Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jet Blew

Pardon the interruption into your normal train of thought but did you see the item on the news Monday night and in the papers yesterday about the somewhat eventful landing of the Jet Blue flight from Pittsburgh that landed at Kennedy Airport on Monday? In the interests of full disclosure, the landing itself was uneventful. It was the behavior of Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater that was considerably something more so.

According to the New York Post, as the plane landed at Kennedy and was be bopping along towards its arrival gate, one of the passengers did what people sometimes do. He got up out of his seat in order to grab his carry-on bag. I know what you are thinking - What a tool. He could not have waited another few minutes to get his bag out of the overhead compartment? In fairness to this guy, he may have had some experience flying on Continental Airlines and merely wanted to check as soon as the plane touched down to ensure that his bag had not mysteriously disappeared while in flight. I know the struggle. I am now not quick to judge.

Anyway, after the premature evacuator got up out of his seat to retrieve his carry-on item, Slater did what flight attendants always seem to do when such an event occurs: his job. Slater directed the passenger to sit down and to wait to retrieve his bag until after the plane had stopped moving. The passenger, having had the chance to take a look through the windows to the world outside the aircraft, and having been fully satisfied that the aircraft was within the jurisdictional boundaries of New York, gave Slater a stereotypical response, apparently telling Slater to, "f*ck off". For shits and giggles, the passenger (in one news story I read the passenger was identified as a man but in another was identified as a woman so I opt for gender neutrality) did in fact retrieve the bag from the overhead compartment and in the process of doing so, apparently nailed Slater in the melon with either his bag or the compartment door.

At that point - as I and all of my brothers from other mothers like to say - it was "on". Slater responded by taking control of the plane's P.A. system (the one used to broadcast the emergency instructions you ignore at the beginning of every flight) and.....well......telling his passengers just how happy he was that they had chosen to fly Jet Blue, "To the f*cking a**hole who told me to f*ck off - it's been a good 28 years." Slater then apparently grabbed his own carry-on bags, a beer from the plane's galley, and then popped the lever for the airliner's inflatable chute before sliding to the tarmac outside the terminal door. No word as to whether he left $6.00 to cover the cost of the beer.

Once off of the plane, Slater boarded an AirTrain to the lot where his car was parked. He got into his car, drove home and was at his home when, several hours later, the police came to his door. They arrested him for criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. Personally, I always feel more anxious when the plane I am on is zipping across the yonder at 35,000 feet and 600 miles per hour than I do when it is rolling across the tarmac at 0 feet and 25 miles per hour so I have a hard time believing anyone was actually endangered by Slater's Indiana Jones routine. It is not as if he was the one piloting the plane for God's sake.

His arithmetic notwithstanding (the news reports list Slater's age as 38 and I find it unlikely that an airline would have hired him at age 10 to be a flight attendant although the dumb bastards who run Continental Airlines likely would have permitted him entry into their management-training program by 11 or 12), it is not impossible for me to empathize with Slater. Hell, unless we are the person looking down from the mountaintop at those beneath and below us, I think it is impossible for any of us to not empathize with Slater. Candidly, I have never understood how people in service industries, such as flight attendants, do not go completely insane about four flights into the job. It is a gig akin to being a corrections officer: you are outnumbered - surrounded by potential hostiles - and unarmed with no place to get away if and when the shit hits the fan.

I hope that the long arm of the law, presuming its investigation uncovers an actual offense that merits punishment, fashions a punishment that fits the crime for Slater and not something unduly harsh or excessive. Justice tends to not always be tempered with either mercy or common sense so I hold not my breath. Jet Blue might want to start cranking out free ticket vouchers to the hundred or so passengers who were on the flight right now because as sure as I am sitting here, seconds after Slater enters a plea of guilty/is found guilty of anything (if not sooner) the civil suits are going to start pouring in. Frivolity loves company so those riding in the theoretical ambulances and those running furiously to catch them will eventually find one another. And when that happens, Jet Blue will likely come to realize that they cannot simply shout "f*ck off" and exit the stage via the emergency chute.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming with your host Howard Beale.

-AK

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