A Jerk, Hero Or A Little Of Both?

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - August 18, 2010
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So is Steven Slater a hero or a whiny jerk?

Slater is the Jet Blue flight attendant who threw a hissy fit, cursed at passengers and then topped off his little drama by deploying the emergency chute and, with a beer in hand, slid into folk hero history.

And then he got arrested. Sometimes—and any 2-year-old can attest to this - throwing a temper tantrum feels good. There’s just nothing as liberating as losing all self-control. Who can argue that being totally into yourself isn’t gratifying?

And pitching a snit while doing something mildly destructive? Even better! After all, haven’t you fantasized about telling the boss to shove it, or pouring water down a nasty customer’s shirt, or slapping the grin off that smug SOB who tells you there’s no public restroom - even as your child screams and hops from one foot to another in obvious distress? Haven’t you ever wanted to stamp your feet and scream and spit and curse and pull (someone else’s) hair? Mmm-hmm, I thought so.


But back to Slater. The flight attendant - I guess he’s now the former flight attendant - acted on his fantasies and has become something of a hero. That has me scratching my head a bit. Are we really that hard up for heroes?

There are differing accounts of the events and the timeline leading up to Slater’s breakdown. There probably was a fight, or something, with a passenger. Somehow Slater ended up with a gash on his forehead. That, of course, is unacceptable. If it had ended there I would have been totally in his corner.

But there’s always, always, another side to every story.

Some passengers have reported that Slater was rude throughout the flight. Slater himself has said to reporters he has fantasized for years about escaping down the chute. That means he has hated his job for a long time.

There is no doubt in at least one passenger’s mind that Slater took out his frustration and aggression on everyone. Lauren Dominijanni, 25, told the Wall Street Journal his behavior made her uncomfortable during the entire flight:

“She said someone had spilled coffee on her seat and when she asked for a sanitary wipe to clean it up, Mr. Slater ‘rolled his eyes at me’ and said, ‘What?’ in a real rude manner.”

Ms. Dominijanni, of Pittsburgh, said that when she pointed to the spilled coffee, Mr. Slater barked, “No! Maybe when we get in the air! I need to take care of myself first, honey!” She said he was pointing to the gash on his head.

Ms. Dominijanni said Mr. Slater never returned with wipes to clean up the spilled coffee. She said he spent much of the 90-minute flight slamming overhead bins and refrigerator doors.

Another passenger, Heather Robinson, said Slater “made my day.” She described the scene after the plane landed: “It was when we stood up to disembark - in those annoying moments when everyone is waiting to be released from the metal can we’ve been packed in together - that Steven Slater commandeered the PA system and issued his rant. I didn’t take notes so the following is not exact, but a paraphrase: ‘F—- you! F——all of you! I’m f———through with this! I’VE HAD IT! I’ve been doing this for 28 f———years and I can’t take it anymore. And for the f——- a———who told me to f—- off: f—- you! That’s it! I’m done! F—- you all!’”

She didn’t see any of the events leading up to Slater’s meltdown and she doesn’t hold it against him. She said passengers looked at each other and giggled. I guess I would, too.

While not judging Slater, I am grateful for all the flight attendants who are professional yet friendly, courteous yet firm and who choose to not have meltdowns at their workplaces.

In answer to my question above on whether Slater is a hero or a jerk, I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m just happy not to have to fly with him.

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