The Last Straw

Have you ever been in a state where you’re head is filled with the purest rage, thinking, ‘once more, just once more someone messes with me regarding (whatever), and they’re really gonna (re)g(r)et it!

Have a look at this article. Just an average, or in my view, above average employee, who just got pushed way over the edge, for apparently no fault of his. (Fed-Up Flight Attendant Makes Sliding Exit)

What happened was, that an airline attendant, Steven Slater, who probably had his share of responsibilities and troubles, got pushed a little too much when a passenger stood up to fetch his luggage on the aircraft before the crew had given permission. When Slater instructed the man over the PAS to remain seated, the passenger goes ahead with removing his luggage. And when Slater reaches the passenger, he accidentally gets hit on the head by the luggage the passenger was trying to remove. Now this, in itself, is a random accident that could happen to anyone. But when Slater asked for an apology, the passenger proceeds to curse him. So that’s two mistakes by one moron of a passenger. Firstly, not following rules, and then throwing his weight on someone trying to enforce those rules.

Slater, who apparently has served 20 years in the industry, (20 whole years is a bloody long time eh!), was a regular chap, who had been recently caring for his dying mother, who happened to be a retired flight attendant. His father too was a pilot in his day. Slater happened to be the leader of the airline’s uniform redesign committee apart from being a member of the airline’s in-flight values committee.

So I guess that does speak for his character, abilities and his work.

What the average consumer, customer or colleague doesn’t understand is that different industries and businesses have rules for the purpose of the very meaning of the word, rule = that which is prescribed or laid down as a guide for conduct or action. So obviously, being aware of the risks, or to maintain an orderly way of doing things, rules are laid down.

But most beings, thinking themselves the wiser, feel that they can merely bend the rules a bit to accommodate their holiness. It’s easy when the average self-centered soul thinks that way. But what happens when everyone starts thinking that way. We get chaos. We get three lines at a counter where there’s supposed to be only one, we get five lines of cars on a road with three lanes, we get the ‘everyone’s doing it so why cant I?’ question staring you in the face. We get herd mentality. We also get more fights, more abusing, more punches, etc. Coz they are not the only self-centered one around, there are more like them always around, many more.

And then what happens. It’s the one’s who’s pushed off the edge for no fault of his or hers, who gets the messy share of it.

Like Slater, who after letting out a string of expletives at the passenger over the PAS, grabbed a beer, activated the emergency-evacuation chute, and slid down and drove home, only to have his home surrounded by police officers, detectives and port authorities, and him, arrested.

Normal people don’t do such crazy things. Grab a beer and jump out of a plane. As ridiculous as that sounds, bloody cool even. But no, normal people wouldn’t take their job that seriously either. Most of the kind of staff I have seen on airlines or even with some people I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of working with, they wouldn’t have bothered too hard in trying to enforce rules and regulations to that extent. They try a bit, and then don’t bother. So it’s usually the most hard working, the most driven and most dedicated of employees who usually end up reacting in such extreme ways when they are constantly pushed against the wall for their efforts and dedication.

It’s because, on a scale from 0 to 100, if the average expectation of say quality, or the enforceability of a rule, or a service, for a normal person is, say 50, the normal chap or gal would expect something in the 45-55 range under most circumstances. So when the weird folk bend the rules to say a 40 or even 30, they think they’re just doing something that’s 10-20 units off the normal (not a big deal anyway). But to that crazy dedicated hard worker, the normal or average delivery expectation of the service he or she provides is nothing less that a 95. So when someone’s screwing about with rules that the dedicated folk are enforcing, at those 30-40 level, those normal folks think they’re 10-20 below average, whereas, from the dedicated fellow’s point of view, they’re way below the 95 average. Which is why you then get the extreme reaction to situations like this.

Reminds me of the movie ‘The Rock’. Am pretty sure most of you who watched it, ‘wowed’ at the story, the action, and then forgot about it. But if you were to give it some more thought; the story of a Brigadier who takes some tourists hostage as a final desperate attempt to get the government to open its eyes to the cause he’s fighting for – the deaths of his fellow marines who died while carrying out illegal operations for their country; which the country denies, and which does not even honour their sacrifice.

But somehow, that fight of the Brigadier General is never addressed during the rest of the movie, or realized even by most people who watched the movie. So, through most of the movie, the Brigadier General is viewed as the bad guy.

It is only a few people who follow the rules to that level, work towards something with everything they’ve got, and the least they expect, or rather deserve; is respect for their efforts. And when finally, their efforts aren’t leading to anything, they sometimes end up getting frustrated and taking a drastic step in a final attempt at bringing out the flaw in the system…only to be rewarded with punishment.

Rather than look at the final action, it would do some help if people were to even look at the situations and all the causative factors which eventually culminate in that one drastic or so-called stupid career-killing step.

I guess the world expects people to merely reconcile themselves with things that happen, not complain, not challenge, not question it.

6 thoughts on “The Last Straw

  1. Good one Jony Liked it and very true it actually made me think about all the day to day rules which we break without even thinking for a second

  2. Good one Jony Liked it and very true it actually made me think about all the day to day rules which we break without even thinking for a second

  3. Often, we find people thinking only about themselves. Somehow I should go ahead.. somehow I should be the first to get out.. etc. The behaviour of the passenger is something which we routinely encounter amongst (almost) all passengers.

    The behaviour of Mr Slater in trying to enforce rule/order, in common interest of all passengers, is also understandable. The unfortunate behaviour of Mr Slater, notwithstanding his 20+ years in the industry, is something which needs a deeper thought. Was he overstressed that particular day? Was he continuously overstressed over a longer period of time – due to both official and personal commitments – all of which culminated in his unfortunate action at that particular time? We don’t have full information (as of now) and so we can’t come to any firm conclusion.

    Having said that, I do feel sad for someone who tries to do good and ends up being the villain. But this is life. Our Sastras talk about “Sathyam Vadha, Dharmam Chara, Sathyameva Jayate” etc. But do you actually see these things in life? It happens only in films where we see righteous being victorious. In actual life, thieves and crooks survive and even grow.

    Has any of the corrupt gone behind bars? You look at income tax or for that matter any tax law – if everyone pays their taxes honestly, the overall tax burden on all of us, would come down. But does it happen? There are corrupt tax officials who take money – there are corrupt businessmen who are happy to pay a % to corrupt tax officials and save their illgotten wealth – there are corrupt CAs who help them.

    You look at any organisation – you always find there are people who slog – there are people who work to rule – there are people who don’t work but pretend as if there are doing something – there are people who don’t do anything but claim credit for work done by others – you name it, you can find in any organisation.

    But is it fair? Though the answer is no, it is a fact of life. We all have choices in life. We can decide that we will follow rules, irrespective of how other(s) respond. If I say that I am willing to follow the rule, provided other(s) also follow – then I am part of the “other” group – not part of the group following rules. We can also choose not to follow the rule(s) and somehow get ahead. This is also a choice.

    Having made a choice – we should not complain. If my choice is to be a person following the rule(s), then I should compulsorily follow that, irrespective of how other(s) follow or don’t follow.

    Mr Slater is wrong in that he crossed the rules. He will not be able to justify his action on the fact that the passenger did not listen to him or that the passenger by his action put the others into jeopardy. Even the fact that he was hurt, could not be a sufficient defence to justify what he did – as due to his action, he could have very well harmed another innocent person or even killed him.

    The passenger who disobeyed, needs to be hauled up. But it can be done only if someone complains. Because, strangely none of the passenger(s) got hurt, no one is going to waste his/her time and complain. So, this will not be reported. That is why the person who followed the rule book and tried to enforce it, will be the only casualty in this case. It might sound cruel, but this is life.

    1. Its true that when we look at life, things seem to be unfair to the ones who follow the rules, while the corrupt ones get away. People seem to be cutting corners all the time to get ahead and they do apparently seem to be ahead. This understanding is precisely what leads to the ‘herd mentality’ that Shrutin talks about. But do these corrupt people actually get ahead? We only get to see their lives for short durations – an instant, a day, a month or even a few years. But if we were able to see their lives in entirety, we would see that each of them gets their due. Being shortsighted, most of them may not realise the cause of their misfortunes and so, the cycle goes on. If only one looks at the bigger picture; it becomes clear that the law of Karma works like a charm. As in the proverbial story of the hare and the tortoise; though the hare gets ahead at first, its the tortoise that ultimately wins the race.

  4. Often, we find people thinking only about themselves. Somehow I should go ahead.. somehow I should be the first to get out.. etc. The behaviour of the passenger is something which we routinely encounter amongst (almost) all passengers.

    The behaviour of Mr Slater in trying to enforce rule/order, in common interest of all passengers, is also understandable. The unfortunate behaviour of Mr Slater, notwithstanding his 20+ years in the industry, is something which needs a deeper thought. Was he overstressed that particular day? Was he continuously overstressed over a longer period of time – due to both official and personal commitments – all of which culminated in his unfortunate action at that particular time? We don’t have full information (as of now) and so we can’t come to any firm conclusion.

    Having said that, I do feel sad for someone who tries to do good and ends up being the villain. But this is life. Our Sastras talk about “Sathyam Vadha, Dharmam Chara, Sathyameva Jayate” etc. But do you actually see these things in life? It happens only in films where we see righteous being victorious. In actual life, thieves and crooks survive and even grow.

    Has any of the corrupt gone behind bars? You look at income tax or for that matter any tax law – if everyone pays their taxes honestly, the overall tax burden on all of us, would come down. But does it happen? There are corrupt tax officials who take money – there are corrupt businessmen who are happy to pay a % to corrupt tax officials and save their illgotten wealth – there are corrupt CAs who help them.

    You look at any organisation – you always find there are people who slog – there are people who work to rule – there are people who don’t work but pretend as if there are doing something – there are people who don’t do anything but claim credit for work done by others – you name it, you can find in any organisation.

    But is it fair? Though the answer is no, it is a fact of life. We all have choices in life. We can decide that we will follow rules, irrespective of how other(s) respond. If I say that I am willing to follow the rule, provided other(s) also follow – then I am part of the “other” group – not part of the group following rules. We can also choose not to follow the rule(s) and somehow get ahead. This is also a choice.

    Having made a choice – we should not complain. If my choice is to be a person following the rule(s), then I should compulsorily follow that, irrespective of how other(s) follow or don’t follow.

    Mr Slater is wrong in that he crossed the rules. He will not be able to justify his action on the fact that the passenger did not listen to him or that the passenger by his action put the others into jeopardy. Even the fact that he was hurt, could not be a sufficient defence to justify what he did – as due to his action, he could have very well harmed another innocent person or even killed him.

    The passenger who disobeyed, needs to be hauled up. But it can be done only if someone complains. Because, strangely none of the passenger(s) got hurt, no one is going to waste his/her time and complain. So, this will not be reported. That is why the person who followed the rule book and tried to enforce it, will be the only casualty in this case. It might sound cruel, but this is life.

    1. Its true that when we look at life, things seem to be unfair to the ones who follow the rules, while the corrupt ones get away. People seem to be cutting corners all the time to get ahead and they do apparently seem to be ahead. This understanding is precisely what leads to the ‘herd mentality’ that Shrutin talks about. But do these corrupt people actually get ahead? We only get to see their lives for short durations – an instant, a day, a month or even a few years. But if we were able to see their lives in entirety, we would see that each of them gets their due. Being shortsighted, most of them may not realise the cause of their misfortunes and so, the cycle goes on. If only one looks at the bigger picture; it becomes clear that the law of Karma works like a charm. As in the proverbial story of the hare and the tortoise; though the hare gets ahead at first, its the tortoise that ultimately wins the race.

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