Posted by: L. E. Barnes | August 11, 2010

Hero or Jerk?

Everyone who’s held a job has probably felt tempted to blurt out, as David Allan Coe said in his famous song, “Take this job and shove it! I ain’t workin’ here no more!”

Although he didn’t use Coe’s words, JetBlue attendant Steven Slater nonetheless made his intentions more than clear when he announced over a passenger plane’s PA system that he was quitting. (In fact, Coe’s lyrics are far cleaner than the language Slater used to express himself.) The long and the short of it is that Slater, following an altercation with an uncooperative passenger, decided he’d had enough of the flight attendant business and made a dramatic exit–activating the inflatable emergency escape ramp and then grabbing a couple of beers before sliding out–from the plane as it sat on the tarmac. He was later arrested for pulling this stunt, but has since been released. As the following video shows, some see the frustrated flight attendant as something of a hero.

I’ve worked as a telemarketer, I’ve held various office jobs (including customer service), and I’ve worked as a college English instructor. I’ve had to deal with plenty of rude customers as well as crabby, gossipping coworkers and some extremely hateful and immature college students. So I’ll admit that there have been multiple occasions when I felt like doing something along the lines of what Slater did (though I’ve never had access to an inflatable ramp or some cold beers for me to brandish). Yet I always refrained, largely because I didn’t want to shoot myself in the foot, so to speak, when it came to finding another job (I can just imagine trying to explain on a job application how my previous employment ended…). But I’ll also admit I’m just not gutsy enough to pull a “Steven Slater,” even though this incident has put him in the limelight and may open some doors for him. A young musician named Jonathan Mann has even penned a ballad celebrating Slater’s bravado. (Warning: the song uses the “f” word quite liberally.)

Of course, as a Christian, I keep in mind that I represent Christ and would never want to do anything to dishonor Him. In addition, I keep in mind the Golden Rule, and I don’t want to turn around and be a jerk to others, however tempted I am to lash out at them for being a jerk to me.

So, on the one hand I feel some sympathy for Steven Slater (heck, I almost feel like shaking his hand and giving him a big pat on the back), but I’m not sure I could–or should–emulate what he did.

Your thoughts?



  1. Having worked as a cook, waitress and a clerk in a place called Almart (really, that was the name) I think every one would benefit from working somewhere that required you to be nice to customers. Food service, Walmart, wherever. Some place where you would be on the service end of “customer service”. Maybe as part of getting a high school diploma or a driver’s license. Then, maybe, you would not be the lady telling the flight attendant to “f” off. Cause that’s the person I really don’t want to be. Can you imagine listening to this and explaining to your friends that “oh, yeah, uh, that was me”.

    • I tend to agree with you! I have an aunt who used to be a waitress, and she once remarked that people shouldn’t be allowed to eat in a restaurant until they’ve first worked in one–for the same reasons you mention. And I’ll admit that when I was a student, I didn’t always say the kindest things about my teachers (not to their faces, unlike some of the students I’ve had), but when I became a teacher and finally saw what it was like from that angle, I had to eat my words! Unfortunately, folks often don’t realize how obnoxious they’re being.

      Yes, I can imagine how that rude passenger must be feeling now. Hopefully, he regrets his awful behavior (and not just because it was broadcast on national news).

      A place called “Almart”? Hmmmm… I’m surprised Wal-Mart didn’t sue them for trademark infringement.

  2. […] Hero or Jerk? […]

  3. I don’t watch TV but my husband has told me that this incident has “grown legs” and everyone is talking about it.

    From my uninformed vantage point, I’d say the flight attendant is neither a hero nor a jerk. He’s just a guy who got fed up with a situation.

    I lost my temper one time at work when I realized that I’d been snookered by office politics. I always played everything straight, with integrity, but individuals with more experience made a game of making others look bad. So, I got duped by this person who was supposedly our partner, and my boss left me out to dry. It’s not a good feeling when your boss isn’t on your side.

    I’d say to Judith that stints serving the public won’t immune anyone from such outbursts. There’s only so much “unfair” a person can take. On the other hand, customers shouldn’t let this episode cow them into failing to demand reasonable service. Let’s not allow the pendulum to swing too far the other way for this nit’s sake.

    • No, working in a restaurant, store, or call center won’t guarantee that a person will overcome all tendencies to rudeness. I still have to hold my temper in check at times. And yes, it’s a two-way street regarding service sector jobs; both customers and workers at times have valid complaints about how they’re served/treated. Such is life.

      I know what you mean about office politics. Being the target of someone’s gossip or campaign to undermine your position can be both extremely hurtful and infuriating.

  4. It seems there are differing stories about what actually occurred, including passengers who said that Slater was rude to them. I think this guy is just a little too attention-seeking based on the pictures and interviews I’ve seen. Granted, he is caring for a sick mother, but tripping the slide could have killed someone. And dealing with rude people is a fact of life, so we must build virtue and not give in to pique.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if he was rude to others, as it sounds like he’s got quite a temper of his own. Anyway, I have mixed feelings about the guy–a mixture of sympathy and suspicion.

      We all need to exercise the virtues of patience, love, and forgiveness. And developing some thick skin helps a lot too!

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