With a slide down an inflatable chute, a new star flickered to life on Monday. Five days later, disgruntled steward Steven Slater's star is waning: Video of his walk-off was disappointing, and his dissenters grow. Is this our hero's end?
After using his JetBlue aircraft's inflatable slide for a dramatic job walk-out, Steven Slater was arrested while having sex with his boyfriend and charged with reckless endangerment. It was the stuff of disgruntled employee dreams, and after two days in jail, Slater emerged to face criminal charges and an "overwhelming" level of insta-fame. He was poised to become a working-class hero, an incidental advertising juggernaut. He could be the Subway sandwich Jared of pent-up 9-to-5 rage.
But all he wants is his job back. Unfortunately, his job is the one thing Slater can never get back. (Which is sort of the point of a scorched-earth job walk-out, no?) We suspect JetBlue is trying to turn public opinion to avoid blowback when they inevitably fire Slater. (And they have to fire him: He broke company policy, wasted thousands of dollars by deploying the slide, and is technically a criminal. Not that his dramatic exit wasn't totally worth it.) At this point it's pretty much guaranteed that, whatever JetBlue does, someone will launch a Facebook campaign to boycott them.
JetBlue's best hope is to muddy the waters and hope the tale of Steven Slater is remembered as a freak accident, and is never repeated. A leaked internal memo suggests JetBlue is in PR triage mode: They're terrified the public will blame them for "creat[ing] a monster," as Slater put it in an online post about the institutional frustrations of air travel.
So is the brief reign of Steven Slater, Folk Hero coming to an end?
It depends, mostly, on Steven: He could still take this insta-fame and run, but he has to run away from JetBlue, not towards it. If he keeps his focus on getting his job back, then it will be time to sing the sad ballad of the rise and fall of Steven Slater before the weekend ends. In his place, we will substitute new, smaller heroes and villains: the cheery Lufthansa attendant who had a mile-high pillow fight, the surly passenger that grounded at JetBlue plane in D.C., the wrathful stewards who keep farting in our faces.
Slater remains, today, quietly resting at his beachfront home in the Rockaways. Any day now, he could leap back into the headlines with interviews, lawsuits, endorsements, a book deal—or he could slip quietly away, a rapidly fading anecdote for games of bar trivia and "Where are they now?" radio specials years from now.
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