Posted by: deerharas | August 20, 2008

Small Town Girl Meets the Big City

I’m not really a small town girl. I grew up in what I would consider a moderate sized city and for the past four years, I lived in the OKC metro area. I’m used to driving in traffic and am not particularly intimidated by big cities. All this to say, however, that today my new “big city” sure made me feel like a small town girl.

It’s not like it’s the first time I visited. Perhaps that’s the problem … today I wasn’t a visitor. I was there on business. I wasn’t my usual touristy self, aimlessly walking downtown taking in the sites. Today I had a purpose, a job interview in fact. A job interview that required I leave my safe suburban bubble and venture out into new Chicago territory. I was almost as excited for that as the actual job prospect itself.

I’ve only driven into the city a couple times; I usually try to opt for public transportation considering the better cost and convenience. But I was informed that I could find free (or at least metered) parking near the site of my interview. So rather than running the risk that I might miss my train, misread the train schedule, or get lost on the El, I opted for driving in.

This being an interview and all, I wanted to make sure I was on time. Although MapQuest told me that I could make it in 47 minutes, I gave myself a good two hour cushion not knowing what traffic/construction would be like. About fifteen minutes into my commute, I remembered that I forgot to print off my transcript (which I was supposed to bring to the interview), so for the next twenty minutes or so I juggled coffee, egg soufflé, and cell phone as I maneuvered various interstates. I called three different offices at OBU trying to get a pin number that would allow me to access my transcript online so I could at least print it off when I got there. I even tried to get my roommate to go back to our apartment and rustle through my important papers to find the pin that I had written down somewhere. Nothing really worked out, although I did get to have a nice little chat with one of my former professors.

So I already felt a little frazzled going into an interview not completely prepared. However, MapQuest steered me right, and I easily found the place. Next was parking.

See, I have a relatively new realized fear. We’ll call it “One Way Phobia.” When driving in areas with a proliferation of one way streets, I am constantly worried that I will inadvertently go the wrong way. This causes me to drive particularly slow, sometimes starting and then breaking again quickly because I’m unsure if I’ve judged the street correctly. Couple this delightful driving tendency with my Texas license plates, and I’m sure the true Chicagoans love me.

Well, once I firmly established that I was not in fact turning the wrong way down the street with free parking, I was excited to see a nice open spot. Oops, a fire hydrant. I figured there was enough room up in front however, and it wasn’t until after I had finished parking and got out of my car that I realized I was still over the line. Back in the car, and further up the street I went. I was barely able to avoid the sprinkler that accounted for the other open space on the street, but I did and enjoyed my short walk to the office building. I felt like I was on the Cosby show … all the cute houses side by side with their little 4×6 foot yards. I half expected to run into Cliff helping Rudy ride her bike down the street.

Time to find my interview spot. I was armed with an address and suite number, walking down the right street, and with a good thirty minutes to spare. I passed a young business man outside on a smoke break, and I wondered to myself if he could tell I didn’t belong there. Well, I soon got my answer once I realized I had passed the office I was aiming for as the numbers began to get smaller and not larger. I sheepishly turned around, not fifteen feet after passing him, smiled what I’ll call my small town girl smile, and passed him again, this time paying much closer attention to the numbers.

I eventually found the right one, but was surprised to find that the building was locked. Surely this couldn’t be right … was there another entrance I didn’t notice? I tried the door again, thinking perhaps it was just a little harder to open, but no, it really was locked. This was perhaps my biggest small town moment of the day until I realized that this was one of those buildings where you have to be buzzed up. Now, not only did I feel like I was on the Cosby show, but I just knew if I scanned the resident/office list to the side of the door I would find “Seinfeld, J.” somewhere near the top. Granted, both Cliff and Jerry lived in New York (and were not real … just in case you thought I was really crazy), but those big city lessons I learned via their shows still applied. I was just getting ready to “buzz” Suite 202 when Smoke Break Guy walks up (it happened to be his building too) and says, “Here, I’ll help.” I guess he had witnessed my two failed attempts at opening the door. I was grateful, a little embarrassed, and a little disappointed. I was on my way to figuring it out … five seconds later and I would have been buzzed in, completely on my own. I thanked Smoke Break Guy and walked in, having successfully reached my destination.

The interview went well; barring failed background and reference checks, I should have a second (and better paying) job this fall. My lack of transcript was no big deal, and about an hour later (including my getting there super early), I was out the door. I took a little time to walk around the neighborhood. I visited a thrift store and almost bought a t-shirt with the Hebrew word for righteousness on the front. I didn’t have any cash, however, and wasn’t going to spend nine extra dollars to be able to use my debit card. Walking back to my car, a guy offered to wash my feet, which really completed the whole big city experience for me, I would say.

I drove around a little before heading back to the ‘burbs. I navigated my way to Wrigley Field which was nearby. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but even I have heard of and seen pictures of Wrigley Field. My first thought upon seeing it was, “Wow, where is all the parking?” I guess I just remembered walking through the massive parking lots outside the Arlington Ballpark the few times I went as a child. Poor baseball fan that I am, however, I would love to catch a game there sometime.

Anyway, I made it back a little older and wiser, I suppose. Perhaps a bit more humble. I hope this is just the first of Small Town Sarah’s adventures in the big city!

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