According to the television news media, the internet and your momma, Steven Slater is a hero. You know him, he’s the career flight attendant who, after a confrontation with a passenger, basically gave his employer Jet Blue, the offending passenger and everyone else in the vicinity a fat middle finger when he grabbed two beers, popped the aircraft’s rear door, and evacuated the plane via the inflatable emergency slide. Slater then calmly took the AirTran shuttle home and chilled until the police yoked him up.
I’m rather annoyed at people referring to Slater as the working class hero. Sure, when I play out the scene in the movie theater of my mind it’s sort of awesome. Everyone loves a good “I Quit!” story – just look at the mass punking that occurred when the internet went crazy for the witty, “hot piece of ass” who quit her job via dry-erase board. Slater’s story makes for a great internet meme but calling dude a hero is quite extra. Let’s look at some arguments in support of Slater:
He’s a hero! You can’t fire him!
This is funny and awesome for just about everybody but JetBlue, JFK Airport, the Port Authority Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration – all entities that were directly affected or work to put airport/airline/aircraft policies in place. Slater has been suspended from his job and I see people online hoping he doesn’t get fired. No way! He totally deserves to be fired. I’ve worked in service jobs before (waiting tables, bartending, and retail) and I know the customer is far from being right all of the time. You don’t like your job, well then you’re free to quit. You don’t, however, get to lose your cool on the job, break rules, possibly break laws and subject your employer to possible lawsuits then come back into work on Monday to chat about True Blood around the baggage claim.
He’s a hero! He was provoked by that terrible (and likely Black) woman!
I live in NYC and interact with a ton of strangers just to get from point A to B every day. I can’t even count how many times I’m annoyed or how often my space is invaded by offending people and/or their smells. Even at work I get annoyed. That doesn’t mean that I can just pop off and break the law (well, I can, but I’d know to expect some repercussions). The internet is trying its damndest to sniff out the passenger that got into it with Slater. They’re demanding info from JetBlue via Twitter. They’re clamoring on blogs and calling the Port Authority. There are gems like this on news sites which illustrate the fixation with the mystery woman’s race, “Bitch called him a m****r f****r. White people rarely use that expression. She probably felt she was entitled to do as she pleased because she’s black. ‘We president now.’” Wow.
Look people, by all accounts thus far the woman is definitely not a sympathetic figure in all of this. For whatever reason, no one is speaking up about her identity but that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening such as charges or banning her from JetBlue. Frankly, I don’t care about her right now. Focusing on her actions doesn’t make Slater’s any less wrong or any less illegal.
He’s a hero! He’s sticking it to The Man just like I’ve always dreamed of!
Ok Blue-collar Billy. You’re tired of your boss coming down on you? You’re tired of Big Government taking away “your jobs” and making you buy insurance? What’s up White-collar Walter? You hate sitting in your cubicle while a less qualified hack drones on about TPS reports? I get it. We all do. Everyone loves a champion of the people. Truth be told, that’s how Sarah Palin is as big as she is today – “real American” style. The thing you and your working-stiff brethren seem to be missing, though, is that Slater didn’t stick it to The Man at all… he stuck it to some lady with baggage-separation issues and every other passenger who had to be inconvenienced by his shenanigans. Sure he cost Jet Blue some money but really, they’ll be okay.
He’s a hero! He shouldn’t go to jail for FELONIES!
Being on an airplane isn’t like taking the Amtrak (as the company goes to pains to show you via their ads). Doing something that is normally benign on a plane could get you tackled by an air marshal. Your bag needs to be ALL THE WAY underneath the seat, sir. You have to stow your electronics, ma’am. Please take your seat suspicious, ethnically ambiguous man! Think of picking a rose from the White House lawn. Jeez, it’s just a flower, right? Wrong. Try it. (Don’t really)
Slater has been charged with two felony counts – reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. According to court records, the charges stem from the deployment of the chute, not from any conflict with a passenger. Felony-level reckless endangerment is charged when, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, a person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person (NYP §120.25). The plane was stopped in an area where workers routinely walk underneath. In order to inflate properly, the evacuation slides fill up quickly with air and pop out to the land below. Had someone been hit by the slide, they could have sustained serious injury. Slater’s attorney contends that Slater, an experienced flight attendant, totally checked first to make sure no one was down below before flipping the switch. That’s what the jury will determine if this case makes it that far.
Criminal mischief in the 1st-3rd degrees are all felonies in NY. If I had to guess, I’d say Slater was looking at 2nd degree which is when with intent to damage property of another person, and having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, one damages property of another person in an amount exceeding $1,500 (NYP §145.10). The cost to Jet Blue for deploying the chute is reportedly $25,000.
You can celebrate Slater being a bad-ass, awesome, crazy, wild, and funny if you want. Just don’t call him a hero. Superman is a hero. Firemen who run into burning buildings to get kids are heroes. Lassie was a hero. Crazy ass flight attendant busting out of plane doors? Nope.