The Upshot

Rogue JetBlue flight attendant hailed as working-class hero

Brett Michael Dykes
The Upshot

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Steven Slater's Monday probably started off no different than yours or mine. He might have hit snooze once or twice on his alarm clock before crawling out of bed. He probably had a cup of coffee on his way to work. In other words, to the outsider, Slater's life probably appeared painfully ordinary.

But the way Steven Slater's Monday finished was anything but ordinary. In fact, Slater's Monday turned into something out of a John Waters film, what with a public profanity-laced tirade and an escape down a slide onto the airport tarmac.

[Photos: JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater]

He is now, for better or for worse, THE JetBlue flight attendant, with the now-infamous tarmac incident dominating the list of top Yahoo! searches. (Among the variations: "jet blue flight attendant," up 9,175% in one day; "steven slater jet blue"; and "fed up attendant jet blue.") And the term "JetBlue flight attendant" is still the top search term on Twitter as of this writing at noon Eastern the day after the fact, not to mention the outpouring of support he's received on Facebook.

[Related: The JetBlue flight attendant speaks: 'I gotta go take a bath']

And as is the case with anyone who stumbles upon sudden infamy in the digital age, Slater has been the subject of much discussion in the past 24 hours or so. To many, he's a working-class hero in the mold of the fed-up Peter Gibbons from the Mike Judge cult movie hit "Office Space." As David Allan Coe advocated in song, he took that job and shoved it. But to a few others (who seem to be in a scant minority), he's a psychopath, a man who lost control in a job where losing control is absolutely forbidden. Still others suggest he's just a funny, crazy wild man. Here's a random sampling of reactions from around the Web:

• Gawker's Maureen O'Connor labeled him a "hero" for "doing that which everyone who has traveled by airplane dreams." She added, "Unfortunately, his heroism may result in criminal mischief and trespassing charges."

• Under a headline calling Slater's actions "crazy," the National Review found some fault with the employees at the airport where Slater's plane landed, saying, "Heckuva job by the security people at JFK, no?"

• New York magazine's Chris Rovzar predicted that hero status for Slater is imminent: "You know, it's amazing you don't read stories like this more frequently. You'd assume that, just as passengers periodically go berserk, so would flight attendants. The gathering of the trash with the bare hands alone would have a normal person on edge. And forget about having to wash your hands in those maddening faucets every day. Prediction: This guy becomes some sort of folk hero."

• The New York Daily News' Joanna Molloy sympathized with Slater's plight, which she thinks is "part of the frustration all over the country as employees take pay cuts and have to do double the workload as they take on the responsibilities of their laid-off co-workers."

• Hot Air's Allahpundit said that Slater grabbing two beers on his way out the airplane door "makes him (a) the greatest airline-related folk hero since D.B. Cooper and (b) the inspiration for what's sure to be Will Ferrell's next movie."

• The Awl's Alex Balk is ready to raise a glass in celebration of Slater, writing, "I think even the most airline-phobic among us can sort of look at his great escape and offer a silent cheer."

• As one might expect, Slater's mother also spoke up for him, telling TMZ that the passenger who provoked his outburst acted "maliciously" when she hit Slater in the head with the door to the overhead bin. (It had been previously reported that it was a piece of luggage that hit Slater.)

Coincidentally, in a recent issue of the New Yorker, essayist David Sedaris wrote about air travel and the tendency for humans to behave at their worst on planes and in airports.

[Related: America celebrates ranting flight attendant]

"We're forever blaming the airline industry for turning us into monsters," Sedaris wrote. "But what if this is who we truly are, and the airport's just a forum that allows us to be our real selves, not just hateful but gloriously so?"

[Related: Why more workers are starting to quit]

I have a feeling Steven Slater might just have an informed opinion on this. Meanwhile, if you need a recap of Slater's horrible, no-good, very bad Monday, here's a video that addresses all the pertinent issues, courtesy of ABC News:

UPDATE: The New York Times' Cityroom blog has some new details about Steven Slater and yesterday's incident. Most significantly, he has yet to post bond and remains in jail, and the seeds of conflict with the still-anonymous passenger were planted early in the flight.

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(Photo of Steven Slater's Myspace page via the Associated Press)

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