Within hours of his workplace outburst, JetBlue airlines flight attendant Steven Slater became a working class hero.
Slater, who claimed he became angry when a passenger defied his requests to stay seated, then accidentally hit him in the head with a suitcase she was removing from the overhead compartment, delivered an expletive-laced diatribe against disrespectful passengers over the plane's microphone, grabbed a beer from the galley and made his grand exit via the plane's emergency slide.
The fact that so many people cheered Slater as a champion of downtrodden workers is testament to the emotional and economic climate of our country. We're overworked, we're stressed, and we're tired.
I think the majority of working class Joes and JoAnns have had their share of I-can't-take-it-anymore moments. Who hasn't fantasized about marching off the job mid-workday with a jaunty "So long, suckers!" wave?
But it wasn't long before Slater's version of events was refuted by passengers who witnessed the incident. Two women claimed that Slater had been ill-tempered and ill-mannered throughout the flight and that he, not the passenger, was to blame.
Reading that updated Associated Press story, I concluded that the incident was less about the rebellion of an overburdened everyman and more about what this country needs as desperately as it needs more good-paying jobs: civility.
We've morphed into an "Oh, yeah?" culture. If you cut me off in traffic I'll tailgate you. Bump me while we're standing in line and I'll shove you. Give me a look I perceive as insulting and I'll flip you off. We want to be treated respect, dammit, and we don't care who we have to mistreat to get it.
Being an obnoxious bully has become synonymous with self-esteem. Tacky, ill-mannered, fistfighting heathens and self-absorbed, tantrum-pitching brides are rewarded with their own reality shows. It's enough to make Miss Manners fling down her little white gloves in disgust.
Isn't it better, saner, healthier - for the ego and the soul - to put the other person's feeling first once in awhile?
Dare to be nice. Let the tired mom with the full grocery cart and fidgety kids cut ahead of you in the checkout line. Smile rather than scowl at the person who nabbed the parking spot you were eyeing. Replace "I want" with "Please." Work for satisfying compromise instead of personal victory.
There's an old story about a guy who gets yelled at by his boss, then goes home and yells at his wife, who yells at their kid, who yells at the dog, who snaps at the cat. The moral? Foul moods are contagious.
Imagine if the boss had talked, not yelled. Imagine the man kissing his wife, the wife hugging the kid, the kid petting the dog, the dog. ... Well, the dog would probably still snap at the cat, but you can see where I'm going with this.
The Mining Journal sponsors a healthy weight challenge series, inviting area residents to develop healthier eating habits and exercise more. I'd like to see a human decency challenge. How reasonable can you be? How well can you hold your temper when things don't go your way? Are you willing to give as well as demand respect?
I think we can do it. Now get out there and show your fellow humans some kindness!
I challenge you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot. com.