Last Saturday, I got up at 6:30. That wasn't to leave, it was to get in an exercise walk before leaving. I didn't expect to have time to walk while I was in Virginia, and thus didn't even bring the workout gear. I left just before 9, and thanks to traffic in Queens and going through Manhattan, I wasn't out of the city by 11. After that, it was mostly smooth sailing, with only a tiny bit of traffic in Washington. That said, all that driving was exhausting. Once I arrived and checked in, it was nothing but dinner and basketball watching.
On Sunday, we had to be there at 7:30, with the schedule getting underway at 8. I was staying at a Red Roof Inn just down the street from the Embassy Suites where the conference took place. Driving the short distance proved problematic; in addition to the conference attendees, all the Embassy's guests from Saturday night were still present and parked. I had to drive back to the Red Roof and walk over. The morning consisted of interview coaching, followed by lunch while I took a test requested by one of the companies. After lunch, the presentations began. Some were made by the hiring managers who would conduct the interviews the following day; in the cases where they hadn't arrived in town yet, Orion's account executives presented the companies. At the start of the day, each candidate got a sheet listing the companies Orion had thought would be a good match. At around 4:00, we had to rank our preferences, even though the presentations hadn't been completed yet -- they went for another two hours.
The schedule of interviews was drawn up by the conference organizers on Sunday night; we didn't get it in our hands until Monday morning. As I looked over mine, I noticed a problem right away. Company X was on a different schedule of interview slots than all the others, and I had overlapping interviews. This was fixed right away, though I lost one interview. I did six interviews for five companies, and I walked out satisfied that something positive would happen. Unfortunately, within two hours of departing, I was texted with the news that Company X elected not to bring me forward. This briefly got to me, so much that I didn't want to go have dinner initially. I began to seriously think that I might have gone 0-for-5 and this trip would end up being for naught. But I relaxed, and sent out thank-you messages to the other companies.
Tuesday was the fourth consecutive day with an alarm sounding at 6:30. I'd pre-positioned everything I could in my car the night before, to minimize the number of trips down there in the morning. I needed to make a quick stop at the Wal-Mart; I needed some ice for my Coca-Cola (the machine at the Red Roof was broken) and a tube of sunblock (since the tube I bought last fall ended up in a trash can at MacArthur Airport when I flew to Phoenix three months ago -- thanks so much, TSA!). I had the misfortune of being behind a lady whose credit card was declined and had some trouble extracting money from an ATM. After about three minutes of that, the clerk canceled her order out and rang me through; of course, just as the clerk did that, the lady started walking back from the ATM.
Unlike the trip down on Saturday, I had no intention of using Interstates 64 and 95, instead using the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and driving up the Delmarva Peninsula. As soon as I got onto I-64 east, I saw a sign saying it was backed up. Thus I diverted to I-664. I quickly learned: Every bridge and tunnel in the Hampton Roads is backed up around 7:30 on a Tuesday morning. It's comparable to New York City, without any of the things that make the Big Apple awesome. It took a lot of patience and careful navigation thanks to the GPS to get to the CBBT, but from there, it was clear. By the time I reached central New Jersey, I completely deferred to the Garmin and its route recommendations. I would normally be inclined to go through Staten Island and Brooklyn; instead, I went all the way up to the George Washington Bridge, which was much faster. I finally arrived at 4 p.m., and had fully intended to go walking when I got home. Those intentions evaporated about ten steps up my driveway, when it fully hit me how physically and mentally exhausted I was. The coup de grace of that trip came after I came back from getting dinner about an hour later. I passed my mom in the driveway, and instead of greeting me or asking how the trip was, the first thing out of her mouth was, "can you check on the state tax refund?" Yes, the problem of the refund not having arrived yet is my responsibility, since I did the taxes for my parents this year. But the timing of that question was so awful that I brushed it off. Dropping a problem in my lap after I've been driving all day is NOT the best way to get me to deal with it. (I did check about half an hour later.)
While I was driving back on Tuesday, I got a call from one of the account executives, saying that one of the companies wanted to move forward. I'm flying out to their facility for a final interview early next week. In a series of calls yesterday, I learned that the other companies had all elected to pass, for various reasons; one thought I would be a "flight risk" -- that is, I was probably overqualified for the positions they were offering. But at least there remains one live prospect. Whether or not it pans out, the trip was worthwhile. The interview coaching and experience was helpful, as was the résumé rework that happened prior to the conference. It certainly was better than the process of "apply and wait" that has marked most of the last few months.