As Tattoo almost said on Fantasy Island, "Deplane, boss, deplane."
Earlier this month, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater got into a dispute with a passenger over the correct time to pull a suitcase from an overhead bin. By his account, she beaned him with the case and refused to apologize. He commandeered the public-address system, told her in an expletive-laden outburst what he thought of her, grabbed one or two cold beers (accounts differ), inflated the plane's emergency escape chute and slid down it to the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. JetBlue suspended him, and authorities have charged him with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.
Of Word Play interest is that he has provisionally contributed a phrase to the language. To leave a job abruptly, with devil-may-care panache, could come to be known as "pulling a Slater," if people like it enough to use it. Meredith Vieira, co-host of the show Today, said on Aug. 11, "So what do you say to someone who might - I mean, I can see the new expression, 'I'm going to pull a Slater.' " Commentator Hoppy Kercheval, who referred to the 1977 hit song Take this Job and Shove It, wrote on Aug. 13: "So now, to quit in a huff with some measure of theatrics is to 'pull a Slater.' "
Slater's variation on "sayonara, baby" could also be called "deploying the chute," though this risks confusion with "golden parachute," the generous going-away package handed to lucky senior executives whose companies are taken over by hostile corporations. Another possibility is "firing up the PA," as in public-address system, which would immortalize Slater's impromptu lecture.
The glee with which people have seized upon "pull a Slater" illustrates how badly the vocabulary of the workplace is out of balance. When bosses fire people, they have a large and colourful lexicon to draw upon: dismiss, lay off, downsize, let go, dump, give a pink slip to, show the door, terminate, discharge, cashier, kick to the curb, declare redundant, release. Japan has the bracing expression "kubi ni naru," which, according to Anne H. Soukhanov, has the figurative meaning of being fired and the literal one of "becoming a decapitated head." Yet for those who quit their jobs, there aren't many terms on offer beyond resign, give notice and, particularly in Britain, ask for your papers.
Why don't we draw inspiration from the movies? To quit a job on principle could be to bolt like Baxter, a phrase inspired by the 1960 film The Apartment. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), having risen in his company by lending his apartment key to his boss (Fred McMurray) for adulterous trysts, eventually decides enough is enough. Asked once too often for his key, Baxter hands Sheldrake the key to the executive washroom instead. "Just following doctor's orders," he says. "I've decided to become a mensch. You know what that means? A human being." His boss protests: "Now hold on, Baxter ..." Baxter replies: "Save it. Your payola won't work any more. Good night, Mr. Sheldrake." And he strides off through the office and into the elevator.
Alternatively, we could speak of doing a Dummar, after Lynda Dummar (Mary Steenburgen), wife of Melvin in the 1980 film Melvin and Howard. After her boss at the strip joint where she waits on tables tells her he can't accept loud visits from her husband, she responds, "Aw, never mind. I quit." Then she whips off her outfit and strides naked through the bar and out the door, muttering something about the bar being a "two-bit joint." This isn't a tactic for everyone, but it is guaranteed to lodge in the memory.
To hit the bricks is to go out on strike. To hit the tarmac could be a synonym for refusing to take it any more. If you land in trouble, say you were following the advice of the estimable firm of Baxter, Slater and Dummar.