JetBlue Flight Attendant Turns Folk Hero

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Most people just put in two weeks’ notice, but JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater quit his job with flare, literally taking the emergency exit.

Slater made national headlines when he took the intercom on a plane that had just landed at JFK airport and made an expletive-filled announcement to the entire crew and passengers that he was quitting the friendly skies.

"To the f-----g a--hole who told me to f--k off, it's been a good 28 years," Slater said. "I've had it. That's it."

According to the New York Daily News, Slater then “grabbed some beer and bolted out an emergency slide” from the side of the plane and took public transportation back to his home in Queens. Police later arrested Slater at his house on several charges, including reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Authorities are currently holding him on $2,500 bail.

Slater’s lawyer has since explained that this bizarre incident was caused by a female passenger who was hostile toward him. Sometime between the plane’s departure from Pittsburgh and arrival in New York, the passenger argued with Slater about using the overhead luggage bin, and according to the lawyer, “slammed the overhead into [Slater’s] head.”

In any other year, Slater might simply be written off as a disgruntled employee with a screw loose, but instead, Slater’s audacious exit seems to be resonating more with Americans, perhaps because the poor economy has forced many in this country to keep working jobs they find deeply unsatisfying.

Tens of thousands have already joined a Facebook fan page in support of Slater and some have even begun to market merchandise based on the event.

“Americans may sympathize with this man because he represents the collective frustration employees have,” said Alexandra Levitt, a career expert and author of New Job: New You. “Those who have held onto their jobs during the recession have been forced to do more work for equal or less compensation, and cope with stressful conditions on a daily basis.”

Yet, even if Americans understand where Slater is coming from, that doesn’t mean they should follow his example.

“This is the kind of stunt that may be rewarding in the moment but could very well destroy your career in the long-term,” Levitt said. “Not only will this individual be fired from JetBlue, but any employer that Googles him from this point on will see the story and steer clear.”

Still, there are plenty of examples of people quitting their jobs in an extreme fashion. In fact, around the same time that Slater was chugging beer while sliding out the emergency exit of a plane, another woman who worked as a broker's assistant had just told off her entire office by e-mailing a series of photos explaining why she hates her boss and needs to quit. Others have gone so far as to torch their boss’s car before storming out of the office for good.

Even if it’s a poor decision, there’s no doubt that leaving your job in a blaze of glory is incredibly gratifying for both the person doing it and the people looking on at the scene. “When someone finally cracks, we’re fascinated because we can relate,” said Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire and author of Fired to Hired. This may be especially true for Slater because he worked in the services industry and was allegedly only responding to the attitude and abuse he’d received from a customer. “Not only have we all dealt with rude colleagues and clients who push every button and really test our limits, but we’ve also seen rude, disrespectful airline passengers who think they can say and do anything simply because they bought a ticket to fly.”

However, Johnson believes that Slater should have tried to make his point “in a less dramatic” fashion. “Perhaps had he politely, yet firmly, put the passenger in [her] place so to speak, the other passengers would have likely applauded,” she said.

For the time being, it’s uncertain what effect this will have on Slater’s career. According to his LinkedIn profile, Slater has spent most of his career working in the airline industry starting at Business Express Airlines, then moving to Trans World and Delta before coming to JetBlue, where he has worked for nearly three years. It seems unlikely that anyone in this industry will want to hire him now, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of options. Some already expect that he will be the toast of all the cable talk shows.

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