Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Senator Schumer and the Flight Attendant

The usual media scolds and right-wing operatives are going all postal on Sen. Chuck Schumer, who seems to have riled a flight attendant on US Airways by not snapping off his cell-phone immediately upon orders, questioning her about it, and then muttering a not-nice word as she walked off. The word being "bitch."

Schumer has apologized for saying this word, which he did not say to the flight attendant.

By all accounts, Schumer uttered the word quietly to a Senate colleague in the next seat, and not to the aggrieved flight attendant. Bad on him for being rude, but it's notable that a Republican operative seated nearby ratted him out. The flight attendant never heard the word.

There are unanswered questions. It does not seem to be in dispute that the order to snap-shut the phone was given to Schumer before the cabin door closed. The flight attendant apparently insisted to the senator that no matter what the actual procedures were, flight crew orders were law and were to be followed without question. Period. This, evidently, is what Schumer was (unwisely, as it turns out) questioning.

We're all justifiably annoyed by cell-phone idiots on tarmac-parked planes who disregard the rules and continue on with their braying even after the cabin door has been closed, which we all understand to be the cut-off time. But it seems as if that is not what Schumer did.

I myself have noticed lately -- and so have many readers -- that some flight attendants have become cranky and bossy, and some seem to be making up rules as they go along. Yeah, they have tough jobs, which are getting tougher. But rudeness toward passengers has become a new air-travel problem.

I have always expressed deep sympathy for flight attendants, but really, some of them are out of control these days. Among the offenders, passive-aggressive males seem to be the worst, but more and more the occasional -- bad word uttered here, sotto voce! -- comes down the aisle, behaving rudely toward the paying customers for one supposed infraction or another. It has really become noticeable.

If Schumer broke the actual rules, he's deserves to be hammered in the media for being a jerk, If he did not, and was merely being pushed around by some cranked-up flight attendant on a power jag, I would say his quiet observation, directed not at the flight attendant but shared quietly with a colleague, impolite as it might have been, was accurate.

Airlines need to have a come-to-Jesus talk with some raging flight attendants and tell them this: If you can't stand your job and if you hate the passengers, when that cabin door is open, why not just go ahead and deplane?




ChefNick said...


As I make my way from Point #A to Point #B, namely from Montreal to Osaka, you just, really, no please really can't imagine how many times I held my tongue.

When times were rough and I was going to be the only voice in the cabin to speak up above the deafening silence, if only to yell "What the fuck's going on now, assholes?? Twenty minutes ago you had an 'APC issue'. We're still on this fucking tarmac last time I looked and even the Stewardess looks nervous."

But you know what? Those words were thankfully banished from the silent interior of my A-3XX by the Voice Of Reason.

In other words, I sat the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

Sometimes, it's better that way, even when the quietest whisper is just dying to get out.

I'm just going to have to quieten it down even more of a scratch here on this return leg.

Cathy said...

Whoa, Joe. "...cranked up flight attendants on a power jag..."????"...raging flight attendants...."???? "....passive-aggresive male flight attendants..."???? (Is that a euphemism for gay, perchance?)
Can't believe that the respected Joe Sharkey has joined the ranks of the intensely irrational and increasingly rancorous dissers of flight attendants. Tell me, Joe,do you hate your banker, too? How about the Metro North ticket taker? Or the salesman at Saks? Or is it just the fact that locked in a tube at 30,000 feet you feel powerless and out of control and we don't. Respect is a two way street....and I don't feel much of that coming from you. You've now lost mine.

See also said...

First, "passive aggressive" is not my "euphemism" for "gay." (Passive aggressive is an insult, gay is not). Some of my best friends are gay; none of my best friends are passive aggressive.

And no, I don't hate my banker or my railroad ticket clerk. They're not rude to me. And the rules are clear in a bank and on a train.

The point here, and I expected flack, is that I am running into more and more angry fight attendants who are taking their frustrations out on passengers and in some cases arbitrarily invoking "rules" that don't exist. (Seat back pockets, anyone?)

I an well known for my sympathy and empathy toward flight attendants, whose jobs get tougher as their wages and benefits get worse. But it's time for the majority of excellent, hard-working flight attendants, and airlines, to recognize the growing problem of unwarranted, unprovoked rudeness toward passengers by a few who really stand out. As to a passenger's unwarranted rudeness toward a flight attendant, that alone should be ground for tossing said passenger out the door, preferably at cruise altitude, and I shall be happy to assist upon request by any member of the flight crew.

Thanks for the note - Joe Sharkey

Disrespected FA said...

Check your facts Joe - the FAA states that carry-on items, specifically including large water bottles and laptop computers, are not to be stowed in a seat back pocket. FAs do not "invoke this rule that does not exist". They are trying to do their job so as not to incur a fine by the FAA. It has nothing to do with anger. Read the safety information card in that seat back pocket and you might learn something.

ChefNick said...

Joe, I know you're some New York Times guy -- of course I know that because you're famous -- but I like to weigh into these flight "issues" because now they matter so much to so many (thanks, Winston) that everyone has to take a stand. You will forgive my French but as I was walking from a fucking plane from Detroit to Narita, quite bewildered, I found myself in the company of a Pilot Flying, of my very own personal 747.

All I could summon to mention to him at the time was something in the mode of "Where the fuck did you learn to fly, dude? Fucking outstanding crosswind job! Don't know about three-point, but in this world, two or even eight-point is good! Fuck, now that I mention it, ONE point is always good!"

But as I walked the "jetway" or whatever they call it today, I became so absorbed in my conversation with this guy, this pilot, who had no agenda beyond what hotel he was shacking up in next, that I completely forgot where I was going and, after he pointed it out, realized that instead of going to transit, I was following him to Immigration.

But what he told me stopped me almost dead in my tracks. And the tracks are long, them tracks I been on.

"They're cutting costs on fuel, now even I’m worried about whether we’re going to be able to make the Alternate.”

What, the flight attendants, stewards or stewardesses or whatever they’re called nowadays are being paid $20/hr to conduct a bus in the sky and now even the fucking pilot is complaining?

Air travel has come to a crisis point. They’ve been predicting it for years, but it’s really now come true.

The best I had to say about my trip to Japan today to my mother in California was, “Well, Mum, when Dad was flying B-24s and bombing Germans from 37,000 feet, people were shooting at him! How did he ever do that at age 22?”

Her only answer was “Well, consider yourself lucky that no one was shooting at you today.”

So I am doing just that.

See also said...

Re comment from "Disrespected FA," who is Exhibit A. The FAA recently issued a very clear clarification saying that personal items may be placed in seatback pockets, so long as they don't weigh a total of more than 3 pounds. As I said, some FA's (a small minority, but they're the loudest) make up rules as they go along -- or believe the last thing they heard in the galley.

ChefNick said...

You wouldn't believe how many people make it up "as it goes along.”

Now, when you’re hurtling 37,000 feet at 480 knots, well, sure, Gn’ma, ain’t no one shooting at us right? Right, Gn’ma?

But when absolutely incomprehensible, indescribable and just plain LUDICROUS orders come down the pipe that alcoholic beverages, which for this segment of your SIXTEEN-HOUR FLIGHT will now cost you SEVEN FUCKING DOLLARS A POP, and you’d better have EXACT FUCKING CHANGE.

So when I pulled a ragged five-dollar bill out of my inaccessible pocket as the cart rolled up and waved it at the nice gal and said as slowly as possibly, “Will this do temporarily for a double Bloody Mary? And an orange juice for this boy?”

And she said “I don’t need that — we’ll make arrangements later.”

And so she didn’t. And those Bloody Marys were the best I ever did see at 37,000 feet.

I’ve always felt that if the machine is broke, the rock that Ugg made no longer rolls down to the creek that Ogg made like it always used to, it’s time to . . . have another beer.