily basis... and i truly pray these people who have a hateful way of life will change and be more loving... whenever i work in the sales side and I’ve had a rough day because of the abuse i took from a hateful person.. but a very loving person comes in... it’s a breath of fresh air and it’s encouraging to know that there are honest and kind people out there who know you’re doing your job to the best you can... and those that offer a smile to you even if they didn’t have a very good day... cause they know the concept that... even if you’re not in the best of moods... to always put your best face forward... cause really... whenever you see a sales it’s not their fault your day has been crappy... or you lost your job... so don’t put your crap on others! Unless the sales person from the very beginning was extremely rude to you and there was no reason for it... avoided eye contact, threw your merchandise around like a toy, cut you off, rolled their eyes at you... then yes, you have a reason to be upset with them... but you don’t have a right to verbally abuse them or threaten them because that can turn into a legal situation. If the sales person does that to you, you ask them if there is a problem and take your belongings to go wait for someone else or ask to speak to their supervisor. You have a right too, to not take that nonsense. But if the salesperson is doing their job and are following company policies and you know the policies too, then you, as a customer should respect the salesperson that they are doing their best and following policies, even if you feel it’s an inconvenience to you. If the salesperson doesn’t follow company rules because it’s simply inconvenient for you, they could lose their jobs. If you’re a frequent customer and the salesperson hasn’t met you before – it is the salesperson’s responsibility and rule that they have to know their customers first ... be honest and fair because the salesperson is doing their job. They are TRAINED to do what they are suppose to... so let them know you are a frequent and let them know you are aware of the policies and kindly let them know you’ll be patient with them or that they could ask for approval from one of the workers you know.

Posted by: randomgal99 | August 12, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

It doesn’t help the situation if you’re rude to the salesperson and it doesn’t help either if you feel that you’re entitled that everyone should know you... especially if you know they are new!! It’s kind of asking for a ridiculous request to assume that the salesperson should automatically give you what you want because you’ve been there forever... the salesperson does not know that... so give them a break... and give them a hand or advice to handle the situation! Also... if you decide to be rude anyway, or start getting angry, start uttering comments that are uncalled for or to intentionally hurt the salesperson... then that only worsens your situation... It unfortunately is a vicious cycle for those people who are knowingly or unknowingly abusive. They think they are on top of everyone, they think they can be mean whenever they want to get what they want... but they will get lousy service every time, they won’t have many friends near them because of their rude and obnoxious behaviour... and people will not be very kind to them either... BECAUSE...YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE!!

If you want people to be nice to you or you want people to be attracted to you... you have to be nice to them too. The most popular people are usually people who are easy going, friendly, humorous and kind... while the people who don’t have many friends are the people who are really judgemental, loud, attention seekers or like to talk sh*t all the time and unfortunately there’s a weird subcategory of people who dislike and are jealous of nice people because they think these people are fake?... it’s sad to think there’s this category at all...
People need to learn the basics of being respectful and kind and that applies everywhere no matter what mood you think you’re in.

Posted by: randomgal99 | August 12, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

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