Saturday, August 14, 2010

Whom Would You Choose - Sully or Slater?

A good thing about news online or in hard copy is that you can pick the stories you want to read, and ignore the rest.  You can't do that with the TV (where I also watch the news.)  Even switching channels often doesn't work because they're fixating on the same inane thing.  It can be a balloon boy hoax one time or a flipped out flight attendant another.

Captivity to such TV coverage apart, this hoopla about Steven Slater cussing out a passenger and deploying the emergency chute to walk off his Jet Blue job gets to me in other ways.  The Huffington Post online poll shows almost half the readers regard him as a folk hero.  This may not be a representative sample of Americans as this readership is very liberal.  But Slater also has 100,000+ fans on Facebook, tee shirts sold in his name, and has a media fixture for the past four days.

The deeds are nowhere comparable but I'm reminded somewhat of the hundreds of women who write love letters or send marriage proposals to serial murderers or rapists in prison.  In a free country everyone gets to have apologists, even amongst strangers.  If only these women could be advanced to the head of the victim line instead of the other poor hapless souls targeted by such predators.  In the same way if only Slater fans on their flights could be privileged to have only crew members like him in attendance.

Joseph Lopez who was a flight attendant himself cites his difficulties and challenges as a rationale for Slater's behavior in an August 14 piece in the Washington Post.  But I'd agree a lot more with Rich Lowry in his August 14 opinion in the Salt Lake Tribune.  He lauds the quiet heroism of Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in landing his US Air plane in the Hudson River, and contrasts that with Slater's self-indulgent excess that "is not in the least bit admirable." 

On my own air trips I'd hate to have someone like Slater aboard.  To add to my July 13 post on airline experiences  I've witnessed my share of surly, brusque or stone-faced flight attendants, especially on American Airlines.  One snapped "what do you want?" to a diffident old lady sitting across the aisle from me when she pressed the attendant light button to request for some water to take her medication after we had boarded.  The same attendant wore a scowl for the most part of the flight - a passenger on my other side wondered if this was because their flight attendant union had just agreed to wage concessions in bankruptcy talks.  On another trip a flight attendant glowered at a young mother who had requested water for her restless infant after boarding, and took 20 minutes to bring it.

In both cases I toyed with the idea of quietly noting the errant attendants' names and sending feedback to the airline after getting home.  But their name tags that they are required to wear on their uniform were missing - this was probably not accidental.  I also observed their far more cordial and gracious colleagues on the same flight and wished there was a way to track and reward good and conscientious staff while penalizing bad conduct.

But in the aftermath of the chute exit drama it seems these workers just needed to behave more shockingly and egregiously to win accolades and fans among a sizable chunk of regular Americans.  I'd instead much prefer airlines to "Sully" their image after wiping their Slate(rs) clean.  And I'd like TV broadcasts to focus more on real news.


Anonymous said...

Slater is overrated. Why should any employee who can't hold his temper be in the hospitality business? Give him a job in Guantanamo or Abu Garib. Make him Obama's or BP's CEO butler for messing up the jobs in this country. May Nancy Pelosi be served by Steven Slater on her way to Washington. And now they want to make him a folk hero by making a movie of him? Wipe the slate clean.


Sandip Madan said...

While I wouldn't wish Slater on Nancy Pelosi, I would like Americans to overwhelmingly share your general thinking on this. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sandip, for a guy with so many opinions, most of them fallacious since I'm on the other side, haha,you're notably silent on the "mosque in Manhattan" issue. Is it a sign of divisiveness or just a mosqe-kito bite?


Sandip Madan said...

May get to this topic, too, in a fair and balanced way. :-) My rationale may be different but I suspect our views on the ultimate decision converge here.