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Like the JetBlue flight attendant, we all wish we could take that big leap

This screen grab from MySpace shows Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue Airways, who had enough of one passenger Monday.

Associated Press

This screen grab from MySpace shows Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue Airways, who had enough of one passenger Monday.

Aaaaah!

Enough!

Everybody's had those moments at work. Very few people, though, quit with quite the finishing flourish that JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater did Monday in New York.

After getting hit on the head with the luggage of a rude, insubordinate passenger who then told him to "f--- off," Slater, 38, got on the plane's public-address system on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport, told her what he needed to tell her in a similarly profane way, grabbed his bags and some beers from the beverage cart, popped the inflatable emergency slide and jumped down the chute.

Federal authorities, who arrested him a while later, called the stunt trespassing, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. Much of the nation, on the other hand, called it one of the ultimate curse-word-laced, I-quit workplace moments of all time.

On Tuesday, on blogs, Facebook and Twitter and in readers' comments on newspaper sites, many in the cubicle-cooped populace cheered the explosion of Slater's inner id, hailing him as a working-man hero. The Associated Press described his getaway as "triumphant." The Washington Post urged a "slow clap."

Why did Slater mash the escape button and 23 skidoo down the chute?

Because he'd "had it," he said over the PA.

And because the chute "was right there," his attorney said.

"Because it's there." It's what early 20th century British adventurer George Mallory said when he was asked why he wanted to be the first person to reach the peak of Mount Everest.

On Tuesday, commenters around the Internet shared their stories of similar stick-its, big talk about pulling a Johnny Paycheck, ornery declarations of "I'm so done!" and crumpled-up resignation letters thrown at the faces of bosses.

A fair share of the responses to those boasts went like this:

Sure you did.

Most of the well-known examples of this form of farewell are in movies. For good reason. These are things many would love to say, but seldom actually do.

There's the part in Half Baked when the kid working the fast-food counter hits customers with four identical foul-mouthed phrases that can't be repeated here and then punctuates the taut tirade with a single "I'm out."

There's the part in American Beauty when calm-faced Lester Burnham tells the man who's there to fire him that he's "just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose" and that his "job consists of basically masking my contempt."

There's the part in Network when sweaty-haired and wild-eyed anchor Howard Beale lets loose on live TV with his "get mad!" speech: "You've got to say, 'I'm a human being … and my life has value! … I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' "

The movie scenes are memorable in part because there aren't that many real-life examples.

Here's one. A radio disc jockey for a hip-hop station in Mobile, Ala., unleashed an on-air sign-off. "Listen very carefully," she concluded. "I quit this b----." That was four years ago this month.

And just on Tuesday, one now ex-office assistant going only by the name of "Jenny" offered her resignation in the form of a sequence of 33 photos she evidently e-mailed to everybody in the office. They first appeared on thechive.com and then started to make the predictably giddy social networking rounds. The photos detail, slowly but surely, her former boss's bad breath, chauvinist bent and (gulp) his Internet habits.

Word later on Tuesday was that "Jenny" might be a fake. Figures.

Still, so much vicarious fun for us, to click and scan and read and tweet. Said one Facebook poster: "If only we could all carry inflatable slides for awesome exits!"

The anchor's meltdown in the movie Network, after all, crescendos in a chorus of people opening their windows and screaming over the lightning and the thunder that they were indeed "mad as hell." They probably were going to keep taking it, but they sure were mad, so the least they could do was join the horde and holler.

The 33rd and last message for "Jenny's" boss read: "Something tells me I'll be just fine." Slater? He was grinning at his bail hearing. But there's a reason most people holler with the horde and resist the urge to go full-fledged Slater.

Consequences.

Mallory didn't come back from Everest. Sometimes you die on the top of the mountain. Especially in today's economy.

News researcher Tim Rozgonyi contributed to this report. Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.

Slater's exit brings three charges

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater was arraigned Tuesday on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing, counts that carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. The judge set his bail at $2,500, which remained unpaid late Tuesday afternoon. Slater's attorney, Howard Turman, said his client had been drawn into a fight between two female passengers over space in the overhead bins as the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight was awaiting takeoff. Somehow, Slater, 38, of Queens, was hit in the head, Turman said. After landing in New York, one of the women who had been asked to gate-check her bag was enraged that it wasn't immediately available, Turman said. "The woman was outraged and cursed him out a great deal," he said. "At some point, I think he just wanted to avoid conflict with her." A JetBlue spokesman said Slater had been removed from duty pending an investigation. Prosecutors said no criminal allegations had been made against the passenger.

Associated Press

Like the JetBlue flight attendant, we all wish we could take that big leap 08/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 10:41pm]
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