It Happened to Me

No Sign of That Economic Recovery

Yesterday, I decided to drop by a career expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. With the expo a short walk south of my house and with sponsors like by the Globe and Mail and workopolis, it seemed like a good idea to attend.

There was the usual maze of registration booths at the ground floor of the Centre, but it turned out to be for a conference for estheticians and people who work at spas. The career fair, a sign pointed out, was in a single conference room in the basement. The sign also had a noted hastily taped to it that read “No IT firms today”, which left two categories, “Business” and “Engineering”. I could say that curiosity is what kept me interested in taking a look inside, but truth be told, I was more interested in seeing if Laura was still there.

There was a line of about 50 or 60 people leading to a single registration desk. You couldn’t enter the conference room without regsitering first, but I had no interest in putting up with a wait for something I wasn’t really interested in. If this were a conference and I had my accordion, I could do what I’ve done a couple of times: claim to be part of the show and that I was running late. It’s worked at a couple of Linux expos and DefCon.

I pulled my laptop out of my knapsack and walked up to the attendant minding the door. She looked me over. I wasn’t wearing a suit like everyone else at the show, but a vintage work shirt, skater-boy pants and running shoes. I also didn’t have a file folder full of resumes like everyone else.

“Hi. Nortel tech support,” I said, picking a likely company name. “Problem with one of our display computers.”

Please please please don’t ask me for some kind of ID, I thought.

“Can I get in? I’m running late, and if I don’t get that computer up and running, it’ll be bad karma.”
The attendant waved me through with a terribly disinterested look.

I went inside, and there was no Laura, and not much in the way of companies either. In the area for “Engineering” companies, there was a total of five companies. The pickings were evn slimmer for “Business”, where there were only three. I’ve seen livelier booths at a high school science fair. Nortel didn’t even have a booth here.

I decided to look around the “Engineering” section. It was a room full of people in ill-fitting suits carrying portfolios and drafting tubes. Nobody was looking particularly happy. I haven’t seen a room full of people this glum since I sat in the waiting room of a towing company a few years ago.

General Dynamics had the flashiest booth and the highest turnover. Being a weapons manufacturer, their security requirements couldn’t accept anyone who hadn’t been a Canadian citizen for at least five years, which apparently disqualified most of the people in the room, which skewed heavily towards middle eastern and south Asian.

“Damned bin Laden, he is screwing us all out of a job, eh?” said the only guy in the room who didn’t look morose. He must’ve thought I was also applying for work.

“I don’t know about you,” I replied, “but if the career fair’s like this, I’m thinking about opening a hot dog cart.”

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