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When to use the emergency chute: a flight attendant's last flight

By the end of today, the phrase pulling the chute will enter parlance for making a dramatic and final exit from your career.

This is exactly what a JetBlue flight attendant is alleged to have done yesterday at Kennedy Airport in New York. Reports say that Steven Slater, a man with 20-years experience, got into a dispute with a passenger as the plane arrived from Pittsburgh.

The story goes that after arguing with the man, Slater got on the public address system, cursed the passenger and said that he’d had enough of his job with the airline. He then activated the emergency exit chute, grabbed a cold beer and slid away to freedom.

Unfortunately for Slater, his cinematic exit has not had a happy ending. He was arrested after police picked him up at his home pulling the chute, even for a career emergency, is not allowed on U.S. airlines.

And yet, we cant help but feel entertained by the panache of his departure and maybe a little envious of what Slater did. More often than not, the only job-rage stories that make the news are those that involve a hail of bullets and dead co-workers witness the latest rampage in America.

The daily grind of working life, long hours, deadlines and insensitive companies, bosses and co-workers can drive anyone crazy. But flight attendants and others in the service industry have the heightened stress of being boxed into a plane with nowhere to go. Picture yourself at the breaking point and yet being constantly called upon to be friendly, helpful and to smile.
But needless to say, if you fly into a hyper-rage because a passenger reached into the overhead compartment too soon, its time to cut out.

Hopefully, Slater will not serve too much time in jail if he is convicted but his career as a flight attendant is undoubtedly over. Maybe someone in the airline industry will take pity on him and find him some work somewhere. The New York Times is reporting that Slater spent much of his free time caring for his elderly parents. No doubt the stress of this had an impact on his behaviour.

Its a hard lesson that the working life does not always bring happiness or satisfaction but just a paycheque and a place to go every morning. This is true whether you’re serving coffee at MacDonalds, a brain surgeon or a millionaire entrepreneur. Even those of us who love our jobs cant enjoy them without the perspective that work is just one component of a richer life that includes family, friends, hobbies, interests and so on.

As well, since we are all human and the working life can turn the most angelic among us into savages, take the modified emergency chute exit if stressed; go for a walk, talk to a trusted friend about your problems and remember, its just a job.

So next time you feel like stuffing your BlackBerry down your boss’s throat or telling your best client to do something anatomically complicated, take a deep breath and remember flight attendant Slater once you really slide down that emergency chute, you can never crawl back up.