The Employment Blues

Many airline passengers and aviation geeks recall the story of the JetBlue flight attendant who quit his job by activating the emergency evacuation chute and dramatically sliding out the door to the tarmac at JFK. First he expressed his “take this job and shove it” attitude on the public address system, swiped two beers from the snack cart and made his exit. He walked to the employee parking lot and drove home. On August 9, 2010, Steven Slater, 38, a 20 year career flight attendant became a folk hero, when he actually did what many have only dreamed of doing. After getting hit on the head once too often by carry-on luggage, he quit his job in grandiose fashion.

The old Hollywood writers that made movies that depict the glamorous life of “stewardesses”, have not flown in the main cabin of 21st century domestic airlines. Today this “romantic” job apparently consists of herding passengers into crowded planes and deplaning them for quick turnarounds.

After TMZ recently reported that Mr. Slater was missing somewhere in Mexico, Steven responded in the comments section of “Flyertalk”; “As Mark Twain famously quipped, ‘The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’”.

He explained that he never disappeared in Mexico. “I learned a very valuable lesson when a bag containing my passport, phone, and wallet was stolen in Mexico after I crossed the border. Like so many of us, I stored all of my contacts in my phone, not bothering to memorize or write down numbers. Suddenly, I found myself stranded with no way of contacting anyone for help and struggling to communicate in my limited language abilities.”

He acknowledged that he was a newsmaker at the time of the incident but he is not a celebrity. His life is a dichotomy, having both a very public Wikipedia page while living his life as a private citizen. In his own words he confides in this travel forum his philosophy of the airline industry that was a big part of his life until that fateful confrontation with a passenger who stood up while the plane was still taxiing. He was doing his job for the safety of everyone on board and as he tried to have her sit back in her seat he was hit by her overhead luggage. “By transitioning from a service culture based on human interaction to a business model structured around transactional processes, the airlines have sunk their own ship. The appalling spectacles we all watch online are created in a vacuum of neglect. It is basic human psychology.”

It it also a basic human need to work and contribute to society. The job of flight attendant is not a Hallmark movie but then again, what job is? It’s the right job for the right person. A young person can get paid to see the world, and on days off an airline employee can fly anywhere in the world for free if an unsold seat is available. Job promotion opportunities are available and meeting and interacting with the traveling public is another benefit. Solving problems inside the micro society that is the confines of an aluminum tube hurdling across the sky, can be both challenging and satisfying. Staying at different hotels overnight in different cities, can be a nice perk for the adventurous spirit. And the salary is reported to range from $23 to $54 per hour plus benefits.

So how did things go so wrong, that a seasoned flight attendant would pull such an outrageous stunt and blow up his life and his pension? In his own words, “ The airlines have discounted the invaluable worth of human connection and have cheapened the whole thing by making the very people who’s life’s ambition has been to extend heartfelt hospitality into ancillary figures.” He not only criticizes the airlines, he observed that, “I’m grateful to cellular phone technology for providing us with critical evidence to be used in the courtroom against some of this outrageous passenger behavior which the legal system has never taken anywhere near seriously enough.”

Mr. Slater was later arrested and charged with felony reckless endangerment. After deciding to plea out he was slapped with mandatory counseling and a fine of $10,000 to be paid back to JetBlue as punishment for his glorious job exit.

So if you decided to make a grandiose exit from your current job make sure you have a plan for after, unlike Mr. Slater. If you suddenly get the urge to start a business or become an artist there are grants out there to help you transition into a new career path, no matter how drastic of a change.

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