“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” - Maurice Baring

A Jet Blue flight attendant who fought back last week against a rude passenger has become a folk hero for many - especially those in the service industry - who have had enough of the “rudies” of the world.

After an obnoxious passenger conked him over the head with a suitcase, Steven Slater got on the intercom and told off the passenger, grabbed his carry-on luggage and some beer, then slid to freedom down the inflatable emergency exit slide.

Admit it. There have been times when you wish you had done the same.

E-T Publisher Rochelle Stidham and I recently had a discussion about the fact that rudeness seems to be on the rise.

Cranky people are everywhere these days - in the grocery store, in the drive-thru, on the road and even online.

Rochelle believes the economic struggles so many people face is the reason behind the anger.

I think she’s right - in part. But I also think it goes deeper than that. I believe many people feel a sense of entitlement that carries over into how they treat those they come into contact with. They make their way through life by bullying others and acting as if they are somehow superior.

It’s an ugly way to live.

Our conversation came up following a string of phone calls I received from a woman in Houston, who, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t please.

The woman first called in July requesting a copy of her aunt’s obituary. I asked when her aunt had passed away and she didn’t know the date.

“Don’t you know who she is?” the woman asked, explaining that the deceased - and her son who is still alive - are very important people that I should know.

I told her that I was sorry, but I had no idea who they were. She huffed.

Then she instructed me to call local flower shops to ask if they knew when her aunt had died.

“That’s not something I can do,” I said, slightly stunned by her request.

After a little digging, I was able to find the obituary and offered to have a copy of the newspaper in which it was in, sent to her home. She refused because she didn’t want to purchase the paper or pay for postage.

“Just fax me a copy,” she said.

At no time did she ever say “please” or thank me for the time I spent helping her.

Instead, she barked out orders on what I was going to do and made several unreasonable requests.

I agreed to fax over a copy of the obituary and did so immediately after we hung up.

For some strange reason, I made the conscious decision to keep a copy of the fax. I had a feeling it wouIdn’t be the last time I would hear from her. I was right.

Eight days later, she called again claiming that the fax never made it. I pulled out the copy of the fax I had sent and checked to make sure I had written down the correct number. I had. Then I told her what time and date it had been sent, and that it appeared to have gone through just fine.

She raised her voice and said, “I don’t care what that paper says. I don’t have it! Send it again!”

I took a deep breath and did exactly that, sliding the second copy into the top drawer of my desk.

Fast forward two weeks and my phone rang again.

She was even less pleasant the third time.

In a very loud voice, she told me how, um, dumb I am, and demanded to know why I couldn’t complete a simple task.

Again, I reached into my desk and pulled out the two faxes I had already sent. I verified the fax number and told her the time and date when I had sent them.

She then told me that the place I was faxing the obituary to was not her place of employment or home, but a business which gave her permission to receive a fax.

I calmly suggested that perhaps the people on the other end were throwing the faxes away.

“They wouldn’t do something like that!” she screamed. Loudly.

Then she ordered me to send it a third time, then slammed down the phone.

Because I am not a “rudie,” I honored her request.

That was Aug. 4. My phone should be ringing again any minute - and when it does - I’ll be looking for a quick exit with an inflatable slide.

Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.

She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.