January 16th, 2009


A Fast Report From The Front

I arrived shortly ago at the Troy Marriott, where BAE Syatems is holding a career fair today from 9am to 8pm. Some press on the event claims they're hiring across the board due to the purchase of TRW's Sterling Heights plant last month.

When i arrived at the Marriott entrance on Big Beaver Road, the Troy PD had the hotel's driveways blocked off with flares and patrol cars. "What you see is what you get," the officer i hailed through my passenger window replied, and suggested i check out the nearby Community Center for parking.

Not knowing where it was, i went around the perimeter of the hotel property as best i could -- noting at least one neighboring property that had sealed off its own lot to prevent it being lost to overflow -- looking for options. Everywhere i looked were people in businesswear and longcoats, some trudging through snow in the sidewalk-free business district, others trying to cross four lanes of divided traffic in dress shoes while maintaining their hair and not dropping their handsome resume folders.

Thankfully the officer was right. Around the back of the hotel block, the Troy Community Center had not only taken on overflow parking, but had been added to the route of the Marriott's shuttle. In my case, the driver beeped to hail me just after i'd tucked the cuffs of my Hickey Freeman suit into my Red Wings and started trudging off into a roughly-hewn trail already blazed by the intrepid and desperate in the negative-ten (Fahrenheit, thank you) winter morning. I'd noticed the trail thanks to someone who was returning to the lot via the path.

"Are you coming from the Marriott?" I had asked, "The BAE fair? Is it open?"

"It's open," he'd replied, "but there are too many people!"

The shuttle driver said this was the most he'd ever seen.

"Fifteen thousand ... and that's not a joke number -- that's a real number."

"What's the capacity of a typical event at this facility?" I asked.

"Well when Hanna Montana was here ... at about midnight we had three thousand. ... I never thought i'd see more than that."

I guess Billy Ray's daughter has got nothing on British defense contractors.

"I'm surprised more people didn't take the subway," i'd joked after i got into the front passenger seat of the packed shuttle, "Oh, wait-- they tore that out 100 years ago so that we could have a strong economy. Somehow i forgot."

I try not to be bitter, but as i sit here in the hotel's steakhouse having my coffee and trying to get my bearings because the lobby barely has any room to stand -- let alone sit -- i'm sure some find that more difficult. Outside the temporarily quiet repose of the classy restaurant, there are thousands of people standing outside in a line so long that i'm not even sure it's a line, nor where it goes. I see men and women of every age and ethnicity. I see a man in a lovely conservative suit and a red turban. I see a man who looks like he's been working a factory job for fifteen years strapped into what might regrettably be his best tie. Thousands are standing there in utter professional civility in single-breasted pinstripes, stockings, hair gel, and/or uncomfortable shoes.

It's time to join them.

"Hey, everybody, despite what they tell you," i'd turned around to my fellows in the shuttle just before we got out of the van, "we're all in this together. Good luck."