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A career that I loved and yet with regrets…

South China Morning Post, an English newspaper in Hong Kong, which was a compulsory reading material while I was in High School. Every now and then, I would see Cathay Pacific Airways’ recruitment advertisement on the front page. The page usually featured a pair of Flight Attendants, a colleague I had known before I joined Cathay for over thirty years, and a pretty young Hong Kong girl. The walk-in recruitment back then was always held at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel with thousands of applicants. Still, perhaps only twenty of them would be selected as candidates.

In 1987, soon after I finished High School, I submitted my first application to be a Cabin Crew of Cathay. There have been many names for our job as years passed, from Stewardess, hostess, Flight Attendant to Cabin crew. I somehow prefer Steward. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt to the interview. Can you believe it? I had no idea about the importance of grooming and respect, especially for this job. Needless to say, I didn’t even make it to the second interview. There were four interviews before you were officially hired, plus a medical check-up. It’s challenging to be one of them.

Another year went by, and I busted at my A-Level, after which I thought I might as well start working, whatever related to travel. I got a job at a Travel Agency as a Consultant. My ex-boss was so kind and willing to hire me as I had no experience and knowledge in the industry, let alone basic office skills. I didn’t even know how to send a telex. Grateful to my boss, who was so patient and generous. My pay was about four hundred pounds a month – not bad as a first job in the eighties, right?

One day after work, walking past the Shangri-La Hotel in my office attire, I saw many young guys and girls. Some were dressed up, and some were in shabby clothes walking into the hotel. I was wondering what was happening, so I walked in to find out. It was another walk-in-interview of Cathay, no wonder. Then I thought, since I was already there, I might try my luck again to see whether they would take me this time, after hours of wait, my turn. I still remember she was a middle-aged lady in Chief Purser’s uniform from Hong Kong. After a brief conversation, she asked me to show her my nails and how I walk. It soon ended after that, saying that I would be notified in two weeks, which meant you failed. They usually would give you the date and venue of the following interview if you passed. Oh well, whatever, I headed to a pub nearby to have a pint of booze to chill out without feeling lost as I already had a job that I cherished though the nature was not quite the same.

Stockholm airport, 1995 Winter.

In 1990, after seriously considering whether to buy a flat in Hong Kong or study abroad with my little bit of savings, I chose Sydney, Australia, for further studies. It wasn’t the best decision I had made in my life but not one I would regret. I experienced a lot, so much that one would never be able to stay in his home town working his ass off to pay his mortgage. In 1995, not long after I returned from Sydney, I returned to my ex-boss and started working for her again. She was such a wonderful boss giving me so many opportunities. However, that full-page advertisement of Cathay still appealed to me. I was almost twenty-seven, reaching the job’s age limit, so I decided to give it one last try. This time in my Hugo Boss suit with Hermes’s tie and pocket-handkerchief. A gracious slender Korean lady interviewed me. Our conversation was very brief. Not a good sign, I supposed, but out of my surprise, she gave me a piece of paper stating the time and date of the interview at Cathay Pacific’s building at the airport. Walking out of the hotel, I wondered why it went so smooth. Apparently, all about grooming and deportment. They were very strict on all these little details back then, unlike nowadays; as long as you could reach the overhead locker to close them, you would be hired. I was thrilled to finally get the job I always wanted and started my new life at thirty thousand feet and all over the world.

Senior Purser getting ready for boarding at L2 door, Singapore 2019

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