JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater: Ballsy Hero or Desperate Man Battling Health Issues?

Julie Ryan Evans
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empty airplaneLike many other people, I cheered when I read the story of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who gave a big F-U to a rude passenger and essentially all the rowdy passengers he's encountered over the years.

Who wouldn't like to go out like that -- dramatically quitting the daily drudgery by grabbing a couple of beers and setting off into the sunset via the emergency chute?

The court is holding him on charges of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment with bail set at $2,500. The airline says someone could have been hurt; and of course, no one wants to see this happen every time a flight attendant gets a little frustrated.

But most people are on his side, with the Internet lauding him (63,000 Facebook friends and counting) and people referring to him as a hero.

Most people, however, might not know what else may have contributed to his outburst.

According to reports, he told police he's HIV positive. He's also a recovering alcoholic, and his mother is reportedly dying of lung cancer.

I can't imagine dealing with any of that, much less all of it.

Knowing his immense struggles with his own health and his mother's makes me admire him a little bit less for his ballsy move, and fear and feel for him a little bit more.

Because instead of being the kind of bold, freeing move that many of us will only ever dream of making, it becomes a sad, desperate move that screams, "I have nothing left to lose anyway, so I may as well throw this away too." A move none of us ever wants to dream of having to make.

Life is full of illness and death and worries, and how any of us will cope when faced with them is an unknown until they happen. We can think about how we'll handle grief and stress, but we never know until we face them.

While I like to think that Slater had been planning such an exit for years and finally got his stunning swan song, instead I'm afraid it was a tear-filled slide into a future full of fear.

Does knowing Steven Slater's circumstances make you view his actions any differently?


Image via Glutnix

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