On Wednesday, January 26th, a company out in Pittsburgh called me and invited me to come in for an interview. Though no one was really entirely sure what the company did or if I'd be happy doing whatever it was, I was quite thrilled by the opportunity and immediately agreed to an interview that Friday. After I set the phone down, Reality came to have a little chat with me. It reminded me that Indiana is rather far from Pennsylvania, that I cannot drive, and that I had no place to stay. Short-term logic would have had me rescheduling the interview, but long-term emotion said, "Well, I have to go anyway."
This post is mostly Friday/a few other moments of note ... a more reflective entry is in the works.
My original plan (which, looking back on it, greatly overestimated my own endurance) was to take the train into Pittsburgh (arriving at 5 a.m.), interview (at 12:30 p.m.), and wander around aimlessly until I could return on the west-bound train (departure time, 1:22 a.m.). My mother (easily) talked me into spending more time than that out there, and with some emergency phonecalls, shelter was arranged for the duration of a week.
When I arrived at the Pittsburgh train station on Friday morning, it was cold (5 degrees), dark (5 a.m.), and rather quiet. I sat there for quite some time, so very anxious and incredibly afraid, sleepless and unsettled. What was I doing here? How was I going to get to where I needed to go without being mugged, murdered, or just plain flat out lost? After awhile, I plucked up my courage (such as it was) and called for a taxi. While I waited, a gentleman wearing a feathered hat offered me a ride in an unmarked, green sedan. "AAAH SCARY PLEASE DON'T LOOK SO SUSPICIOUS" cried the Panic part of my personality, while the Practical half politely turned him down and went on with life.
The actual taximan who appeared was far less flamboyant in headgear, opting instead for a baseball cap. Though my instructions were rather haphazard (a street was named after a Secretary of State or War, can't remember offhand, and I kept on substituting different holders of that office), his sense of direction was true. I set foot in the Attic just as the sunrise was beginning to brighten the hills and promptly went to sleep.
Fortunately, I woke up prior to my interview. I wanted to get there early, so I called for another taxi. With a slight afro, this taximan proved to be far more congenial than the first, and we had a small conversation about jobs, money, and all that fun stuff. Sometime during the course of chatter, I mentioned that I had arrived on the train. He started talking about how two people had attempted to commit suicide by standing on the train tracks ...
... and then it was time for the interview! Oh, such a joyous note. I joined three other clearly just-out-of-college folks on two black couches, eyed magazines advertising a lifestyle I never want to afford, awaiting my turn. I was the only Midwesterner there, yet somehow I wound up discussing the challenge of sledding in Indiana with the young man sitting next to me. The interview itself was unremarkable ... the wait for the taxi back to the Attic took longer. By this point, it was roughly 2 or 3 p.m. ... I had last eaten at 6 p.m. the previous day. Though cons have trained me quite well in the art of ignoring hunger, I had to admit that I was dying for a pizza. There just happened to be a newspaper flyer advertising a local pizza place that delivered lying on the stairs, so I took it as a sign. I ordered, received, ate, and fell asleep on the couch.
I was sick Saturday/Sunday, and spent most of the time sleeping it out.
I spent the remaining week becoming more familiar with the neighborhood in which I will reside, and with the bus system. I took many walks. Onward I marched, over puddle and slush, crossing the unshoveled expanses, until at last!! I found the zoo!
Getting my ass on the bus was a more challenging matter. Buses just aren't a habit I've developed yet, so it was hard to overcome my hesitations, but I managed (and, upon witnessing a blind passenger, felt terrible that the issue was such a personal challenge for me). I walked to one bus stop of many at a four-way intersection, and waited. As I stood there, I noticed that the bus I wanted stopped at the opposite corner! This was perplexing, so I crossed the street to wait over there instead, and spent the time having a "pleasant conversation" with an elderly Italian lady in a red wool coat. The bus arrived at the intersection again, and stopped at the corner I had just left! Well! Not much to do about that, so I waited until it came by my corner again, and boarded, only to find myself at the end of the bus route. It turns out I had gotten on the right bus going the wrong way and that the first corner had been the right bus going in the right direction.
I did manage to get off the bus in the right spot, though really it would have been incredibly dumb for me not to have, as there are multiple stops in the University of Pittsburgh/Carnagie Mellon area. I was completely impressed by the Cathedral of Learning, and had to work hard not to gawk as I looked at the building. I'm sure all 42 floors must be guarded by red tape deep, but the amazing number of arches, the giant study halls, and all the detail in the place really fired me up to continue my education at some point.
The train ride back to the Midwest was long (9 hours) and uneventful. Why I can sleep well in cars but not in trains, I may never figure out ...