By now you have surely heard of Steve Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who grabbed a couple of beers, activated the emergency exit chute, and with the equivalent of a hearty “fuck you”, left the plane and, presumably, his career.
Shortly thereafter he morphed from certifiable nutcase to the interwebs’ newest working class hero. Let’s check what Mary Elizabeth Williams over at salon had to say:
Until yesterday, you probably didn’t know that this was exactly what the perfect kiss-off would look like. But once you read about it, didn’t you think, why yes, come to think of it, it would involve cursing, beer, sex and jumping out of a plane? Of course you did. That’s why you posted the story on your Facebook page. That’s why within hours, Slater had become a star – a reminder that with one noteworthy action, a person can gain fame faster than it takes JetBlue to get from Pittsburgh to New York. He now has a Facebook fan page with over 10,000 members, a Wikipedia entry and of course, an outcropping of “FREE STEVE SLATER” T-shirts. ..
Slater’s actions were assuredly grand and possibly a tad overzealous. As New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly understatedly told CNN, “It’s a strange way to quit, let’s put it that way. I don’t think he’ll be able to come back.” Yet his hall of fame-worthy exit cut right to the heart of a sentiment felt by anyone who’s ever had to take crap from customers for a living, toiled in quiet desperation for an impersonal corporation, or looked at a paycheck and thought, “Are you kidding me?” Or as Drew Carey once said, “You hate your job? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody, and they meet at the bar.” If you have never had a job that you fantasized elaborately about storming out on, you just haven’t been working long enough. Suffice to say the news of Slater’s exit made me wish I could get in a time machine and go back to the last day of my year in nonprofit. And that the museum I worked for had an emergency chute.
(Note: As of Wednesday morning, the Facebook fan page had close to 125,000 members.)
Fun aside, Slater’s fantastic slide brings up a bunch of stuff we’ve talked about here (which might explain why so many of us love his story): workplace stress in the new millennium. In our global faster-better-cheaper economy, we’re expected to do more with less. There’s the new workplace math where the 40 hour workweek now equals 52. There’s that whole issue of work/life don’t-call-it-balance (Slater, after all, was apparently caring for his dying mother) that if anything, is defined as a woman’s issue and is usually equated with taking care of small children. End of story. But what about life itself? For all of us? You know, vacations? Private time to turn off, tune out and leave the job behind?
No such luck. And for that we have to thank all the techno-crack designed to make our lives easier that, ultimately, means we’re not only always on — but we’re expected to be always on. And, as we wrote about last winter — and are rerunning below — this uber-connection encroaches on Every. Thing. Even fun. Here you go.
Today’s WTF moment comes courtesy of the cover of this week’s New Yorker. The illustration is a little nudge that reminds us how difficult it is to savor the moment, given our umbilical ties to everything tech.
Appropriately titled “The Top of the World”, the illustration shows two pretty people, clearly a well-heeled couple all decked out in chi-chi skigear, at the crest of what looks to be an alpine ski slope. But instead of admiring the view, reveling in their good fortune for what looks like one killer vakay, or just getting into the Zen of it all — pick one — what are they doing?
You guessed it. He’s taking a photo, undoubtedly to post on his facebook page. She’s on her cell phone, presumably sharing the moment, rather than living it. The only thing missing is an iPhone or crackberry so they can text some BFFs before their downhill run.
Well, ugh. It would be kind of funny, but ain’t it the truth. And it makes me wonder: Is this uber-connection to our cyber-lives and cyber friends and god-knows-what-all-else keeping us from being fully present in our own here and now? From appreciating what we have — rather than jonesing for what we don’t? Does the fact that we have one foot in our own life and the other in about a hundred others make us continually wonder what we’re missing?
All those distractions! All those choices! No wonder we’re always angsting over that greener grass — because the other side of the fence is always up in our face.
And it may only get worse (or I guess, better, depending on your point of view), according to a story in Saturday’s New York Times. In a piece aptly titled “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by their 20s”, reporter Brad Stone ponders not only whether his two-year old daughter’s worldview will be shaped by the technologies she grows up with, but if her generation — and each succeeding one — will be totally different from those that preceded it:
Researchers are exploring this notion too. They theorize that the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development.
“People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “College students scratch their heads at what their high school siblings are doing, and they scratch their heads at their younger siblings. It has sped up generational differences.”
One difference that’s already apparent in older kids is the way they communicate, Stone writes:
Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and the author of the coming “Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn,” has also drawn this distinction between what he calls the Net Generation, born in the 1980s, and the iGeneration, born in the ’90s and this decade.
Now in their 20s, those in the Net Generation, according to Dr. Rosen, spend two hours a day talking on the phone and still use e-mail frequently. The iGeneration — conceivably their younger siblings — spends considerably more time texting than talking on the phone, pays less attention to television than the older group and tends to communicate more over instant-messenger networks.
Dr. Rosen said that the newest generations, unlike their older peers, will expect an instant response from everyone they communicate with, and won’t have the patience for anything less.
Or for taking the time to savor the view, or each other, from the top of the world. Which brings us back to the New Yorker cover. You gotta wonder: if you skied down a black diamond without texting any cyberpals about it — did it ever really happen?