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Steven Slater is a former flight attendant who became an internet sensation after he was arrested following an altercation with a passenger on his airplane. The dramatic fashion in which he left as well as his frustrations as a worker resonated with many people, and he was dubbed a “working class hero.” However, his status as a “hero” has been in question since further investigation has been done regarding the altercation.
The Original Account of the Incident
The following summary of the altercation is what was originally reported by news outlets.
On August 9th, flight attendant Steven Slater was preparing to help passengers disembark a Jetblue Airways flight from Pittsburgh that had just landed at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. An impatient passenger stood up and tried to get their bag from the overhead locker. Slater asked the passenger to sit down, but they did not. As Slater approached the person, the bag hit Slater on the head. Slater demanded an apology, but the passenger reportedly cursed at Slater. In his frustration, Slater got on the plane’s PA and complained to everyone on board.
There are three different accounts of what he said:
As reported by NYDailyNews:
“To the f*cking a**hole who told me to f*ck off, it’s been a good 28 years. I’ve had it. That’s it.”
As reported by Telegraph.co.uk:
“To the passenger who called me a motherf*cker, f*ck you. I’ve been in the business 28 years. I’ve had it. That’s it.”
And Steven Slater’s own account, as reported by Gawker
“To those who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for the great ride.”
It is interesting to note that while he is quoted saying he’s been working for 28 years, he is only 38 years old.
The Passengers’ Account of the Incident
More than 90% have reportedly been interviewed and none of them corroborate with Steven Slater’s claim that he was provoked.
One passenger stated, “He was very rude to everyone throughout the entire flight,” and “I feel like, yeah, we all have our moments where we’re pushed to the limit, but there’s a line that he crossed. I don’t think this man should be called a hero at all.”
There is, however, one passenger who said, “I just feel so bad for him, I’ve been on flights with him and he’s the one who is always so nice. He makes your flight enjoyable.”
Deploy the Slide
Feeling frustrated, Steven Slater pulled a lever to activate the emergency exit, grabbed two beers from the beverage cart, and slid down the inflatable chute onto the tarmac.
(note: the view of the slide is partially blocked, but you can see the slide on the side of the front of the plane)
Slater took off running to his car and drove home to his boyfriend. Police arrested him there soon afterwards for criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and trespassing. He needed to post $2500 bail to get out of jail.
The story was soon reported by NYDailyNews and other news outlets. One aspect of the JetBlue flight attendant incident that was often reported was that Slater may have been influenced by his mother’s illness and his father’s recent death.
Steven Slater gained a lot of popularity on the internet, and eventually posted his bail.
On August 11, 2010, JetBlue finally responded to the incident. They had no comment. Later they would say that Steven Slater’s behavior was inexcusable, stating that “Slides deploy extremely quickly, with enough force to kill a person,” and “Slides can be as dangerous as a gun.”
Currently, Steven Slater is out of a job:
However, there are rumors that he may be getting his own television show.
On October 19th, 2011, Steven Slater completed a year-long mental health program in Queens. As part of his original deal, he now has to pay a $10,000 fine in monthly payments of $831.25 and an additional year of probation. After the hearing, he noted that he plans on writing a book about his 20 years as a flight attendant.
Popularity / Spread
Steven Slater soon became a Facebook phenomeon (see “Facebook Groups” later in the article). At the peak of his popularity, he was trending on Twitter,
and on Google:
However, searches for Steven Slater died within a month:
Blogging and Reposting:
- Buzzfeed (Aug 9, 2010)
- Gawker (Aug 9, 2010)
- Qweerty (Aug 9, 2010)
- Gawker reports Dan Lacey’s painting of Steven Slater (Aug 10, 2010)
- Perez Hilton (Aug 10, 2010)
- Free Steven Slater website started. (Aug 10, 2010)
- CustomInk T-shirts (Aug 11, 2010)
- BuzzFeed on Steven Slater backlash. (Aug 12, 2010)
Steven Slater referenced by several comedians:
New Media’s (also famous for its Tiger Woods and Al Gore animations) 3D animation of the incident:
Other examples include:
- Free Steven Slater (36,000+ likes)
- Steven Slater (9900+ likes) (not to be confused with the other Steven Slater page; also now currently defunct)
- I Support Steven Slater (6700+ likes)
- What Would Steve Slater Do? (2700+ likes)
- Steven Slater Is My Hero (2400+ likes)
- I want Steven Slater to be my flight attendant (1600+ likes)
- I hate the motherf*cker that called Steven Slater a motherf*cker (1500+ likes)
- Can Steven Slater get more fans than Justin Bieber? (1300+ likes)
- Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund (920+ members)
- Steven Slater: Hero of the Working Man (600+ likes)
Notably, the “Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund” fan pages and groups raised thousands of dollars to support Steven Slater.
“Free Steven Slater!” / “Working Class” / “Ballad of Steven Slater” Videos
Jet Blue Flight Attendant Steven Slater (Some language is NSFW)
Song A Day #587: The Ballad of Steven Slater (Some language is NSFW)
Epic Quitting: A History
One of the reasons Slater’s story has spread so quickly is because he did the seemingly impossible: he quit his stress-filled job with such a dramatic exit, he would not be forgotten. He was seen as a working class hero, doing something many other discouraged workers only dream about.
On August 11th, the New York Times reported that he was not the first man to make waves by quitting. In 1947, a bus driver from the Bronx named William Cimillo got into his bus and drove all the way to Hollywood, Florida. His son Richard told the Times, “he was tired of driving the bus and throwing the change in the changer and the monotony every single day.” After his two week departure, he sent his employers a telegram asking for 50 dollars. When the cops were sent to retrieve him, he returned to New York to face an indictment for grand larceny. However, he was welcomed home as a hero by his coworkers, who held a dance to raise money for his legal fees. The charges were eventually dropped. He was flown to California where he appeared on several news shows. Three years later, there was even a copycat bus driver, In the June 30th, 1958 edition of Billboard magazine, Elizabeth Taylor was to make her singing debut in a movie based on Cimillo’s adventure entitled “Busman’s Holiday.” Sadly, the movie was never actually filmed.
The epic-quit has also been seen in movies, notably in Office Space, American Beauty, and Fight Club, all three of which are included in the following video:
Moviefone has a collection of more quitting scenarios from popular movies.