Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Air Nannies

My annoyance over in-traffic strollers has long morphed into amusement.

My supposition, which some shrink friends say seems plausible, is that someone who saunters across an intersection or between two is acting out his or her powerlessness. They like to make the drivers and passengers wait for them because they feel like they aren't in charge of their work and daily lives. Here is a chance to be in control over others.

They savor every instant.

So it appears to be with too many flight attendants. The flood of news stories in recent years shows many acting out, perhaps for similar reasons as those amblers. Particularly since 9/11, what we and they themselves used to call flying waitresses have a new lawman persona. They kind of, sort of, a little bit are helping protect the airborne public from terrorists and other bad guys.

While that is a good aim, it also gives the outliers in the group the excuse to play sham sheriff. Recently, it's become absurd, as in the several cases of Southwest attendants enforcing unwritten dress codes on women with short skirts or what they arbitrarily decide is too obvious cleavage.

Other less frivolous cases involve passengers pulled off planes and interrogated for seeming to attendants — sometimes egged on by other passengers — to be somehow threatening. Search in Dogpile, Yahoo or Google for terms like flight attendant and arrest to find such cases of (horrors) Arabs speaking Arabic, for example.

I suppose we can't expect attendants to show better judgment than the general flying public, or can we? One would think that if the airlines and government want to use attendants as a fourth or fifth line of defense, they would train them. Also, they'd need guidelines to keep them from overreaction or arbitrary judgments.

With all of nervous about safety, particularly in the air, we don't need to change the term flight attendants gone wild to man false arrest and harassment of passengers. "She meant well" or "He was just trying to keep the passengers safe" doesn't cut it in these extreme cases. Attendants who clearly violate passengers' rights need retraining or to face civil action or to explain themselves to the district attorney or at the least a dope slap.

This nation has plenty of petty bureaucrats and self-appointed controllers of others' lives. In places like the Registry of Motor Vehicles, they may just lengthen your wait while they play big shot. When they can trigger flight delays (and missed connections) for hundreds of passengers, and make poor saps they pick on go through elaborate, time-consuming, humiliating and stressful detention and questioning, they go too far.

When a flight attendant loses it and causes a serious and unnecessary problem, we can't hide them behind the only-following-orders shield. When they put on their shiny name tag, they shouldn't be allowed to check their brains at the cabin door. The worst of the outliers are happy to hold passengers accountable for imagined transgressions. They need to know if they leave common sense behind, they'll be accountable for their very real ones.

Cross-post note: This may actually fit better on Harrumph! I'll post it there too.

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