Category Archives: Essays

What it Takes to Get a Job

By Alexandra H. Rodrigues
Published in Literary Booklet
Massapequa Library 2015

This is the story how I landed the job as Stewardess at a time when maybe 10 out of 2000 applicants made it.
The root of it applies to all candidates for any job.

Some twenty heads turned and forty eyes, green, blue, brown and mixed evaluated me when I walked into suite 06 of the Hilton Hotel in Berlin. I pulled up one of the folding chairs and nearly tore my left stocking in an effort to sit down gracefully. I was nervous, not at all sure of myself. When the clock of the nearby Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church, a well known monument of Berlin, chimed three, not a chair was left empty. I counted 32 candidates, including myself. In the silence one could have heard a fingernail crack.
An exotic looking Brunette and a pale Blonde ere skimming through Vogue and Harpers respectively, while the rest of us stared into the air with measuring side glances at each other. We were all wondering what was happening behind the closed door where the hiring committee of Pan American World Airways was holding court.

Age 21 and over. Weight 130 pounds or under. Height 5.4 to 5.8. Must be Bilingual or better. Must have High school diploma or preferably College. Those were the basic requirements. I had seen the Ad from Pan Am in the morning paper and had called in sick to my present, oh so boring job as secretary. I had decided to give it another go. Previously I had tried for the wings in the air with Lufthansa and TWA. Lufthansa turned me down because of my non-existing French and TWA because they could not sponsor me and had no service out of Berlin.
A look into my hand mirror assured me that I was neatly groomed. The navy suit enhanced my figure. It resembled the style of the Pan Am uniform and I had picked it for that reason.

One by one the candidates are called. There seemed to be a pattern. Those who only spent a short time inside, came back out with an unhappy demeanor about them. A few who spent longer inside looked rather pleased. My pondering about this fact was interrupted by one girl, who had been inside telling a girl who probably was her girlfriend “ They want to know what the capital of Alaska is Beats me so I guess it is over for me?

My palms got sweaty. Damn it, a vision of Dr. Luedke my geography teacher in High school flashed thru my mind “Girls pay attention.” I hadn’t. Now I was drawing a blank. I had to do something. Who would know? My father! I rushed to the phone booth which was close by. While I was still dialing I heard my name being paged. The receiver nearly dropped to the floor, I had to untangle myself from the cord and slammed the receiver back into the cradle. Without haste I made my way to the Interview. A lost cause for sure, so the quicker I got it over with the better. Literarily numb I found myself facing a panel of three important looking men and a little, elegant, older lady. The chief stewardess as I should find out later. “Is something wrong?” the man with the gray hair and the horn rimmed glasses inquired. I blurted out” I know you are asking what the capital of Alaska is. Well , I do not know ,but I tried to find out .you paged me before I could get the answer from my father.”
To my surprise everybody laughed. Totally deflated I now thought I had made a fool out of myself on top of it. The lady offered me a seat. Questions which I remembered from the previous interviews were put to me. “ Do you like flying?” “Do you like people?” Are you willing to relocate should it become necessary? It surprised me that they took still so much time to interview me. I answered honestly and without embellishment. Then it was over. They all stood up simultaneously. With a jovial smile, the man who had greeted me came over to me and shook my hand:”You will get a letter from us in about a week.” He said.
I knew or seemed to know what he referred to. I had gotten two letters before– sorry, we regret…
I have no way to describe the surprise I felt when he added: “You will be accepted. Welcome to Pan Am.”
I was as happy as I was stunned. Today after many years of flying I understand that they had hired me because I came across as unpresumptuous and because when in a bind I had taken the initiative to solve a crisis situation.

They Would Not be Remembered

Published May 2015 in Great South Bay Mag

In front of me is a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY 11735.  It is from November 8, 1993, directed to Mrs. Del Zappala, 222 Sullivan Street, New York, NY 10012.

It reads:

Dear Mrs. Zappala: I have enclosed a map of the cemetery with the section and grave location of your husband, Richard A. Zappala. The burial was conducted on November 4, 1993, and the remains placed in grave 1378A.

The information you provided on the ‘Certificate of Monument Date’ will be utilized to order the headstone.  Once the headstone is received in approximately 0-12- days it will be installed. We will mail you a post card once the stone has been installed.

If we may be of any further assistance please contact Annette Bianco at 516-454-4949.

Sincerely, Mike Cariota, Cemetery Director.

This letter was in a file, which my husband Raymond Rodrigues, had kept.  He too has passed on in the meantime. As a matter of fact, he too is buried in a Military Cemetery, but he is at Calverton, New York. I would have preferred him to be in Farmingdale, as this is much closer to my residency; however in 2010 there was no longer any space available in Farmingdale.

“Do the dead know when we visit them?”

One day in the future I will join him at Calverton.  This is a thought which is not exactly pleasant to me and oddly erroneous too.  I am not even an American Citizen; I came from a country, Germany, where my husband won his medals of war, including the Purple Heart.  Just like my entire life can hardly be called traditional, this too falls under the heading “Idiosyncrasy. “

Richard Zappala was my husband’s nephew, the son of his oldest sister Hilda. When I met him, he was already in his second marriage to Del Zappala. He had gotten hurt during a maneuver while in the Service and thus was buried with Military honors.

I remember Richard as a pleasant personality, heavyset, a smoker and drinker and always full of jokes. I knew him for nearly 30 years but only met him at family gatherings, maybe once or twice a year. Del his wife was a charming Blonde, a good singer and somebody nice to have around.  As I understand she was many years older than Richard, maybe about 15, and she was the bread winner.  She loved Richard dearly and gladly accommodated his aimless lifestyle.  In old times Richard was said to have been on road shows as an actor, but I cannot remember him ever working while I knew him. His failure to make a living obviously contributed to the break-up of his first marriage to Sybill.  He died at the early age of 53, succumbing to a heart attack while food shopping.

Del died many years later. During my last phone conversation with her she mentioned that she was working on her blood pressure, which was at stroke level and that we would get together when she felt better.  Well she did have a stroke shortly after this call and died several months later.  Her body was sent to her family members someplace at the outskirts of Pennsylvania.  At this point nobody, being that there is only Mary, my sister-in-law, who did not know the answer when being asked, knows the address. Unfortunately, Mary Petit, my sister-in-law had a fall-out with her son and their connection has broken off.  Mary’s daughter, Diana passed away July 2011, following a devastating fire in their house in Jersey and also suffering from Liver cancer. Richard Zappala also had had a sister, Dorothy.  She too died from cancer a few years after him. There are no offspring from either Richard or Dorothy. Mary’s son Mark however has two children, Tiana and Garrett, and I am contemplating to possibly send them a copy of this write-up in the near future.  I myself am of advanced age and the term “In the future” will be chiseled into “Near future” by me from now on.

In the “very near future” I will compose a write-up about my own family. Luckily I have kept pictures, letters and hear- say anecdotes since my early youth.  Maybe my grandson, Adam, now 5 years old, will one day take the notes into his hands and venture  on a trip into the past.

(The point that I would like to make with this outpour of data, which obviously has no meaning at all for any of you, is that our instructor Mary Haughey has done a great service to us by challenging us to write down our memories. She did that in a caring and stimulating way and for that we all should be grateful.)

People and happenings, otherwise forgotten, will live on in the written word!