Downwind of Amsterdam
July 2002

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July 15, 2002

Secret visit

looking to the north: the greatest skyline I knowFlew to Midway early Saturday morning--two days ago--on a ridiculously cheap ATA ticket.

Drove to the Lake in a little rental car. Stretched my economy-class-cramped legs in the new summer grass, cool air, warm morning sun. Snapped a photo or two of the city. Nice.

Fought my way north and then west to the area around Quest. Found the building, a European style affair, and I checked out its parking lot, a highly recommended exercise for two very important reasons:

  1. Will I be noticed? If I end up coming Quest US headquarters, Hoffman Estates, Illinoishere for an interview some day, I don't need some nosy guard recognizing me as "that lurker." (all clear)
  2. How many people are working on a sunny Saturday afternoon? (answer: only one car in spaces for a hundred--passes test).

Checked out a few potential towns in the area, habitation candidates:

  • Elgin: Oh my God, no. From the topo maps, I had imagined gentrified condos hanging out over the banks of the Fox River. Well, not exactly. The casino was interesting if conventional (I admit to loving blackjack--at tables I can afford). The rest of the town was a disaster. This alone was worth the flight up. Scratch Elgin.
  • East Dundee: A few miles north on the east bank of the Fox River. looking south, thus East Dundee to the left, West Dundee to the rightParked the car on a tree-lined street two doors from the river, chatted for a minute with the owner of a nice older home. The bridge across the river (Higgins Road, happily a short, straight to Quest) is noisy, but more than a block from there the town is incredibly quiet. Very small and a bit isolated, but more promising, a nice find.
  • West Dundee: I walked across a footbridge. The houses are a little older on this side, and near the highway bridge there is a little construction--outdoor cafes and maybe a little riverwalk. South of the highway the houses are seriously old, separated garages, mature trees.
  • Algonquin: This is probably too far from work. Town center is around a lake on the Fox River, and the feel is very Northern--it's cooler--too cool for me, at least, to be on one of those sailboats, even now in mid-July--steeper, the lake appears very deep, even glacial. Painted wood signs, more like Canada than the lower 48. And very, very isolated. Probably the people here like it that way. Attractive as it is in itw own way, I'll have to leave it to them.
  • Schaumberg: If you want the commercial comforts of suburban life, this is your place. Just ignore get used to traffic (and construction). One real attraction--the public library is enormous, one of the largest I can remember seeing anywhere.
  • Barrington: Beautiful. My reaction to the house prices: "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA hahahahahaha..."

And after seeing all that, it was still only 2:30 pm. Lunch, then checked into a very inexpensive place, one of those "corporate apartment" complexes, which are basically hotel rooms with a kitchen in each room and a laundromat room, the places where underpaid so-called road warriors try to stave off bad food and to not miss their friends and families. In the dark hallways they try not to catch each others' eyes. This place, Candlewood Suites, struck me, somehow, as brighter and less depressing than most such establishments. They had a Quest discount rate, but all I needed was my name to show up on some report.

By dark I had seen everything withing the 15 minute commuting radius I swore I would never again exceed. Caught a movie. Forgot how early the sun comes up in the summer, in the north-east corner of a timezone. Drove through some of the towns again to refresh my memory, drove to and walked around the University of Chicago neighborhoods, caught pizza and flew home early.

For all I know that's as close to Quest as I'll ever get. Many times I've flown out to see the area around a potential job, on a headhunter's call, or maybe even less. If they don't call--and statistically most never do--this will be my only experience with northwest Chicago suburbs.

posted by eric at 1.51 CET | Permalink | Comments (0)