Before JetBlue: Other Great Escapes in American Occupational

by Derek Loosvelt | August 10, 2010

By now you've certainly heard about Steven Slater, the 38-year-old JetBlue flight attendant who yesterday went airline (akin to going postal but a tad less messy) on a flight from Pittsburgh to New York, telling about 100 passengers to f--- off after one passenger violated airline policy, getting out of her seat and removing her baggage from the overhead bin while the plane was still taxiing to the gate. (The passenger also, reportedly, told Slater to f--- and called him a mofo.) After telling off the passengers, via the onboard intercom, Slater infamously quit his job, stole a beer (or two; reports vary) and slid down the emergency slide, to the envy of every American man, woman and child.

This story has received so much press that you might think Slater’s was the most outlandish job exit ever to occur on American cement. But au contraire, there have been numerous equally as outlandish exits in American occupational history, it's just that these others occurred prior to the proliferation of the Internet (and some prior to the proliferation of the printing press). In chronological order, here are a few other infamous job exits from the past three centuries:

March 14, 1777; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; John Dedrick Greenhoffer, calligrapher. Greenhoffer was given the task of copying the Declaration of Independence, freehand, 20,000 times. The DOI, as the document was referred to then, was to be circulated, via stagecoach, throughout the colonies once Greenhoffer had completed his copying. Greenhoffer was a master calligrapher (having trained in the Far East) and was widely known to be extremely meticulous, though rather slow of hand. When pushed to scribe faster by the Founding Fathers (even berated, it was said, for his slowness of pace) Greenhoffer broke one day, becoming so enraged that he splattered two Founding Fathers with ink, pinched a pint of federally-sanctioned moonshine, yelled from a clocktower that the "Redcoats Were Coming Back!" (frightening numerous children) and then descended a bed sheet, tied to an oak bedpost, from the five-story tower, which, at the time, was the tallest structure in the United States of America.

February 4, 1883; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Francis T. Redenbacher, dressmaker/seamstress. Redenbacher (no relation to the popcorn magnate), born and schooled across the Atlantic in the finest tailoring institutions in all of Europe, was well known throughout North and South Carolina as the “go-to girl” among the female elite for hand-tailored attire for grand Southern balls. Redenbacher worked for a majority of the Carolinas' Congressional wives, as well as for most of the local lawyers’ significant others. It was rumored that Redenbacher solely sewed with imported thread and fasteners (ivory and animal hides from Africa, silk and bone from the Far East, metal from Eastern Europe, etc.), and her techniques were, to say the least, unorthodox: she sewed in complete darkness. The technique was one she learned from Tibetan tailors on a trip to Lhasa during her youth, and one that severely irked the wives of numerous Southern gentlemen (wives who, though tightlipped in public, were quite outspoken behind closed doors). It was upon a fine Carolina spring afternoon that Redenbacher broke. After Mrs. Lamont Grover Williamson insisted on relighting a candelabra in Redenbacher’s main sewing room for the seventeenth time, Redenbacher reached her boiling point and doused Williamson with candle wax, singing her bloomers and bustier, then slid down a banister on a sheet of unbleached Scottish wool before swiping a bottle of Spanish Grenache on her way out and screaming behind her, "Fasten your own bloody stockings, you wench!" (Redenbacher was never arrested, though her family was forced to set out for the West a few days later).

August 22, 1982; Southampton, New York; Anthony Augustus Esposito, ticket agent/conductor. Esposito grew up in Long Island, New York, riding the rails. The Long Island Railroad rails, that is. In fact, Esposito loved nothing more than sitting in a lone window seat, traversing the Isle of Long, eastbound and westbound, staring out through scratchiti- and graffiti-filled windows, eying the lush countryside from Montauk to Valley Stream. And so it came as no surprise that Esposito became the No. 1 ticket man on the LIRR before his twenty-second birthday. Esposito was, it was pointed out in news reports, well-known and well-liked among colleagues and passengers alike, which is why it came as such a monstrous surprise to all, including the Esposito extended family (Anthony had four brothers and three sisters, all of whom bore children of their own), that Esposito cracked that August Sunday afternoon. Though, the Esposito family, and every other American, did understand, given the grave circumstances: the passenger responsible for breaking Esposito was attempting to perpetrate the fake-sleep routine along with the feet-on-the-facing-seat tactic along with the luggage-spread-out-on-the-adjacent-seat move as well as the loud-boombox-playing-manic-static maneuver. It would’ve, as the Post reported, "broken just about anyone wearing an LIRR uniform," especially due to the fact that the air conditioning was not operational, the temperature was approximately 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and hundreds of other passengers, some elderly and/or pregnant, were standing and sitting in aisles. In the end, Esposito was acquitted of all charges (he had yelled "FIRE! FIRE! M[OFO] FIRE!" when the train had stopped in the Bridgehampton station) and his legs had healed (he had fractured both femurs after leaping from the moving train in Wainscot and rolling down an embankment into a marsh). However, the luggage of the passenger who had, in Esposito's words, “refused to turn off that damn ghetto blaster and move his fake-sleeping a**,” were never found (Esposito had taken the bags with him on his exit jump and reportedly buried them on a beach in Hampton Bays).

Filed Under: Finance


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