(1) Relocate to Chicago and work in the Technology department at the Obama '08 campaign
(2) Work with an organization on U street that provides IT (I'd be doing websites) to non-profits.
The week went something like this:
Tuesday afternoon I interviewed with a group that provides internet solutions to progressive candidates and companies. The pay would be pretty decent, but I got a pretty bad vibe during the interview as the Type A lady interviewing me sucked down coffee and put words in my mouth. They seemed far too eager, and my suspicions were confirmed when I found out that four people had left the company just a few weeks before.
Wednesday morning I woke up early (umm.. 7:30?) and took the bus with R, continuing past her stop to Georgetown University for an interview with a group there that keeps track of the student and faculty databases. The job seemed a little dull just from the description and didn't pay well, but the potential for tuition reimbursement kept me interested. In the end, the boring part proved true and there was also an added layer of politics that I hadn't expected. So a definite "no" on that one. I told them that I had the Obama interview the next day and they said that they hoped I decided to stay in DC... I suppose I should email to tell them not to consider me.
After the interview, I walked to catch the bus and found that I had just missed it and could actually walk home before the next one would catch up to me... so I walked from two blocks north of the Social Safeway on Wisconsin all the way home. Walking two and a half miles in dress shoes is no fun, especially when no one in DC is courteous enough to have shoveled their sidewalk. It's been five days, people!
Upon arriving home, I changed, packed up the list of things that I'd forgotten (still ending up forgetting the power supply for my laptop) and started walking for the metro. While I was doing all this, I was also going back and forth with the U St. IT Nonprofit people trying to postpone having to accept or decline their offer. We arranged a call for 12:30pm and I realized that I was going to be underground then if I took the metro, so I walked out to 14th and got a cab instead.
Foregoing the trunk, I put my two bags next to me in the back and found myself with zero leg room left by the shotgun seat.
"Must have had a big guy up there earlier, huh?"
No reply. Oh Well. I punched an email out on the blackberry to R as we proceeded to hit every red light between P st and Constitution Ave.
"I'd like to ask you a question," my driver said.
"Shoot," I replied.
"Is there a difference between likeness... or 'like' and 'love'? If I 'like' somebody or I 'love' somebody, what is the difference?"
"Hrm... Well, let's see. They're definitely not the same, that's for sure. Maybe 'love' is 'like' plus some more?"
"Maybe," he said.
"Or maybe, 'love' has to do with how much you would be willing to do for someone else. Like, if you'd be willing to give up your life for them, then that would be love?"
Silence. I started to reconsider my idea. "Actually," I said, "that doesn't really work because a lot of people would risk their lives to save a stranger that they don't love or like, so that doesn't seem like a good measurement at all."
"Yes. You're right. But that is just human nature, not love."
"Maybe 'love' is being able to make the conscious decision to give up your life for someone? I dunno. Maybe we need to work our way back and start over."
I started to think again. "What about the fact that you can love someone that you don't like?"
He gave me a skeptical glance. "That's true? You can love someone that you don't like?"
"So let's say you have a family member that you don't really like, but you still love them at the same time, right? You could even break up with someone and still love them, but you wouldn't necessarily like who they are as a person."
"Oh yes. That is true," he said. "Like my brother. I used to like him and love him, but now I don't like him at all."
"Exactly," I said.
Now the driver started doing that thing where he turns around and looks at me more than he drives. I hate that. "I think," he said, "that if you 'like' someone, you can name specific things that you like about them, but that there is no 'thing' you can name about someone that makes you love them. My ex wife..."
"Oh, here we go," I thought.
"My ex wife, when she left me, there is nothing left that I like about her. My friends tell me that she is evil, but I feel that I still love her. I don't understand. But it doesn't hurt me. I think it doesn't hurt me, because there is nothing real about her left for me to like."
"There's nothing tangible, yeah." I interject."
"Exactly. There is just this feeling. Which airline?"
"She has gone out and bought a new car and a house and she can't afford any of these things and she is just trying to make me feel jealous. Loneliness. But I don't. This happened to a friend of mine who has since died, God bless his soul, wherever he is. His wife leaves him and she gets the new car and the new house and it drives him crazy. He starts to drink, but he drinks alone and I don't find out until it is too late."
"Oh my God, I'm really sorry to hear that."
"It is really too bad. But I won't let that happen to me. I'm a happy person. $15.50."
"Here's $20. Keep the change."
Now that's what I call a good cab ride.
I had plenty of time before the flight and took a call with the U St. folks to talk about salary details. It turns out that a percentage of the salary is commission-based (contingent on billable hours), but the percentages are small enough and the requirements low enough that it should be easy to make the salary and then some.
After hashing that out, I looked around for any airport food that was meatless besides a pretzel and ended up with some kind of highfalutin mozzarella and tomato on a baguette that cost far, far more than the parts and labor that were put into it. Marx would be pissed. I'm not a vegetarian, by the way, I'm just scared of airport meat. What's it doing all the way out there at the airport? Gross.
The flight landed in Chicago a little ahead of schedule and I had no problem finding the train to downtown. While aboard, I emailed the Chief Technology Officer at Obama to let him know that I had landed already and asked if they might want to get part of the interview out of the way that afternoon or if they needed any help. I also realized that I'd totally forgotten what stop I needed and found no maps aboard the train. Luckily, I can get Google Maps on the blackberry and it has the Chicago train stations listed (a luxury that we don't get in DC), so I was able to figure it out that way. Once at the hotel, I got a call from the Obama guys and they said that I should just come over for the interview right then. I slapped on my suit, brushed my teeth and went over. Security wasn't as tight as I'd expected, but I still had to show ID and be on a list (I'm not really sure what more than this I'd expected).
The interview, conducted in a makeshift conference room, went really well and they asked me to come back the next day to see what a day-in-the-life was like and if I liked it.
After the interview, I emailed some old coworkers who were working on a project in Chicago as they knew I would be in town and had talked about meeting up. I also realized that I had only packed the one suit and white shirts and was going to have to buy some new pants for the day-in-the-life on Thursday unless I wanted to wear black suit pants and a white shirt and look like a waiter all day. I did think it was a little weird that the guy who interviewed me kept saying that the dress was business-casual when almost everyone was wearing jeans. Luckily, there was a Nordstrom Rack two blocks from the hotel, so I managed to find a semi-decent (OK. Horrendous) pair of slacks for $30 while texting back and forth with my former coworkers about where we were eating. Unfortunately, right as I was walking out to go to dinner, I felt that little sting in the back of my throat that usually signals a cold coming on.
Thursday morning I woke up at 6:30am to find that I had been totally right about the impending cold that I'd felt the night before. I had planned to wake up, shower and go out to see the Cloud Gate (or as I call it "the big bean") in Millennium Park, but decided to augment the outing with a trip to Walgreens for Zicam and Cold Eeze. The bean was deserted, so I managed to get all of the great pictures that you see on the right.
Just being in the Obama HQ was an amazing experience; to realize that so many hugely important things are happening right there and controlled by so few. The day went really well and I got to do everything from looking at contribution and voter data to troubleshooting website problems and connecting people to the LAN. Before I left around 5pm, we discussed my thoughts on the job and I said that, if it were in DC, I'd be there in a second, but that the Chicago-relocation-thing was a pretty huge drawback.
I walked back over to the hotel, grabbed my bags and hopped on the Orange line back to the airport. Security was easy and I had time to get disappointed in myself over the New York Times crossword puzzle before the flight (that thing isn't easy... especially on a Thursday). There were some seriously high winds hitting National Airport when we came in to land around 11pm and we ended up having to take a second pass. We were probably only a few hundred feet from the ground on the first pass when a huge gust of wind dipped the right wing. I assume that, in recovering from this, the pilot had to sacrifice his first landing attempt and that's why we went in for a second, which he said was "going to be bumpy, but the wind is going right up the runway, so that's good!"
Friday morning I woke up early (umm.. 7:30 again?) to be at the Center for Applied Linguistics for an interview at 9am. I was still reeling from the cold, but was also excited enough about finally having found a job that was semi-related to my major. That interview also went really well and, after I explained that I was already postponing offers, they sounded like they were going to fast-track the reference-checking process. They explained that I'd be working on a five-year project for second language education that was funded by a grants. This was actually an interview that I really had to work to get. I didn't hear anything back for two weeks after I'd emailed twice and eventually I called to see if they had even received my resume. It turned out that the person doing the hiring had been on vacation and was just getting back. He asked me for an interview the day that I called. Not too shabby. The big hang-up about this one is that there would be no opportunity for any kind of promotion unless I had a Master's degree. Another draw-back was that the position wasn't very well described and might actually end up being really, really boring; sitting around trying to make animations and diagrams in Flash for test questions for 5th graders.
After I got back from the interview, I had to call up the U St. Nonprofit gig and ask them to give me a day to think as I was still weighing the Obama, Linguistics and U St option. They were happy to give me the time and also mentioned that they were going to pay for me to go for some Cold Fusion training the week before I would start. I asked them to give me until Saturday and then waited a bit for a call from the Obama campaign. I was hoping that they'd found some kind of position in DC, but when I finally heard from them around 8pm, this didn't appear to be the case. I left them by saying that if there was ever anything in DC, they should give me a call and they insisted that I still send my receipts for the flight out to Chicago, so no bridges burned there, I don't think.
In the end, after weighing my options, I decided to go with the U St. group that offers IT to nonprofits. I think it offers the greatest number of opportunities for learning new things, doesn't require relocating to Chicago and won't lock me into a position for five years.
So, yeah. That's it. Two weeks to the day from my departure at the old firm and I have a new job with a start date of March 12th and some training the week before. As an added bonus, I have next week off! What to do?