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Alison
By Allison Linn Senior writer
msnbc.com
updated 8/11/2010 4:41:21 PM ET 2010-08-11T20:41:21

Most of us will probably never pull a Steven Slater: curse out a customer, grab a drink and leave our place of employment in a blaze of glory.

But let’s face it, we’ve all had the urge.

Slater, a flight attendant on JetBlue, instantly became a folk hero in many people’s eyes Monday after he grabbed a microphone and ranted at a passenger who had refused to apologize for hitting Slater with some luggage. Slater then grabbed a beer from the galley and fled the plane via the emergency exit chute.

“How many of us can honestly say we haven’t wanted to do the same thing? Steve is a working class hero!” one reader, Aaron Steele, commented on msnbc.com.

“Maybe not the best way to quit your job but hey, sometimes enough is enough,” said another, usa1967.

Workplace experts say that while most of us probably don’t have the chutzpah to do what Slater did, many have felt enough workplace stress to at least fantasize about telling everyone to take this job and shove it.

Related: Upset flight attendant grabs beer, goes home

“I think that’s why we all secretly hold him up as a hero. I know he did the wrong thing and he even probably broke the law, but I get it,” said Tim Besse, co-founder of Glassdoor.com, a website that allows employees and employers to post anonymous information about their workplaces.

That’s especially true with airline travel, which is full of the kind of hassles and stress that can inspire rage and fury in even the most mild-mannered people.

Are you a teen having trouble finding a job for the school year? We want to hear from you.

In fact, many readers said an outburst such as Slater’s dramatic exit was inevitable given how flight attendants and other people in customer service are treated these days.

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“Can’t blame him for snapping. Unbelievable how rude people are — no apology for clocking him in the head with a bag? I’d snap too!” wrote VTPeach.

To some, it was the passenger who prompted Slater’s rant, rather than Slater himself, who was at fault.

“What about the passenger who refused to apologize? I would call him the real IDIOT!!!!” wrote whatever-2167628.

Besse, of Glassdoor.com, said companies often get high marks for valuing customer satisfaction. But that can turn into a negative if employees come to feel like they have taken the idea that the customer is always right too far, to the point that customers are treated better than employees.

“Steve Slater, who’d been doing this basically all his life, on this day in New York basically decided the customer wasn’t right,” Besse said.

Some may see Slater as a hero because they know they don’t have the luxury to speak out like that in their own lives. While Slater may have felt great after finally letting loose in such a public way, the fact is that most of us need our jobs more than we need that release. And most of us realize that such a dramatic move can carry heavy consequences, such as the felony charges that Slater is currently facing.

That’s especially true these days, with the unemployment rate hovering at 9.5 percent, nearly 15 million Americans looking for work, and many who are working being asked to do more work for the same or even less money.

“It’s about time workers start to flip out!” wrote one reader, Jimi-2167680.

Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the way Slater decided to handle his workplace frustration (including legal authorities, who are holding him on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing).

More than 40 percent of msnbc.com readers voting in an online poll called him a hero, but around 35 percent felt he was “just plain crazy.”

“Sounds like we are safer that he is now on the ground,” wrote Bruce-308647.

“Gotta love it. … Finally, a flight attendant standing up to a RUDE passenger. Seen it a million times. Could have handled it better, though!” wrote another, Da Llama-2167553.

Work stress getting to you? Take a break and follow me on Twitter @alinnmsnbc

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Video: Fed-up flight attendant flips out

  1. Closed captioning of: Fed-up flight attendant flips out

    >>> let's begin this tuesday morning with that bizarre incident on a jetblue flight that ended with a flight attendant jumping out of a plane on an emergency evacuation slide. nbc's tom costello covers aviation for us. he's in washington. tom, good morning.

    >> reporter: hi, matt. good morning. the plane was on the ground when this happened and none of the passengers was in any danger, but one jetblue flight attendant was apparently having a very bad d day . for 38-year-old flight attendant steven slater it appears to have been one flight , one passenger too many. jetblue flight 1052 from pittsburgh with 100 passengers onboard landed at new york's jfk airport at about noon monday when slater was struck in the head with a piece of overhead luggage a passenger was trying to retrieve, slater demanded an apology and the two got into a heated argument. police say that's when slater got on the plane's p.a. system and unleashed his own profanity laden tirade, pulled the emergency exit chute, reportedly grabbed two beers, slid down the chute, ran across the tarmac, through the airport, to his car and then drove home.

    >> the gentleman in the jeep flying down the block, running and parked the car and ran into his house.

    >> reporter: police arrested slater at his home and in custody he simply smiled as he was led away.

    >> people can be, you know, abusive to airline attendants and i just, you know, feel bad for the guy.

    >> reporter: in a statement jetblue says at no time was the security or safety of our customers or crew members at risk. still, ground crews working beneath the plane could have been injured by the falling exit chute. rmer ntsb chairman says he's never seen anything like this before.

    >> to have a flight attendant unexplainably deploy a chute, leave the aircraft after cursing out the passengers, the only thing i can explain it is perhaps a little too much cabin pressure .

    >> reporter: for years flight attendants have been made fun of in pop culture .

    >> i've been waiting outside for you in the terminal.

    >> great. bye-bye.

    >> no, no, there's more. i'm going to pound your face in.

    >> reporter: and so for verbal and physical abuse at the hands of a traveling public that is increasingly unhappy and far less polite than in years past.

    >> get out. get out. leave everything.

    >> reporter: but flight attendants also undergo extensive and rigorous training to deal with in- flight emergencies and disasters and they've proven they can make the difference in life-or-death situations as they did during the miracle on the hudson landing in 2009 . the flight attendants and pilots were credited with saving everyone onboard.

    >> we have thousands and thousands of operations that occur every day. safely. without incident. routine. the people that do this work are excellent. they're highly professional, extremely skilled.

    >> reporter: what's not clear is why a veteran flight attendant simply decided he couldn't take it anymore and literally pulled the plug on his own career. police say his last words to the passengers were, it's been a good 28 years. steven slater was arrested on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing. if convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison. on his myspace page, slater says he has worked for jetblue since january of '08. in addition to serving as chairman of jetblue 's uniform redesign committee, his lindyn says he serves on the value committee. matt?

    >> he did, tom. thank you very much. we appreciate it.

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