Jet Blue Is Human Kinda After All
About a month ago, the airline JetBlue came out with a video called HumanKinda. It’s a cute video, featuring a likable performance by Sam Richardson that is constantly on the verge of eliciting a laugh.
The main point of JetBlue’s video is that people spend too much time being busy, trying to do many things all at the same time. Instead, the video suggests, we should decide to slow down and relax some more. “It’s okay to get some sleep and do something like not check your email for an entire day,” Richardson tells us.
That sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t like to stay in bed for a whole day, and not even worry about checking email?
The problem is that most people don’t have the choice of whether to stay in bed all day long. They have jobs that they have to go to – or they lose their jobs, and all the financial income that goes with the jobs. About half of people who lose their jobs take more than three months to find their next job, and most people can’t afford to live for three months without any income. So, sleeping in bed all day instead of going to work really isn’t a privilege that most people can enjoy.
Yet, JetBlue’s HumanKinda video pretends that these restrictions just don’t exist. As a stunt, the video sends Richardson out onto a street offering people free airplane tickets to Puerto Rico, on the condition that the people who take the tickets have to go to the airport and fly off right away. It took a whole day to give those tickets away, says an exasperated Richardson, as if people’s refusal of the offer shows that American are just too uptight.
What the video doesn’t say is that the trip to Puerto Rico will involve some big expenses in food and lodging. These are expenses that a person who has lost a job – because of running off on vacation on the spur of the moment instead of showing up to work – just can’t afford.
HumanKinda pretends that economic power doesn’t exist, that Americans’ busyness is purely a personal choice. Take, for example, the single mother with a full time job who the HumanKinda video producers send to visit a therapist to learn how to relax. While rubbing the mother’s shoulders, the therapist lectured, “Sometimes, staying busy is a choice so that we don’t have to slow down, and then cry.”
Sometimes, I suppose, that’s true. But sometimes, staying busy is a choice we make so that we don’t have to give up our children to become wards of the state. Staying busy isn’t a personality disorder for a single working mother. It’s a necessity, and for most working mothers, taking time off to go spend an entire day at the office a relaxation specialist, learning how to breathe, just isn’t an option.
In Human Kinda, Jet Blue declares that, “There’s two types of busy: the kind where you’re being productive, hustling, doing what you want, then there’s the kind where you’re doing things you think you need to do, and that’s the kind that we can eliminate. It’s okay to not be busy!” In this alternative universe, people just need to decide to start doing what they want to do, and stop doing the things they think they need to do.
Stop doing the laundry! Don’t feed the dog! Don’t go to work! These are just things that people think they need to do, after all!
Who has ever had a boss at work who said, “It’s okay not to be busy”? Theoretically, such bosses must exist somewhere, but I’ve never encountered one.
Most telling, the bosses at JetBlue tell their employees that they need to stay busy, even when they’re sick.
JetBlue has a policy of giving employees demerits every time that they take a day off of work because of an illness. If enough of these demerits are accumulated, JetBlue employees can be called in for an “Employment Review” meeting, and they can lose their jobs. In two states, this kind of abuse is illegal, but JetBlue does it anyway.
JetBlue public relations asks workers, “What’s wrong with you, being so busy all the time? Why can’t you relax and just take the day off?”
Jet Blue bosses tell workers, “I don’t care if you’re sick. Get back to work! You don’t want to have an Employment Review, do you?”
JetBlue has one version of reality, which it uses as public relations, to encourage people to buy plane tickets to go on vacattion. This version of JetBlue says that we each have individual responsibility for our own excessive work. “There’s not a quick fix. There’s no big solution to this problem,” says the Human Kinda video. In the memos from the human resources department, JetBlue workers experience a very different reality.
The truth is that there is a big solution to the problem of Americans being too busy. Big employers like JetBlue can stop pushing their workers to put in long hours day after day, regardless of the impact on physical and mental health. Corporations can stop telling their employees that they have to be accessible by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If employers would stop demanding that working Americans maintain lives with an unhealthy level of busyness to them, most working Americans would be happy to comply.
These kinds of big solutions to the problem of excessive busyness would reduce corporate profitability, however, so JetBlue and companies like it decide to just keep pushing their employees to work longer hours at a faster pace for less money. Since the 2008 recession, wages have stagnated while worker productivity and corporate profits have risen. The only big solution companies like JetBlue are willing to offer to address the problem of growing disenchantment with this corporation-fueled way of life, however, is to put out cute public relations videos that blame working Americans for the problem.