Coffee, Tea or Get Me The Hell Off This Plane

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Jobs, Life, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My father tells two stories about his experience with flying, one haunting, the other horrific.

In the first, he’s on a DC3 headed for Springfield, Missouri in a thunderstorm when he looks out the window and sees the engine is on fire. The pilot shuts it down and with one remaining engine, looks for a break in the clouds so he can land. Spotting one, he banks sharply, dropping so low to the ground that in the glow of the landing lights, my father can see a herd of horses running across a field below. They’re so close that he can count 10 of them.

In the second, he’s on a 737 landing at the Kansas City Airport. My father and his co-worker have just come down the stairway in the tail of the plane and are walking across the tarmac to the terminal when the tail blows up. The explosion knocks them to the ground.

My father is not a fan of flying. Unfortunately, I inherited that gene. And Tuesday, it cost me my dream job.

For the past several weeks I’ve been a finalist for a marketing director position with a small publishing company. Despite the fact that the job came with a substantial cut in pay and benefits, I wanted it. It also involved a fair amount of travel and upon inquiring of the interviewer as to what made them reluctant to hire me (you should always ask), the flying issue is what did me in.

I recall the brief conversation during the third and final interview in which I commented that while large planes don’t bother me, small aircraft, the kind that hold 20 passengers or less, do. In the city where I live, small planes are the only means available to get you to a hub airport.

I made the admission because when I got the job, I would be traveling with this person and I wanted to be upfront about it. I imagined the scenario if I wasn’t: we’re on our first flight together, she strikes up a pleasant conversation and through clenched teeth, I say, “I don’t mean to be rude but right now I’m concentrating on not running down that narrow aisle and flinging myself out the emergency exit. So if you can please wait until we get on the big plane, I promise I will talk your ear off.”

I thought being honest was the right thing to do. It wasn’t.

I have a history of plane problems. When I was a baby, my family was on a 737 leaving Ashville, NC. The plane’s front wheels were just lifting off when its middle engine blew up. We dropped like a rock, bouncing and skidding on the runway, the plane stopping about 100 feet from the end. I don’t remember that. But my father does.

As an adult, my dicey track record with the unfriendly skies continued: planes struck by lightning, planes that caught fire, planes that tried to land during tornados. And the usual travel annoyances like lost luggage and having coffee spilled down my back by a stewardess who tried pouring during turbulence.

During my previous career, I traveled often, many times by myself, usually by plane or car. I’ve got the driving skills of an over the road trucker; I can knock off 800 to 1,000 miles behind the wheel in one sitting with no problem. Sometimes to avoid flying the small planes, I’ve just driven to the hub and caught the larger one. It’s never been a big deal for my travel companions, if I had any.

In rejecting me for my dream job this week, the interviewer noted that the position needed to travel the country “in the most efficient way without having to be directed to do so” and that it would have been a problem to “insist that someone overcome their hesitations in that respect.” That’s a very nice way to put it but it’s still a rejection. And I never said I wouldn’t fly, just that sometimes it’s not my favorite way to travel.

Do I wish I’d kept my mouth shut? Absolutely. Next time will I? You better believe it.

Have you ever been honest about something in a job interview and it cost you the job? If you had the chance to take it back, would you?

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Comments
  1. While fear of flying is usually irrational, I have to concede that your track record makes your fear the exception. Small planes are not for you.

    I guess the culture of the job interview is to sell, sell, sell yourself, but I have the same problem with that that I have with people who lie about themselves to get into a relationship or someone’s bed, and with students who cheat. They can say you have to do it to compete with everyone else out there who is also doing it, but I am not a good liar, and I would resent being forced to do it. And embarrassed when the truth came out. And terrified, waiting to be exposed. Not worth it. They probably lied about how great the job was.

    I truly believe an even better dream job is out there waiting for you, don’t regret your honesty!

    • Yeah, I tend to do things up right, don’t I? I like to think I’ve always been honest in my job interviews but I’m sure there was some embellishing in the early days. Now, I’m secure in my abilities and what I can bring to the job. And I’m always willing to learn the things I don’t know how to do. There were some downsides to this dream job, as there usually are. But, there are many more doors to knock on, more opportunities to pursue. Maybe we should just create our dream jobs and make them a reality. Thanks for the support and the comment.

  2. kvalleryy says:

    I definitely “second” what Lynnette said. I’m thinking it is the interviewer who lost out here–not you!

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