I’ve been thinking a lot about Steve Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who decided he couldn’t take it anymore, told an entire plan what was what, and then activated the emergency slide to exit the aircraft.

Much is being debated – did he call the plane a variety of colorful names? Will he be charged with a crime that might land him in jail for a long time? Did he throw an unjustified hissy fit, or his he a martyr to the decline of basic civility?

Not to be an old fogey – I’m just starting the second quarter of my life, so bear with me – but I am SHOCKED at how badly people treat each other when they fly now, and it comes from both sides. On a recent flight back from NYC, I witnessed a group of passengers berating a desk agent at a terminal, a sun-kissed couple pushing a man with a walker out of the way to get in the First Class line, and a flight attendant snap at a family that didn’t speak English because they dared to stand up too fast. It continued throughout the flight – jostling, grumpy people elbowing each other in the head, mad that I had to get up to use the bathroom once during the six hour trek, the passenger behind me using the back of the seat as his personal leg press machine. Needless to say, it was quite possibly the least pleasant flight. Of. My. Life.

Flight attendants put up with a lot of crap, and for the most part handle the screaming, sighing, ignoring, grumbling, and farting passengers they encounter with grace and poise, even with a sense of humor. I have seen flight attendants get treated in such a reprehensible way that I have turned to my fellow sardine-can dweller and told them to shove it (made for an awkward descent, mind you). I was raised to, no matter how bad your day is going, always treat people with the dignity and respect you expect, and to never transfer your bad day onto the people around you. Flying these days is a total sh*itshow, and reveals those elements of human nature that make me want to hole up in a cabin and never speak to anyone again.

I wasn’t on that JetBlue flight, I don’t know what happened. Not every flight attendant is roses and sunshine, as I’ve witnessed numerous times. What I do know, however, is that I’ve seen airline staff treated with disdain, anger, even rage, and it’s unacceptable. Had I been Mr. Slater and had been subject to the sort of work environment I see when I fly, I may have curled up in fetal position in the aisle long ago.

Next time you fly, breath. Be nice.

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