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From a Passenger on Jet Blue Flight 1052: Steven Slater is a Real New Yorker, Not a Terrorist

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OK, I've got to sound off a little. I was on flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York City on Monday. And Steven Slater is no terrorist.

Nor is he a criminal. He just isn't. Maybe he did something risky by deploying the emergency slide. But maybe he didn't (he may have looked first to make sure no one was standing nearby). At any rate, isn't a fine (a hefty one, perhaps, since replacing the slide apparently costs a load) a more appropriate punishment than prison?

It certainly does appear no one was nearby. After all, the man walked off the airfield, through the airport, to his car, seemingly without anyone at JFK airport blinking an eye. As I and other passengers disembarked the plane (and we did so without delay for once--maybe we should thank Slater?) no one at Jet Blue seemed in a hurry to acknowledge anything was amiss.

If anything, Slater may have done Jet Blue and JFK airport a favor by highlighting the seemingly meager security on the airfield. After all, when Slater released the emergency slide, which Jet Blue spokespeople have pointed out should only be deployed in a true emergency (and no one's disagreeing), where were the emergency vehicles? Where were the police and ambulances?

It was probably crystal clear to Jet Blue employees that Slater was no terrorist or criminal, just an exasperated guy who'd had enough rotten days to "lose it" in the way a basically OK person would - not threatening or assaulting anyone, certainly not going postal, just dropping a few F-bombs and exiting stage left. After all, it was crystal clear to me the fellow was harmless. But when the emergency slide deployed, shouldn't someone on the ground at JFK have been a little .. well ... concerned? After all, it IS an emergency slide? And presumably the ground crews and security folks would not have witnessed Slater's fed-up rant or seen him closely enough to recognize him as a diva, not a terrorist.

Speaking of which, I'd like to take the opportunity to clarify the difference. Conflicting accounts of what occurred on flight 1052 have begun to emerge. Some passengers are saying Steven Slater was rude from the beginning of the flight. I did not observe him to be rude; nor did I hear or witness the altercation with a passenger that allegedly preceded Slater's rant (I only heard the rant, in fact).

But as a passenger on the flight who has read numerous the accounts, I have an alternative theory to the heroicize/demonize Slater narratives that have dominated media for the past couple days. My theory is that this disagreement may be at least partly due to cultural differences.

Hear me out. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where this flight originated. I am now a resident of New York City. And in New York, we know a diva when we see one. Pittsburghers are a wonderful lot - neighborly and down-to-earth. But I would humbly speculate it is possible that a certain 'tude--an unmistakably direct and at times pugnacious, but never actually threatening, style--that some New Yorkers recognize as the province of a diva might be regarded by a Pittsburgher as something personally insulting - when it's not.

Of course, The Wall Street Journal, where I read some other passengers' accounts, is based in New York--but everyone knows that with their buttoned up, conservative style, the men and women of The Journal--though we may adore them--do not capture the beating heart of the city, and they don't speak for the people. The paper that truly gets New York's larger-than-life 'tude and style is the New York Post. In New York Post world, a world of caricatures and flamboyant characters, it's no big deal that Steven Slater may have rolled his eyes and honestly and theatrically told a complaining passenger, "I need to take care of myself first, honey!"

Hellooo!!!?! The man is obviously a diva. Welcome to New York! It's all part of the scene. Thanks to G-d and to our troops that the terrorists--like al Qaeda, the Taliban, etc.--haven't yet made it illegal to drop a few f-bombs or sport a 'tude around here! May Freedom forever ring.

And memo to JFK--just in case next time the guy opening the emergency exit actually is a terrorist, tighten up that security will ya?

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