Steven Slater and I Skip Out on the Whole Darn Thing

12 Aug

First, a teaser: 

My next post will be a review (fair and balanced) of Elizabeth Gilbert’s
Eat, Pray, Love. 
I think of it as:
Eat a Little Pasta, Do A Little Yoga, Get Down Tonight.

This story is about that hero of our times, Steven Slater.  Or, rather, about myself as an earlier incarnation of Mr. Slater.

I dedicate these words to Cheri, who also walked off her first job, though she was much younger than the actual Mr. Slater or his teenage precursor when they went AWOL.


I bet you’ve walked out on a job too.  Or, at least, thought about it.

 My true story:

I got my first job when I was 15. 

OK, fine, my sister (then 18) got me the job. 

It was at a submarine shop called The Whole Darn Thing.  Think Jimmy John’s or Subway, but imagine the girls behind the counter in white polyester dresses and colorful aprons.  Gorgeous. 

We closed at nine o’clock on Saturday night, so you could bring a change of clothes to work and still go out with friends.  The piquant girls from the sub shop, redolent of onions and hot peppers.

I was not old enough to operate the meat slicer–that was my sister’s job.  So, I was put on the cash register.

It’s lunch rush.  The place is packed.  I’m ringing up subs as fast as I can, but I can’t keep up with the sandwich makers or the impatient customers.  And I’m supposed to get fountain drinks, too?  I keep ringing up the wrong sandwiches, and on those old cash registers, it’s a hassle to fix those mistakes.  (I think that was called an over-ring. ) Anyway, after a few of those, I’m feeling stupid and flustered and overwhelmed. 

This having a job thing, it’s totally out of control.

Next, I hear: “You charged me for a Number 21, but I ordered a tuna sub.”

I look up.  I close the cash register drawer.   That’s it.

I’m outta here. 

Had there been a beer within reach, I like to think that I would have grabbed it. 

I can still see my sister’s face as I pass her at the meat-slicer, removing my apron, and now looking very swish in my white polyester. 

I launch the emergency chute, walk through the front door, slide down onto the tarmac and walk all the way home.  No looking back.  (All parallels with Mr. Slater’s story end here.)

Do you need a postscript?

You know why we  love Steven Slater.  Taking this job and shoving it is a timeless fantasy.  All the more appealing in the economic mess that has made all of us feel like scared, flustered, overwhelmed 15-year-olds. 



26 Responses to “Steven Slater and I Skip Out on the Whole Darn Thing”

  1. M J Workman August 12, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    Wonderful! I bet it was really fun walking out of that sub shop. Love the photo. I actually really admire Steve who quit his job. Afterall the woman–yes it was a woman who bonked him on the head even before the plane took off–is the culprit and deserves 90 days at hard labor. I suggest breaking rocks or knocking Newt Gingrich or Sister Sarah (Palin) on the head.

    • jenny August 13, 2010 at 6:06 am #

      Sister Sarah…that’s funny!

  2. Wally Post August 12, 2010 at 9:22 am #


    Absolutely love the piece on the Whole Darn Thing–and the picture makes the piece perfect. Wasn’t the sandwich place right across the street from the old Kepler Hotel and the Pet and Art Shop? My name is Walter O’Reilly Postilinck but you can call me Wally.

    • jenny August 13, 2010 at 6:09 am #

      The Kepler Hotel! When is somebody going to write about teh Kepler Hotel?

  3. Paul Costopoulos August 12, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    We all some day walked off a job; was it not exhilarating to say shove it, to the boss?

    • jenny August 13, 2010 at 6:17 am #

      Paul, you have reminded me how much I really wanted to make mention of a terrific Slawomir Mrozek play (THE POLICE) in this post.

      A character (himself, a general) exclaims: “Everyone has to throw a bomb at a general at some point in his life!”

  4. Cheri August 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks for drawing attention to my first (but not the last) job mismatch.

    As for this piece, I loved the whole darn thing, especially the ending sentence which reminds us all to be aware that the 15-year-old inside is always just a tantrum away.

    And speaking of tantrums, I’m thinking of having one over the health insurance industry.

    [primal scream….]

    • jenny August 13, 2010 at 6:20 am #


      Your tantrums are fun to read. Go ahead and scream.

  5. david osman August 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    where is russian connectio?
    but anyway when i was a cabby in late 80’s
    i use to fire passengers i did not like . i would stop my cab and tell them to get out without taking any money.
    not exactly the same story but job related

    • jenny August 13, 2010 at 6:23 am #

      David, that’s hilarious!

      Russian connection soon to return with a mighty vengeance. Always does.

  6. Rebecca August 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Great piece, Jenny! I remember the WDT well. (And BTW, I melted down on my first day at the Red Barn.)

    • jenny August 13, 2010 at 6:26 am #

      Rebecca, I so want the hear about your meltdown at the Red Barn. I want to hear all stories about the Red Barn. Whaddya got?

  7. lyndabirde August 14, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    hilarious and so polite! I like David O’s approach to dealing with customers, something so outside the lines that it baffles people who expec to be served. Kind of fun sometimes to kick someone out!

    I commend you on your courage/limits,Jenny. I don’t think I could have left in the middle of things, but that was the way to do it. bravo! Some things we are just not suited to do.

    I lasted one night shift in a nursing home, a lovely late-georgian building in our victorian town. The woman who hired me assured me that if I could handle 35 highschoolers in Eng class, I could surely do this summmer graveyard shift of 22 elderly folks, all of whom would be fast asleep by 10:30. Ha. All I had to do was laundry and rounds. The young woman who was training me said it was no sweat and she would be with me for the first three nights. She had dropped out of school in 10th grade, but she needed to switch to day shift.

    Sounded easy enough, and maybe I’d have time to read.

    Too much detail I recall about those 8 hours, but one can imagine with these few happenings. Phyllis appeared at the kitchen gate at 1:30 AM, asking for a cookie. Mary Belle glided into the living room at 2 wearing only a white blouse, all buttoned, with the bow tied, carrying her purse, announcing that she was going downtown. by the way, she’s newly diagnosed as Alzheimers, I was told. Phyllis soon wanted another cookie and demanded to know where I was from. Helen had “accidents” 3 times during the night, which meant we bathed her 3 times, changed and scrubbed her bed, while she sat waiting in the wheelchair, humiliated. The other woman whose accident happened only once seemed amused as we bathed her, as though she had done this for attention. When I came up from the laundry room at 5:30, Phyllis was at the window again. I was so happy that the shift was nearly done, and when a woman, fully dressed and lipsticked, appeared at the gate, I was glad that she was motivated to be independent. She whipped the dentures out of her mouth, waved them at me, and blared “These are not MY teeth!”

    • jenny August 15, 2010 at 7:22 am #

      White blouse buttoned and bow tied, I grab my purse, check my teeth (they are, indeed, mine) and head downtown.

      Could I have a cookie for the road?

  8. Thomas Stazyk August 15, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    With respect to the Russian question, could Steven Slater have been possible in the Soviet Union? What would happen if you told the local commissar to take this job and shove it back in the day?

    • jenny August 16, 2010 at 7:39 am #

      Poet Joseph Brodsky was tried for the crime of “parasitism”.

      The flip side to the promise of universal employment, back in the USSR, was the criminalization of the refusal to work.

      Raising this Russian question, though, is a little like offering an alcoholic a drink. Haven’t I mentioned that I’m a recovering Russophile? 🙂

      • Thomas Stazyk August 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

        That’s right! I forgot about the Stakhanovites.

        Da, mne toze!

      • jenny August 17, 2010 at 6:17 am #

        Aha! Good to know.

        Almost nobody uses the term stakhanovite anymore. That just put a big smile on my face! 🙂

  9. Cheri August 17, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    What is a stakhanovite?

  10. jenny August 18, 2010 at 5:22 am #


    Stakhanov was a coal miner in 1930s Stalinist Russia who (as the story goes) spectacularly outperformed his co-workers, leaving production goals in his dust, all out of zeal for the bright socialist future.

    The Stalinist propaganda machine turned him into a folk hero of sorts, and all were encouraged to be stakhanovites. Here he is on the cover of Time magazine:,16641,19351216,00.html

    This is the manipulative tradition that nags at me when the question of heroism is raised on the HB.

    • Cheri August 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

      Very interesting. Heroism is in the sty of the beholder?

      • Thomas Stazyk August 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

        Absolutly right! It is hard to find out the truth about the whole story. Some say that the whole thing was a propaganda exercise and no one could dig the amount of coal he supposedly did. According to the official story he became a hero of the Soviet Union and actually ended up in some government position. Another version is that he retired early as a just reward but ended up having to go back to work in order to feed his family.

  11. Jim M. August 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    I’m sure these legislators have held many orderly and productive meetings, but here things appear to have to have gotten a little out of hand — a sort of Jane Austen’s Fight Club, or perhaps their last day on the job:

    (I suppose quite a few of them are lawyers.)

    • jenny August 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

      (CHERI–Don’t miss the video in Jim’s comment above!)

      This reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon that stays with me:

      An agitated (but smartly dressed) professional woman stands, arms akimbo, behind a recently overturned office desk. Papers and folders are everywhere. Chaos.

      Caption: The terrible forty-twos.

      Just terrific fun! Worth the wait. And good thing it arrived late on a Friday afternoon. Thanks. 🙂

  12. lyndabirde October 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    hey, Jenny, I used this last week when textbooks didn’t arrive in a prompt on WORK. Students had a vacant look when we read of the white polyester dresses with colorful aprons. Thanks for letting me borrow!

    • jenny October 8, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

      Lynda, that makes my day! Thanks.

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