Hasn't everyone thought about doing it?

When the cubicle started to feel more like a prison than a calling? When the bossiest boss had a smile that was just too smug? When the piddling wage seemed not to be worth the aggravation?

Defying the rules, telling people off and walking off a job isn't usually a launching pad for public acclaim and admiration. But few have fulfilled that particular working man's fantasy in such grand fashion as JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who left his job via the plane's emergency chute, beer in hand.

It was enough to set America's heart aflutter.

Slater's sudden exit has rekindled memories of workers' liberation — and sparked wistful excitement among workers who have long fantasized of choosing pride over pay.

Samuel Rodela still remembers the morning a decade ago when he spent his 1.5-hour commute contemplating how he would make his exit from an office that had turned oppressive, with building resentment and stifled creativity.

In the end, the web designer went with a simple approach: He walked into his office with a box and immediately started packing his belongings. When his hated boss asked what he was doing, he turned to her and uttered a few words usually not printed in newspapers.

Then he walked out the door.

"A lot of people are not happy in their situation — the best thing you can do is just quit," the 30-year-old from Dallas says. "Life's not supposed to be that way. It's way too short for that."

Rodela still believes that even in a daunting economic climate, professional opportunities will arise for those who refuse to settle.

That's what Mary Phelps found. After being scolded for the last time by a boss she believed was treating her unfairly while sleeping with the other waitress on her shift, she seriously considered knocking over the giant pot of tomato sauce sitting on the Italian eatery's stove.

Instead, she walked to the front of the restaurant and took orders from six tables sitting down at the beginning of the dinner rush. Then, before bringing anyone so much as a drop of water, she left.

"It felt fantastic. It was a great feeling," she recalls. "It was absolutely no regrets, absolutely. And it was a feeling of just letting go of something that wasn't working."

Now, nearly 30 years later, the Columbia, Ky., resident credits the experience with helping to build her career as an equestrian journalist.

It "forced me ... to give myself the courage to put my energy into the riskier part of my life," which was freelancing, she says.

But for many, pragmatism and self-control mean the fantasy of walking off the job will stay just that.

Waiter Matthew Kennedy has dodged punches from belligerent drunks and fought with unruly customers displeased at being cut off at the bar. He's far from the first person in the service industry to be tempted to just walk out.

"Honestly, I wish I could tell people off like he did," the college student from Radford, Va., said of Slater's expletive-laden tirade over the airplane's public address system. "But I would lose my job, and I think that's why no one does it.

"Especially with the economy the way it is, people out looking for work, if you lose your job it will take you forever to find another one."