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Punch Drunk

This Week: Take This Job and ...

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In the Jack's heroes department a new face emerges this week, rightfully joining the likes of Kenny Powers, "The Barefoot Bandit," Gene Cox, Sam J.T. Moore and Don Draper — people that I admire and people who have raised the bar of bad assery with their actions. The new face is fellow service-industry worker and Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater.

Mr. Slater, a longtime flight attendant and by most accounts a decent and kind human being, finally lost it on a customer.

From many reports it appears that a JetBlue passenger refused to stay in her seat while the airplane was taxiing to its final gate. While Slater attempted to assist her with an overhead storage bin, one of her bags smashed Slater in the face. The customer then, instead of offering an apology, decided to be even more of a bitch, berating him with a loud, expletive-laced tirade in front of the entire plane.

So here's where Mr. Slater became a legend and cultlike figure to service-industry peons everywhere.

Retreating to the intercom system, Slater made what seems to be his final in-flight announcement. Allegedly he cursed out the rude woman, thanked the other passengers for showing dignity and respect, and walked to the plane's galley to grab a beer. Next — and this is what makes this such a sweeping and grand exit — he deployed the plane's emergency chute, sliding down with his beer in tow. Popping the top on one as he headed across the tarmac to an unlocked gate, he found his car and drove home.

Police arrested him later that day and he was released on $2,500 bail shortly thereafter.

Since his meltdown, public sentiment has fallen sharply in Slater's favor, with 130,000 people (and thousands more every hour) proclaiming their support on Slater's Facebook page. Admirers have even set up a Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund, which has raised thousands of dollars.

Dealing with rude and disrespectful customers is par for the course in the service industry, and if we all went around quitting every time we had to deal with some dick, there'd be no one left to serve your food. But God, haven't we all fantasized about resigning from a job in a blaze of glory?

Stealing the beer and making such a stylish exit via slide is the part that really resonates with this disgruntled bartender. It makes me wonder if I can somehow work a slip 'n' slide into the next time I decide to bid farewell to my employers, with a beer in one hand and a one-fingered salute in the other: Now someone wet down this giant tarp I just unfurled so I can take my leave.

Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback consumes and slings drinks at a number of local establishments. He also writes a surly blog at http://jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Find him on Twitter @jackgoesforth. Have a question or comment for the bartender? E-mail: bartender@styleweekly.com.

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