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The Mad-As-Hell Flight Attendant

I'm of two minds on this whole crazed flight attendant thing. My sympathies naturally gravitate to the guy who's telling management to Shove It. On the other hand, who wants to be imprisoned at 35,000 feet with a demented burn-out?
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I've got to say that I'm of two minds on this whole crazed flight attendant thing.

On the one hand, you've got to feel for the guy. He's dealing every day with pretty horrible working conditions, chief among which is the pervasive sphincterosity of passengers these days. Not all passengers, mind you. But enough. Like, last week I was on an AA flight out of NYC, heading for LA, and believe you me it was very important to me that the flight take off as scheduled. I had business is what I'm saying. Given the extraordinarily fragile nature of takeoffs at Kennedy, we didn't need some schmuck gumming up the works. But here was this butthead on the bulkhead complaining that there was something wrong with his seat. Did you know that a seat put out of service can cancel an entire flight? I've seen it happen. I've seen them cancel a flight because the accordion door on a bathroom didn't shut just right. And here was this bonehead willing to wreck the plans of 250 people because the seat didn't meet his ass's specifications.

No, passengers blow. You've got the guys who can't get off the BlackBerry, or the drunks who demand to be overserved, or the people who think their babies are cute even when they're screaming their heads off... for... SIX... HOURS.

So you know the guy from Pittsburgh who drove JetBlue's Steven Slater completely around the bend was most probably a butthead from start to finish. Didn't listen to instructions, first thing. If there's one thing that makes a flight attendant crazy, it's having his or her tiny bit of authority challenged, flaunted, ignored. Then he cursed at the flight attendant, in public. Moron. Then he took down his fat baggage, which reportedly hit the increasingly angry Slater on the head. As an aside, have you seen the bloated, engorged steamer trunks that some people think of as carry-on luggage these days?

How many jerks had this 20 year veteran endured? How had his working conditions declined over the years? How many times had he seen even minimum standards of cordiality and humanity ignored? America is angier, ruder, stupider than it's ever been, and airplanes, in addition to being inherently dangerous little metal tubes in the ether, are now essentially no more than flying buses, with all the elegance and comfort that entails. Every day, Mr. Slater had to witness the decline and fall of the empire. That takes its toll. Finally, he morphed into a Howard Beale of the runway and took the short chute out. Took a few beers with him, too. Hard not to like the guy.

At the same time, I must say that the current batch of flight attendants has buried within its ranks some of the meanest and rudest people I've ever been trapped with. And I have to ask myself, just how officious, snotty and impolite was Mr. Slater to the Pittsburgh passenger BEFORE this incident occurred? Maybe not at all. Maybe that's unjust. But let me tell you a little story.

About two months ago, my wife and I were flying on JetBlue and a taut, nasty, bossy little gate agent decided to try to cram a big piece of luggage in the already-full compartment about our heads. He crammed it and jammed it and mashed it and crashed it and then he hauled our perfectly-ensconsed stuff out of its space in a most enraged fashion, hitting my wife on the head with her own luggage, at which point she asked for his name. He then blew up at her and threatened to take us both off the plane. He was subsequently calmed down by several of his associates and left the aircraft in a huff.

This was about a week after I was on a flight on another airline where a very starchy flight attendant spread snark across a whole continent down an entire row of terrified passengers. She was wearing a button that said, "I DON'T CARE WHAT YOUR NAME IS, EITHER."

So when I hear about a flight attendant throwing a hissy fit... well, I just don't know. My sympathies naturally gravitate to the guy who's telling management to Take This Job and Shove It. On the other hand, who wants to be imprisoned at 35,000 feet with a demented, resentful burn-out?