August 11– So the inter-sphere is all abuzz with the stories of people quitting their jobs on account of other people acting like assholes. There’s the one about flight attendant Steven Slater, late of JetBlue, who slid down the emergency chute after a passenger got out of his seat and started hauling luggage out of the overhead–eventually bonking Slater on the head with his bag as Slater asked him to return to his seat. Then there’s this one–now apparently a hoax–about a woman who quit her job as a stockbroker after hearing her boss call her a “piece of ass.”
Both stories–including the faux one–are bringing out rounds of applause for folks “sticking it to the man.” Americans love these kinds of stories. It’s the heart of a whole genre, which you could call the “Take this Job and Shove It” narrative.
Everyone identifies with the underdog. What no one’s admitting, however, is that they--we--are just as often the boors throwing our luggage around. Or the boss leering at an employee. Or a person whose publicly bad behavior drives other people to hit the emergency chute and slide away.
Who’s the over-dog? You are.
I’ve been on eight jillion plane rides in my life, and on about seven jillion of them, I have seen that guy, the one who just has to pop out of his seat. Or his friend: the woman who just wouldn’t check her giant steamer trunk, and then insists on shoving the thing into a space that just will not contain it. Or, more humbly, the person next to you who takes over the arm rest. Or, on a crowded train, that person who somehow just never got around to getting her stuff out of the (otherwise empty) seat next to hers.
How about when you’re on a road at night, and some clever soul decides to tailgate you with the bright lights on?
Or, my local favorite here on our (otherwise quiet) lake in Maine– that guy on his JET-SKI–doing donuts around and around in a circle, engine roaring, rattling windows of cabins for miles around. I guess the important thing is, HE’S having fun.
Then there are all of you who wear t-shirts with obscenities on them. Hey, guy with the FUCK CLINTON T-shirt, back in 1999? Thanks for the conversation I had to have with my six year old about what “that word means.”
It’s not news that bad behavior is everywhere. I don’t have any solutions. But I do think that when stories like the two that have rippled through the Inter-Tubes over the last few days come around, it’s worth taking a few moments–as we all hail the pluck of the hero or heroine driven to desparation–to admit that the assholes whose bad behavior has driven these souls to hit the emergency chute? Are us.