Thursday, August 12, 2010

Working Class Hero????

Steven Slater

Face it: Most of us have had one shitty job or another where we desperately wanted to tell someone who desperately deserved it to fuck-off. Steven Slater saying "sayonara" to his job, deploying an escape slide and popping-open a brewski for the ride down spoke to many of us who have had to put up with the not-so-friendly public. I have to give Slater props for exiting with style. When vomiting into a toilet and yanking out some one's hair extensions passes as entertainment, this Slater showed some creativity and panache. The big question I have to everybody waving Slater's fed-up flag is: "Have you flown lately?"

I try really hard to be nice to people, even though it runs a little contrary to my nature, but flying ANYWHERE these days grates on my last nerve. Going through the airport and getting on a flight is akin to running some sort of stress-test gauntlet to see what airlines will do this time to test my last nerve.

A million years ago when I was young, I used to love to fly. Even flying coach was a happy experience where airport personnel were happy, helpful and downright pleasant. Things started to take a terrible turn when airlines started to compete for the lowest price by cutting back on services, and no doubt the nail-in-the-coffin of customer service occurred with the tragedies of 9/11/2001. I understand that airlines and airports had to increase security while keeping costs low, but when I have flown recently, the staff at many major airlines have been wrapped tighter than the proverbial airport sandwiches, if not downright rude. Instead of feeling like a customer, I feel like the enemy. In short, I hate flying.

On a flight to I forget where, I predetermined just how much and what size baggage I could carry. I carefully packed all of my stuff into two suitcases, under the limit set at that time. One regular sized bag to be checked, one to be used as a carry-on. To make matters simpler, I didn't even carry a purse, but put everything into one small carry-on. When I boarded the plane the flight attendant grabbed my bag without even asking saying it would have to be checked, because the plane was ALREADY filed to capacity with carry-ons. My response was probably not dripping with kindness because I had already been through security who pulled everything out of said carry-on, and made a rather huge production out of pulling each and every one of my medications out of the bag and holding it up to the light, and shaking the bottles. After having had my checked baggage lost or delayed more times than I can count, I was NOT going to allow a flight attendant to check my medications. I most likely said something like: "Hey, you can't have that. My meds are in there!", which was way more polite than "WTF???" which is what I was actually thinking. These pills regulate my heart and she just wasn't getting them. Then flight attendant got huffy with me and told me that the airlines could check "whatever baggage" I brought on the plane. I informed her that either the bag went with me, or I would get off of the plane. Wisely she let me bring my bag on board, although she wasn't exactly roses and sunshine to me for the rest of the flight. My solution to this problem is to ALWAYS carry my meds in a purse because NO ONE will grab a woman's purse and try to check it. In short, I now bring more luggage on the plane than I did before.

On a long flight from Florida to Salt Lake City we had a flight attendant who decided to make everyone buckle-up and stay in their seats because of "turbulence" -- of which there wasn't much, if any. We had to stay buckled into our seats and were not allowed to use the bathroom for most of the flight. When she finally did let us use the john, and a long line formed. After about two people had actually used the facilities, the flight attendant announced we would all have to go back into our seats and buckle ourselves in. Was I a bad customer because preferred disobeying her order to wetting myself? Maybe.

Having been a flunky to somebody most of my adult life, I get that airline service people are between a rock -- the company they work for-- and a hard place -- the consumer, but just exactly TO WHOM do I direct my complaints? I met a guy at a party who used to work in customer service for the airlines and his response to my very civil inquiry about airline problems was that I should find some other means of transportation, especially if I have health problems. WTF??? Although, I am pleased he is out of customer service, he still works for the airlines. (By the way, this dude makes WAY more money than I ever made in any of my flunky jobs and I had to put up with some serious stress and plenty of nasty attitude too.)

I get why Steven Slater did what he did. I am just not so sure that he is a working class hero. Everybody is under a lot of stress. My husband has been deployed more times than I can count since 9/11/2001. I understand the need for added security at airports and on planes. However, I think the airline industry has given customer service the boot in favor of the bottom line and I really don't like being treated like excess baggage when I fly. Some of the hostility people express towards airline personnel is because airlines have created a very stressful atmosphere in which to travel. Yes, people can be assholes, but when you treat them like they are already assholes, should you be surprised when they act that way?

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