Today I had an interesting experience. I went to a.... well it was like an SF con, only it wasn't one. Maybe we could call it TragiCon.
For some background, I should point out that my new employer just moved their headquarters to Troy. I should also note that I've been "on the bench" this week, meaning working at the home office on some requirements for a new system. I should finally note that our office in Troy is essentially next door
to the Troy Marriott, which incidentally is the lovely establishment in which ConFusion
(my favorite SF con) is held each year (it's next week in fact!).
There, now that we've established the setting.... I was driving to work this morning, and encountered a surprising traffic jam. There was a long line of cars waiting to turn right -- fortunately they were lined up just past where I wanted to turn, so I didn't have to wait long. Until I turned into my parking lot. It was filled with cars circling around, looking for non-existent empty spaces, getting in my way! There were also streams of people wearing suits, walking next door toward the Marriott.
Apparently there was apparently some fancy gig going on, and all the overflow people were trying to use my parking lot! I headed toward our parking structure where there is usually plenty of overflow space, and even that was full. Not only couldn't I find myself a space, but I also got stuck in a jam of traffic on the roof of the parking structure. There were piles of snow everywhere, making the turns even tighter than usual. People were getting to the top, realizing there was no room, turning around, getting in each others' way, and generally making a mess of things. I was just trying to get to work!
Finally I lucked out and passed somebody who was leaving. I quickly backed into his space the instant he pulled out. Much relieved, I sprang out of my car, grabbed my stuff, and hurried (through -6 degree temperature) down the stairs to my office building.
I saw lots more people walk by me in fancy clothes, and when I got into work I asked if anybody knew what was going on. Apparently there was a career fair going on at the Marriott for automotive engineers
. Suddenly what had started out as frustrating just seemed kind of tragic. Every automotive engineer in the greater Detroit area must have converged here, hoping to find new employment.
We all turned to look out the window, and we watched "the parade" as I dubbed it. On a bitterly cold day like today, the sidewalks of this office district would normally be totally empty. Instead there was a steady trickle of professionals, fancied up in suits and dress shoes, picking their way carefully through the snow on the poorly plowed sidewalk, each clutching a portfolio and a worried expression.
It was sobering, especially only two weeks after my two and a half month unemployment spell ended. "It makes me so grateful to be here," I commented. "Warm, indoors, and employed." The others nodded, as we headed to our tasks.
On my lunch break, I walked over to the Marriott to see what it was like inside. It was -- well, it reminded me of ConFusion. Lots of people congregating about in that same lobby, wearing costumes, talking to one another. Only the costumes were suits, neckties, skirts, trench coats, and smart trousers. There were a lot more people on cell phones, and a lot less merriment. But otherwise, it felt fairly con-like. People were playing games, even if the games were "let me try to impress you" sort of games. Hotel staff was hurrying about trying to keep things organized. Regular hotel guests were walking by with suitcases, eying the groups in puzzlement.
After checking out the TragiCon for a few minutes, I walked through the bitter cold back to my building for some hot soup. I'm glad to have a job, and as the Detroit economy falls apart around my ears I hope I can keep it. I'm delighted to see that a defense contractor
is opening a new office nearby to snap up some of the engineering talent we have languishing here, and I hope lots of good people find new opportunities. Times are hard, as evidenced by the hundreds of hopefuls I saw today.