I have made passing references about my past as an airline flight attendant, but did I ever fill you in on how I became one?
First I should inject that this was a career I had over thirty years ago and the Airline is no longer in service. No….it is not in the Smithsonian………but parts of it are in the Museum of flight exhibit. I happened upon this when I took my kids on a trip to Washington DC to view some history. Little did I know I would stumble across a notable prop plane with my daughter at my side pointing out to her friends that it has the same Logo that is on her mom’s Stewardess wings now collecting dust in a Jewelry box…
When most high school graduates were sending in their SAT scores to prospective colleges, my mind was set on traveling the wonders of the world, and I did not see my self scoring a place and having to SAT my seat in front of a desk thumbing through textbooks. I knew what I didn’t want to do but not quite sure what I wanted to do. I was the last of four children and I’m sure my parents were tapping their happy feet for me to venture out. OUT of the house.
I came home one day and told my mother I decided I want to be a flight attendant. My mother’s reply to that staement went a little like this: ” Why?….Any idiot can do that.”. Well, being that my grades were in the toilet at the time, and Harvard and Yale were not Knock-knock-knockin’ on my door…..in fact no college was knocking….not even a light tap-tap was audible; I decided to succumbed to my mothers statement and went to all available ticket counters at our local airport to fill out an application that might send this Idiot abroad.
My first interview and rejection was from a large airline that UNITED their fleet all over the globe. I returned home feeling distraught and feeling the FOOL and now realizing that I’m one less idiot that can’t make the cut. My mother sat in the living room reading her morning paper and sipping a cup of java as I entered the house with my head lowered fighting back the tears and laughing on the wrong side of the mouth. I crept in down the hallway and headed straight to my room to wallow in my defeat. Without looking up from her Dear Abby column she slung the words toward me:
“So..how did it go?”
I gave her my results through a broken voice :
“They said Thank you for coming……………NEXT!“
My mother folded the Times and placed it on her lap and looked at me. She could see the disappointment I endured and then uttered a few sentences that went like this:
“You know why they didn’t hire you? You’re too pretty for that airline. Your father and I fly that airline all the time and those girls are not easy on the eyes.”
Then she offered to call my father who knew the CEO of that airline to help me along with the process. I rolled my teary eyes at her and her backhanded compliment and declined her offer. This idiot doesn’t need a helping hand……
Out of the Ten or so applications I sent out to become a flight attendant three responded back with proposed interview dates. The first was the afore mentioned above, the second was from an EASTERN company that I had never heard of because I was a local from the Pacific Northwest. I had it set in my mind to handle this interview differently. I decided to let fate and nature take its course.
I borrowed a suit from a girlfriend that was one size too big, and clipped my long brown hair into a studious undocked tail of a pony. My make up was subdued and my pantyhose the color of the Ivory coast with my feet locked into someone’s leftover Nun’s shoes. I was the ugly Idiot determined to go abroad…..
I walked into the entrance of the building shuffling my shoes along the linoleum when something hit me in the pit of my stomach……….
It was yesterday’s enchilada.
I raced to the concierge for directions to the nearest restroom and made it to the porcelain thrown as chili peppers held an emergency evacuation of last nights dinner. I sat there in all my glory emptying contents and thoughts of missing my interview based on some bad beans. I fled from the scene of the chyme and raced upstairs to make my appointment. I hurried to the designated office and flew through the doors only to be greeted by a room full of life like Barbie’s. There they were aligned in a U- shaped formation around the room……….forty girls, beautiful, tall, perfectly postured, trimmed, sleek, impeccably dressed with Ultra- Brite smiles.
I crossed the room to take the final seat and sat there as my pony tail flogged the person next to me and my stomach growled Beethoven’s 9th……
An Airline rep entered the room and called out half the names to follow her and the second half remain in the room. I was left in the room. It was then I was ready to accept the fated realization that who in their right mind would hire this plain Idiot in an over sized hounds tooth printed attire shifting in their chair stressing to suppress a symphony of Gas. I should just relieve myself of this ill-fated agony ……Well that would be one way to clear the room of competition….
In those hours I managed a few trips to the ladies room, hoping I wouldn’t be marked “absent” for my upcoming interview. I was the last person called, and as the interviewer approached me I detected a wince emanating from her face as she ushered in her last candidate into her office who looked more like a Cabbage Patch Kid left out in the back yard too long than a prospective Airline Stewardess.
The Interview lasted over an hour and most the time it was filled with visual scrutiny and few ” ah yes….” and “Hmmm” as she scribbled addendum’s into her notebook. She ended with the usual “Thank you” and shook my hand. I walked out of her office knowing there was no future in this company for me and said “Thank you” in return. As I took three steps down the hall the interviewer called out to me and said:
” Say…would you mind changing your hair style?”
I spun around and looked her in the eyes and smiled my reply:
“If you can do something with this hair I would be grateful, I have been trying for years and can’t do a thing with it”.
It was a week later I got a call for a second interview and this is how that went down:
I wore a nice suite that fit, I wore wedge heels, I applied make up, and I didn’t eat any Mexican food the night before. I made the interview on time and noticed only one other girl in the waiting room.
I was called into a small dimly lit room with a leggy blonde sitting at a desk that held a smoldering cigarette in a glass ashtray. She stood up to greet me and we shook hands. She asked me to have a seat. I sat as she discussed the Airline’s back round and what is required of a Flight Attendant who works for this airline. I listened intently and answered when asked. She then told me there is certain protocol with this airline and there fore I needed to be put through some tasks:
One task was to see how you walked, carried yourself, stature, balance, and posture. She asked me to rise and walk about five feet and turn around to face her. I rose out of my chair and in doing so my nylon clad foot slipped out of my backless wedgies and I toppled to the floor. I got up from the cold tile and I turned to look at her and said:
“Well, that went well”.
The Marlena Dietrich Interviewer didn’t even flinch, she lit another cigarette and blew a puff of smoke in my direction and muttered:
I walked the allotted five feet steady as she goes, and spun around to return when she shot a command of :
“STOP. Stand right there.”
And I did. Frozen in step. Then she ordered another request:
“Raise your skirt up so I can see your thighs”.
Okaaayyyyy……yeah…….uuuuhhh…..yikes…sheesh….now wait a minute sister……can I have a nurse in the room?
I stood across the room and questioned the thoughts going through my head. I looked back at her through another puff of smoke as her head glanced down at a sheet of paper filled with check marks. I stood there with my eyes closed as I grasped the bottom of my skirt and fanned the hem high above my waist resembling a card board cut out of a Can-Can girl………minus the kicks. While poised center stage flashing my Moulin Rouge,I heard the interviewer cough a chuckle and state:
” You can put that skirt down. This year our Flight Attendants are wearing Hot Pants and we need to see the size of the legs to see if it is a right fit for the uniform”.
Strike two….I’m batting a thousand..I’m sure I’ve nailed this job…..what…..starting with a fall , followed by flashing my panties with Thursday written all over them…..as if she needed reminding of what day is was…..
She walked me to the door and said: “Thank You”.
I reiterated the same and tried to leave with what dignity I had left, and as I took another step she called out to me:
“I forgot to mention where you will be based, you have a choice of New York or San Juan”.
I told her San Juan is fine, being that I was from the Pacific Northwest and we use to boat around the San Juan Islands all the time and I would be close to my hometown of Seattle.
She blew her final puff of smoke and went back into her office.
A week later I received a packet from this EASTERN company announcing my acceptance to the airline and a welcome aboard the “Wings of Man”. I was so excited I rallied around the family and told them my base is really close to home.
“It’s San Juan”, I scream with delight.
My sister read the fine print of my contract and stated it was a base in PUERTO RICO……
spread the humor.