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Steven Slater, Inspirational Hero?

After an altercation and an abrupt exit via the emergency slide, do you think this flight attendant is a hero?

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Steven who?

At least that’s what you would have said a week ago. In this digital day and age it has become totally impossible to predict who or what will set off the next media frenzy. In this case it was a heretofore anonymous flight attendant who, after fecklessly flipping out on a flight he was working and making headlines across the globe for his flamboyant outburst, has managed to rack up nearly 35 million search hits on Google and become—to some a least—a kind of weird inspirational folk hero, or anti-hero as the case may be. Did I mention his 200,000 Facebook fans?

Slater enacted the kind of workplace fantasy that apparently many people harbor. After his flight landed at JFK airport in New York last Monday night and was taxiing gateward, Slater reportedly spotted a passenger trying to wrestle her bloated carry-on luggage out of the jammed overhead prior to the plane coming to a complete stop, a clear violation of airline safety regulations. When Slater attempted to stop her, the luggage in question evidently fell on his head whereupon he cursed the woman, commandeered the PA system for a further tirade against unruly passengers before deploying the emergency exit slide chute, snagging a couple of brewskies from the beverage cart then deploying himself down said chute shouting more obscenities as he ran off into the night and subsequent international infamy. Or fame, as the case may be.

Obviously Slater forgot to count to 10. 

So why have some people called his wild and dangerous behavior inspiring, even heroic? Why do we have to endure yet another ludicrous distraction from the real problems of the world? 

I am grateful to God that it has been a long time since I had a job where the customers or the work environment drove me crazy (I work for Guideposts, after all), though I was a waiter when I arrived in New York and I can remember the kind or urges I resisted carrying out against nasty and abusive diners (though nothing quite as creative as Slater’s performance). 

I think Slater strikes a chord with some because of the anxious times we live in. People are frightened and frustrated. They feel pressured at their jobs, doing twice the work with half the people. Customers are frustrated and upset too at the service they are getting from stressed out workers. The wars, the economic downturn and environmental disasters have made the world a much scarier place. People wake up in the morning feeling threatened by life in the 21st century. It is fear that is driving all the anger in this country, so much so that the irrational actions of one irresponsible flight attendant in some strange and visceral way can make sense to people.    

That’s no excuse for Slater. But it is a warning that we can’t allow the times we live in, the pressure and angst we all feel, reduce us to something less than we aspire to, to be ugly and selfish when we need to be kind and understanding. These are the qualities that we have been blessed with and will see us through these difficult and confusing times. Maybe it’s time for the whole world to count to 10.    

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