Wednesday, May 30, 2012

783. My Interview With USAir

I never told you this story. 

When I was fresh out of college, I worked a string of dead-end jobs.  Knowing I loved to travel, my father helpfully suggested that a job with the airlines would provide international flight benefits, something my current job at a local gym most certainly did not.  When I saw an ad for USAir flight attendant interviews a month later, I showed up for the cattle call. 

Being the Virgo that I am, I got there 10 minutes early. 

There was no need to ask the front desk girl where the interviews were being held, as the line of airline hopefuls literally snaked around the building.  I almost cried.  There was no way I was getting in. 

I looked down at the ad in my hand and noticed it said interviews were being held Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Today was only Monday.  I could come back tomorrow and be the first in line. 

The next morning, I put on the same navy interview suit, the same strand of pearls, the same navy pumps.  My résumé was in my leather attaché.  I was ready. 
I was two hours early this time.  Not only was no one there yet, the morning newspapers had not even been delivered to the lobby.  I asked the front desk girl where I should line up.  She was prepared.  After yesterday’s massive turn-out (they’d had to turn people away), they implemented a numbering system.  She handed me a sign-in sheet and a ticket number:  1. 

I wanted to kiss the ticket:  I knew it was the ticket to my future. 

I bought a latte at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby, and then I sat down on a bench outside the conference room and waited.  

I did not have to wait long.  Apparently, other people from the previous day had had the identical experience I had, so they arrived within minutes of me.  In half an hour, the line was again out the door.  I stood there smiling, chatting with other wannabe flight attendants, and generally sizing up the competition.  Her suit is red, bold choice, but too much of a risk.  She has her hair in a French braid, looks sharp.  He is wearing Converse high-tops with his suit—interview suicide.    

As the clock crept closer to 8 AM, a uniformed man walked through the line calling out, “If you don’t have language skills, you can go home right now!  And I don’t mean seventh grade Spanish, folks!  If you are not native speaker fluent, get out of line and go home!” 

Several people got out of line and headed toward the door.  I started second-guessing myself.  I considered myself to be good in Spanish, but native speaker?  That was a stretch.  But I had already given up two days to be here.  What were the chances that they would have language interviews on the very first day?  And what if your second language was Korean or Russian or Swahili?  I doubted the airline would have the right language testing for all the possibilities on the very first day.  I could wing it for now and maybe hire a tutor before I got to the next interview. 
It was now 8:30.  I really had to use the bathroom before the interviews started at 9 AM.  Since they had given us numbers, and since I had struck up a conversation with the people behind me in line, I felt confident that I could go to the restroom and come right back.  “Will you hold my place?” I asked a girl named Kristina.  “Sure, no problemo.”  Damn, she was already showing off her native speaker fluency skills. 

There was no one else in the ladies room.  I think other people were afraid to leave the line.
As I walked out of the stall and to the sink to wash my hands, I noticed a blond woman in a dark suit fixing her lipstick.  Her hair was down.  From everything I had heard, I knew the airlines preferred for women to have their hair back, and indeed, mine was swept up in a tight chignon.  Not only that, but she had a huge run in the back of her stockings. 
Did she know, did she not know, how could she not know?  I didn’t mean to, but I found myself staring in the mirror at the woman’s reflection. 

Should I say something?  I happened to have a few rubber-bands in my purse, she could put her hair up in a quick ponytail—there was still time.  And maybe the hotel gift shop stocked panty hose, although they might not actually be open before 10 AM.  I agonized about what to do.  She was after all, my competition. 
She caught me looking at her.  She turned around to face me, and said pleasantly, “Hello.” 

I was embarrassed that I had been staring at her.  Then I saw her number crumpled on the sink counter:  1004.  No wonder she decided to use the bathroom right now, there was no danger of her losing her place in line.  She was dead last.  There was absolutely no way she was even getting in there today.  I began to feel very smug about the number 1 ticket in my suit pocket. 
“How’s it going?” I mumbled to her.  Then I turned and left. 

Kristina had saved my place in line.  “Did I miss anything?” I asked her. 
“Well, Language Guy came around again.  More people left.” 

Finally, at 9 AM on the dot, they called in the first group, numbers 1-50.  Imagine my surprise when Miss No-Ponytail-Run-In-Stockings from the bathroom was already standing in the conference room.  I had seen her number on the counter.  I knew there was no way she was supposed to be here.  She had obviously tipped some underpaid busboy to let her in a back door.  I was outraged that a cheater like her who wore run stockings and her hair down could worm her way into the interview, instead of getting here early and waiting like everyone else.  I really wanted to say something to the person in charge.  In the end, though, I decided to keep my mouth shut.  It was an internal struggle for me, because I kept asking myself:  Would USAir even want someone like her representing them?

Apparently so.  “Welcome,” said Miss No-Ponytail-Run-In-Stockings to our group.  “My name in Angela, and I am a recruiter for USAir.”  There were two other recruiters with her.  I don’t remember their names.    
I could feel my face turn every shade of crimson.  That must not have been her number on the counter after all.  I was slowly realizing that it most likely belonged to one of those non-fluent language speakers who left early. 

Angela told us to give a two-minute speech about why we wanted to be flight attendants.  I was, naturally, first.  I could feel her eyes boring through me.  The other two recruiters sat like wax statues while I spoke, but Angela scribbled something in her notebook.  I was sure it read:  Makes inappropriate eye contact.  Does not help others.  Not a good candidate.

Do I need to tell you that I did not get the job? 

(Aside:  I was hired by Continental a few months later.  I eventually made my career as a flight attendant with United, and I wore my hair down sometimes and was know to have a run in my stockings once or twice.)


  1. Haha. I suppose it's good that you didn't try to get the recruiter ejected. That would have been worse!

    1. It was definitely something I considered! I walk a fine line between doing the right thing and annoying everyone!

  2. LOL I agree with Nick. Great story!

  3. Aaaaah! Agreed--terrific story. It's one of those you can tell your kids so they make sure they're kind to everyone... you never know when it will come back to haunt you!

  4. Anything with "cattle call" in the title gives me the wiggins. That is truly a great story and I guess the moral is "Be nice to everyone on your way up because you'll certainly be seeing them on your way down." (or something like that)

  5. That's hilarious!! Hey, you got the job eventually though! Every time you see someone with a ladder in their tights do you tell them now :P just in case they might be someone of interest!

    1. I still do not tell people they have a run in their stockings. I figure they must know.

  6. That sounds like a dream job. I would have wanted to be the pilot, though, since I have been going to flight school off and on for twenty-four years.

    Gripping and funny story, though, as always!

    1. thanks, Tracie!

      And you are a woman of many talents. You could blog about your pilot life!

  7. I wonder what would have happened if you'd offered her a ponytail holder? I enjoyed your blog today and joined up...:o)


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