Thursday, June 22, 2017

Uniformly Allergic

Oh, I suppose I should be writing about Travis Kalanick’s ouster from Uber. And how in reading about Uber it turns out that they’re even worse than I thought. And about how I really do make up for it by giving every Uber driver a big tip – so, hey, by the way, how’d I end up with a 4.89 passenger rating, rather than a pure 5.0; who was the jerk who gave me a 4.0????  - And how I’m finally going to switch allegiance to Lyft.

But, no.

I’ll leave Travis Kalanick and his role in turning America into a nation of kabillionaires (1%) and dabbawalas (99%), for another day.

The topic du jour is American Airlines decision to dump its uniform supplier “following thousands of complaints by flight attendants who said the current outfits were making them ill.”

Twin Hill, which is part of Tailored Brands (“We Help Men Love How They Look” – yes Men’s Warehouse is part of this outfit), is losing the deal that has been letting them outfit 70,000 AA employees. Their contract won’t be renewed.

I’ve flown American plenty of times, but I haven’t a clue what their uniforms look like. I can make an educated guess that the pilots wear navy blue with white shirts. But the stews? The only stewardess outfit I can vividly picture is the Brannif space bubble uni of the 1960’s, before I’d ever stepped toe on an airplane. I can also vouch for Aer Lingus, likely due to some combination of having flown them a few weeks back and the fact that they’re uniforms are a pretty bluish green color. But I have no idea whether the Aer Lingus outfits are causing an allergic reaction.

American’s did, however, which propelled the company to take action:
American’s move could contain a controversy that has festered for months, as the number of flight attendants complaining of wheezing, fatigue, skin rashes and other ailments grew to more than 3,500 and pilots also reported adverse reactions. It marks the second time in two months that the world’s largest airline has made an unusual concession to workers, following an April decision to grant pilots and flight attendants mid-contract pay raises. (Source: Bloomberg)
Wheezing? Fatigue? Skin rash? Throw in suicidal thoughts and an erection that lasts for more than four hours, and it sounds like the warnings they make at the end of every prescription drug ad.

Anyway, of those uniform reactions, the only one I ever experienced was fatigue. But that will happen if, from second grade through high school, what you wore every day to school was a green jumper and a white blouse. (The only reason it wasn’t from first grade on is that our school didn’t require uniforms when I was in first grade. This would have made us the near-equivalent of the pubs (public school students) we feared and scorned, other than for the fact that our classrooms were behind the church altar. God forbid some six year old would have to go during a funeral. Forget about it!)

So, yes, I have experienced uniform fatigue.

But nothing like this.

Both American and Twin Hill did extensive testing and failed to find anything wrong with the uniforms. Something in the planes themselves? Power of suggestion? Hysterical maladies?

For its part, Twin Hall is doing the “fired, I quit”/the feeling is mutual thing:
“Twin Hill has determined that the reputational risk, management distraction, and legal and other costs associated with serving American in the future would be unacceptable to our business,” the company said by email.
Well, I’d say that reputational risk has already happened, but I get the management distraction. Better they focus on getting more companies to buy their employees logowear that will end up in the donation bin.

I’ll likely be flying American in September when I head down to Dallas to visit friends. I hope by then that the offending uniforms have been replaced. Bad enough we have to worry about being dragged off the plane for looking cross-eyed at someone, or for reading a book with a funny word in the title – fortunately, I’ll be done with Joyce Carol Oates’ The Book of American Martyrs by then. (I’d hate to have the passenger sitting next to me thinking I was up to something other than a compelling, intelligent read.) I really don’t want to have to worry about breaking out into hives if I somehow brush the jacket of a flight attendant.

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