There's a certain type of article that I tended to enjoy, at least in general. Usually they come from the service industry, often from waiters and flight attendants -- they're the most common -- and they're most often a list of the "10 Things (or maybe a dozen...) That You Do That Drives Us Crazy."
As I said, I like these articles. They're from professionals and give insight into the work. And if there are things that are being done rudely or wrong, I'd like to know about them, so that I don't perpetuate the problem. It's just that -- well, a problem I've noticed more recently as they've begun to grow in number (and perhaps try to top one another) is that so many of them are just really, really, incredibly snarky. In fact, they can be as obnoxious as the things they're perhaps rightly complaining about. They tend to be so pissy that you get the image of someone swishing their hip, and wagging their finger at you, saying, "Oh, no you don't, honey." They are generally so dripping with spitefulness that I want to reach through the screen and say, "Do you not understand that you are being your own worst enemy?? Do you not understand that you are justifying everyone's worst image of your profession??"
And it's not that what they're saying is wrong. Most of the points they make seem to be spot-on. (Sometimes. But...okay, sometimes not. There always tend to be a few complaints on lists that do come across as petty, and are probably short-sighted, ignoring that when you're working in customer service certain things simply go with the job. Sorry. But most of the time? Yes, most are good, valid complaints.) The problem isn't what the complaints are, it's how they're said.
Take for instance an article posted here on the NYC Wanderer website. "12 Things You Need to Stop Doing on a Plane." (Okay, I know that the titles of these article by their very nature are Holier Than Thou," but I cut them some slack because a headline is usually written by an editor, not the author, and it wants to grab your attention to get you to read the article. So, I get it.) How quintessential is this particular piece on airplane etiquette for its snarkiness? You don't even have to get into any of the 12 things. Before it even starts, there is a one sentence introduction, in which the author writes -- "Because you’re probably an adult and we expect so much more of you."
Oh, snap. (Insert finger-wag here.)
As I said, almost all of the issues are not only good, but perfectly reasonable. Things like, taking off your shoes and socks, and putting your feet on the bulkhead. Or standing in the galley, getting in the way of the flight attendants while they are working. Or drinking your own alcohol which is against FAA rules. All very good points. (A few of them, though...well, not so good. Like don't clap when the plane lands. Or only use the Call Button for medical emergencies. While button-pushing most-definitely shouldn't be abused, "medical emergencies only" is not only not an FAA rule, it's not even an airline policy, and there are legitimate non-emergency reasons for some passengers to use it.) But the point here there is that there's a right way to tell someone they're doing the wrong thing, and there's a way of saying the same thing that makes you come across like you have a stick rammed up one of your orifices.
For instance, in noting that passengers shouldn't rush immediately to the bathroom when boarding the plane, it might be far better for the author to explain why this can cause problems for logistics, rather than going All Attitude and saying, "Do you just have some strange fetish for holding your bladder until the last minute and using airplane lavatories?" The reality is that it probably does cause problems for flight attendants. But then, there probably are many times when a passenger was running late and barely just got to the gate in time. Or the bladder issue occurred within the past 10-15 minutes, and the person wanted to be sure to actually, well, y'know, board the plane, rather than drag their luggage around the airport looking for a bathroom and risk missing their flight. But even if it's done unnecessarily, seriously, does the author think an attitude like this wins any converts??
Or when telling passengers (quite correctly) that bringing pungent food onto the plane can cause problems for fellow passengers, there are oh-so significantly better ways of expressing the point than, "If you feel like bringing some of your own food, please make sure it is stink-free." (Interestingly, that's similar to how I feel about the way some people give their advice...)
Or after explaining that it's against FAA regulations to bring your own alcohol (so that flight attendants can keep track of consumption)...stop there. You made your point. And it's a really great one. Don't go on, just because you want to be snippy, and write, "So just because you thought you could buy a few of those minis at the local liquor store for $1 instead of $8 onboard, wait till you land to consume them." Just to be clear: it make you look incredibly pathetic, complaining about not being able to overcharge people by 700%.
As I said, I do actually tend to like articles like this. I want to see what professionals say about things that work and those that don't. It's interesting, and I can learn from them. And even this article had very good things in it. But to complain about rude behavior and act just as rudely in doing so, like so many of these "insider" articles do, is just the definition of a mind-numbing lack of self-awareness. And in the end it is totally counter-productive and won't accomplish what the author set out to achieve. C'mon, folks, I know you can do oh-so much better.
And how do I know that?
Because you're probably an adult and we expect so much more of you.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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