Anything is Possible

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I was excited and nervous, like everyone is for their first airline interview. I packed my suit in my carry-on bag. But, for my connection in Houston, I had to check my bag and was told to pick it up at baggage claim in Atlanta. I made it to Atlanta, my bag did not. 

I was told my bag would arrive on the next flight. I checked into the hotel and called a few friends about my current situation. One told me to go rent a car, find a place to buy a suit and get it done now! I maintained trust that my bag would arrive on the next flight. 

I returned to the airport to meet the next flight and when the carousel stopped, I was still without my bag. Then I was nervous. It was 8:00pm in Atlanta, I had no suit and I had an interview scheduled with the airline at 7:00am. Through one of the many texting conversations, I had going, it was suggested that I try Brooks Brothers inside the Atlanta airport. Remember, just a few hours before, it was suggested that I rent a car and go to a legitimate place for a suit – “But no,” I thought, “that would be too expensive.” As if Brooks Brothers would be cheap! Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Brooks Brothers only had sports coats – expensive ones as predicted. I asked the guy working there if there were a place nearby where I could get a suit at this time of night. He thought about it for a minute before he suggested a strip mall with a Marshall’s and few other stores. 

I called before I headed over to learn that Marshall’s does carry men’s suits. A $15 cab ride later, I arrived at Marshall’s. I walked in and looked around but there were no suits to be found. I was told they were all out! TJ Maxx was next door. I walked in and against all odds, they had men’s suits! Yes, they had a suit! I tried on the coat, it was a little big, but it would work. Next –the pants. Two and half hours before, I had been told to go rent a car to buy a suit at a real store. This crossed my mind again as I stood in TJ Maxx with a large suit coat and pants that need to be hemmed. 

The Ross next door had nothing. I spotted a Target across the parking lot. There, I found a sign advertising men’s suits on sale. “Really?! This is great,” I thought. I found all the pants that I could want but, you guessed it, they didn’t have any jackets. 

Desperation set in at a whole new level. I was in the back of a Target store at 9:30pm the night before the interview for which I have worked most of my life. There was a slight feeling of emptiness and a great deal of fear that came over me. I asked myself how I could possibly show up for this interview without a suit? This is unheard of. 

While I was working on my commercial rating, I watched John King talking about what to do in the event of an engine failure. Jokingly he said. “Do you place your head between your knees and grab your ankles? Of course not!” John King was right – you don’t give up. I started to look around where I found a shirt, tie and the rest of the items I needed. 

The following morning, I awakened early, got ready and headed over to the airline’s headquarters. As I waited in the main lobby, I started to feel more confident. “This will work out,” I thought. “I have a good story to tell, and they are interested in me because I am here. All is good-to-go.” My confidence evaporated when another applicant walked in with a nice, brand-new-looking suit, impressive tie and polished shoes. He appeared to be a professional who was there on serious business. “This is what future first officers for this company look like when they show up to the interview,” I contemplated to myself. 

I allowed only a few seconds to pass before I introduced myself, which I felt compelled to do so I could explain my shabby appearance. “They lost my bag! I purchased this last night,” I tell my competition. The look I got back from him said, “You are so screwed.” I thought to myself that he was so right. His response was hesitant while seemingly laughing inside, “I guess it fits.” All that confidence I had built up was now gone. In the moment, I believed that lobby was the loneliest place on Earth. 

As subtly as I could, I let everyone I talked to know what had happened to my bag. When it came time for the one-on-one interview with H.R., I was given the chance to tell the story in a little more detail. 

I managed to test well, and the interview went well enough to make it to the drug test that afternoon. I had made it to day-two of the interview. Finally, my bag did show up that evening so I could actually wear my own suit for day-two. It had gone to Asheville, N.C. having been routed through Chicago to get to me. Ironically, I learned that while my suit sat on the ramp at Asheville, I was briefing the approach plate to Asheville in my interview. 

After the second day of interviews, that included more tests and a sim ride in a 737-200, we headed to the airport. We were told, “No news over the weekend is good news.” 

On Monday, I received a call to congratulate me about a new job. I am that guy who was hired by an airline without a suit. I have become a believer that anything is possible. 

SOURCEAero Crew News, March 2021
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Paul Wickstrom grew up an aviation enthusiast which led to his first flight as part of the EAA Young Eagles program. After that flight there was no doubt what he wanted to do. In his professional career, Paul as worked as a CFI, CFII, MEI, flown the Embraer ERJ-145 for large regional and is now an Airbus A320 pilot.

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