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Landing With Dignity

By now you've undoubtedly heard about Steven Slater's bad day at work. The Jet Blue flight attendant was working a capacity-filled flight on the Pittsburgh to New York route recently. A passenger, while attempting to squeeze a suitcase into an overhead compartment, supposedly banged Slater in the head with it. Then she added insult to injury, literally: in lieu of an apology, she told him off.

Once the plane landed in New York, a fed-up Slater responded to the woman with his own disparaging remarks – via the craft's public address system. He then deployed the plane's emergency evacuation chute and, with his luggage in hand, slid into unemployment and the public spotlight. He was later arrested for his theatrics.

While conflicting accounts of the events continue to surface, one thing is certain: Slater picked a dramatic way to quit his job. Since then, Slater has been heralded as a hero by frustrated working stiffs who envy his gumption. He recently hired a well-known publicist to help him capitalize on his newfound fame, and there is talk of a reality television show.

But is Slater really a hero? Not when you consider how he endangered his co-workers on the tarmac by unexpectedly deploying the inflatable slide. Nor when you factor in the tens of thousands of dollars Jet Blue had to pay to replace the chute. And certainly not when you think about the copycats in companies everywhere who are dreaming up new flamboyant – and costly – ways to resign.

No, Slater is not a hero for "pulling the chute" on his career. He's just a disgruntled employee who caved under pressure and blamed the world for his frustration.

As it turns out, you can find heroes at an airport near you. They are the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who are returning home this month after completing combat missions in Iraq. But, unlike Slater, these heroes are not holding news conferences or securing press agents. They're coming home without fanfare to a public that seems more fascinated by the exploits of a spoiled flight attendant than with the sacrifices of these brave soldiers. And shame on us for that.

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