Many in America see suspended JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater as a hero for every person who has ever smiled through insults or apologized for a mistake they had nothing to do with in the name of customer service.
But some San Franciscans say that Slater’s expletive-laced announcement and subsequent exit via inflatable slide – with a frosty beer in tow – may have been a bit of overkill.
“I know the frustration builds up,” said Raechelle Velarde, a law clerk in San Francisco who has retail customer service experience.
“Although I find what he did humorous, I think it was out of line because it put people’s safety at risk. That’s where I draw the line,” she said. “It was ballsy though.”
Slater, 38, garnered small celebrity status from his actions on Flight 1052 Monday after it landed in New York City from Pittsburgh. Slater was allegedly trying to stop a passenger from getting her bag out of the overhead bin before the plane had stopped.
The woman began calling him names, eventually hitting Slater forcefully in the head with the bag and not apologizing. Slater allegedly had a few choice words for the passenger before making a curse-laden declaration of his resignation over the public announcement system.
He then grabbed a beer from the galley, deployed the $25,000 inflatable evacuation slide, gracefully slid to the ground and went home. Police arrested him that night at his home in Queens, New York.
Slater made $2,500 bail through an unknown source and was released on Tuesday night. He faces charges of trespassing, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment that could land him in jail for seven years if he is convicted.
Slater’s deviant slide has inspired the creation of at least seven fan pages on Facebook and a multitude of T-shirts encouraging people to “Quit With Style,” among other sentiments.
The scenario’s cultural effect even extended to San Francisco pub Edinburgh Castle’s popular Tuesday night trivia contest this week, according to local resident Nick Baker.
He said about four groups chose to name their team after the phenomenon, pitting “JetBlue In The Face” against Baker’s team “That Motherf***ing Flight Attendant Is My Motherf***ing Hero,” who came in fourth place.
Though most agree Slater’s is an amusing story, many pointed out it seemed like a bid for notoriety, or perhaps the seed for a reality television show or movie deal. Many workers who provide customer service daily also noted that if they can keep their cool, Slater should have tried to as well.
“That’s the difference between letting your emotions take over. There have been plenty of times where I’ve wanted to do that,” said a fine-dining San Francisco waiter who asked not to be identified. “People will probably just look at him like he’s an idiot.”
But Orestes Jimenez, an employee in a high-volume Starbucks on Market Street, said he loves Slater’s story and understands how the attendant could have been pushed to the breaking point.
“Flight attendants… must have to put up with some serious shenanigans,” he said.
“People don’t realize that the stuff they tell you to do is for your own safety.”
Jimenez’s Starbucks co-worker, Bryce Craycroft, said he has “a pretty good threshold” for customer rudeness. Though he admired Slater’s nerve, Craycroft said that when he feels overwhelmed, he chooses to simply walk away or call a manager.
“I think it was really unprofessional, but it’s everybody’s dream to go out with a bang like that,” he said. “We don’t have the opportunity to slide down a slide here, though.”