Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fear and Loathing on the Way to Montpelier - 2

After my first, failed attempt, I was invited again to interview at the company in Vermont.  This time I had an easier time of it. The US Airways flight to Philadelphia was jammed, but on time, and I had time to connect to my commuter flight to Burlington.

What I didn’t understand was Terminal F.

The main terminals at PHL are A through D.  F is the commuter terminal, and you get there via a shuttle bus.  I had a boarding pass that identified my gate, so when I got to the terminal I went straight there, all the way to the end of the terminal.  They were making continual announcements, and it was very crowded and confusing.  I realized as I got closer to departure time that my flight must have changed gates, but there were no displays anywhere I could check.  I asked a US Airways person behind the counter where the Burlington flight was, and it was at the opposite end of the terminal.

I had to hustle but I made it.  At the boarding gate there were three or four gates close together, with flights being called simultaneously, and basically enough seats for about a fifth of the people waiting. 

Frequent flyers often use another word that begins with F to describe your experience in terminal F at PHL.  I just sort of think of the First Circle – more Solzhenitsyn’s than Dante’s.

The airplane was quite small, a CRJ.  It was Air Wisconsin operating as US Airways Express.  My small carry-on fit under the seat.  The overhead would not accommodate anything bigger than, say, the New York Times, and I mean daily, not Sunday. The plane flew up the Jersey shore and then crossed Long Island somewhere around the Queens/Nassau border.  The flight up to Burlington was quick. It was growing dark as we got near Burlington, and there was a hell of a lot of snow on the ground.

Once the plane landed in Burlington, I walked to the baggage claim area where I was met by a driver from the insurance company. He was also picking up another individual who was on the same plane that I was on. When we got to the car the other individual jumped into the front of the car, and I had sit in the back, which I thought was kind of a little bit rude in that I've never been there before and needed to learn how to find my way. The drive from Burlington over to Montpelier takes around 30 minutes and I had never seen snow piled so high in my life.  The weather was actually pretty good, the temperature was not terribly cold, and we got over to the company in good order. The driver dropped off the other guy who was whose car had been left in the company parking lot, and took me over to the guesthouse where, it turns out, they don't have anything to eat for dinner, so he volunteered to take me into town so I could get some takeout at a restaurant.

The restaurant was called Sarducci’s, and it was very busy, and they did have some take out and I got some pasta with chicken which was served in a cardboard container. This is a thing in Vermont: they don't like Styrofoam and use cardboard were other places would use Styrofoam. I went back to the guesthouse with the driver and the band they had some  utensils in the kitchen and I was able to eat my dinner. The guesthouse is extremely spartan; the rooms have a queen size bed and no television.  I spent a very fitful night, mostly because the room heater kept coming on, even though it wasn’t particularly cold in the room, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.

The next day I interviewed all day at the insurance company. This is what it looked like right outside the guest house.  They told me half the snow had melted since the big storm that stopped me the first time I tried to get there.

Some of the people I interviewed with I knew from prior work experience, but had never met face to face.  It’s always fun, in that they never look like how you’d imagined. It happened to be March 17, and I had a free lunch in the company cafeteria. I ordered corned beef, it was beyond any doubt the worst corned beef I've ever had. Probably the worst corned beef anyone has ever had. Mind you the cafeteria was actually quite good, and all the time I went there I never had another bad meal. The people were friendly and accommodating and I ended up working out the deal to where I would do some consulting work for them.

The HR lady was particularly impressed that I had my L.L. Bean mug for coffee.  They charge extra for cardboard, but you get a price break if you provide your own mug.

After interviewing with six or seven people, another driver took me back to the airport. What I failed to do was to observe carefully how to get to the airport because it's really tricky. There are not really big on signs in Vermont, and at the airport there's just one tiny little sign under a tree that you really would never see unless you already knew it was there, and so you can drive around for hours trying to find the airport. You wouldn't think it would be hard to find an airport.

I caught a 5 o'clock or so flight from Burlington down to Washington Reagan and all that worked out fine. I was feeling pretty good because things had gone so well.  I found a seat at a restaurant and had something to eat.  I then connected to the US Airways flight (actually Republic Airways operating as USAir Express) and got back to DFW airport in reasonably good shape.

What I did not know is that this was the first, last, and only time that my travel would be routine.