I hate driving. What a waste of time. I drove to Fremont last night. It was an easy 40 minute drive. During rush hour, it’s double that. I’m staying here in a hotel partly because of the early morning calls, but partly because of the commute. Even my manager told me to stay in a hotel.
Commuting to Fremont is a rare occurrence. There are people who do this every day. People in LA think a 40 minute commute is normal. Yikes!
I did my MBA summer internship at Cisco Systems. Instead of paying rent in San Jose, I pocketed the housing stipend and commuted from my parents’ house in Alameda. It was about an hour drive each way.
After a three month summer stint commuting between the East and South Bay, I practically went GRAY. I had bags underneath my eyes. Wrinkles had started to form. I felt like I had aged ten years. The internship was a breeze. Commuting was the real work. It wasn’t an easy commute. I couldn’t sit there and read a book to pass the time. I had to pay ATTENTION. It was 7am in the morning and accidents were occurring all over the vast network of highways. I was often caught off-guard, slamming my breaks suddenly to avoid impact.
I hated that summer. Most of my friends were enjoying the Chicago festivals or hob-nobbing in New York while I was slowly aging in traffic.
The Business Week MBA Rankings came out yesterday. Finally, for the first time in history, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business nudged its way to become the #1 business school in the country. My friend Carey forwarded the email onto me which had been sent to her by another classmate of ours. I, in turn, blasted it off to all my b-school friends and my co-workers who have MBAs.
I was shocked. The #1 spot took me by surprise. I was proud, too. It probably seems odd to have all these sentiments tied to your alma mater, but I think it’s even more appropriate than getting all riled up over how good a school’s basketball or football team is. I mean, who cares? Were these maniacal sports fans even on the basketball or football team? That would make sense, right? But no. The alums are going wild over some great play. Why? Because the school happens to have a great quarterback that year? Big whoopie.
I don’t know about them, but I was looking at a different set of criteria when I chose my schools: cut-throat student competitiveness (in the classroom not on the field), distinguished faculty, almost guaranteed job placement… Everything else, at least for me, was insignificant. Hence, the cold, conservative, dour, and depressing Chicago GSB. Luckily, everything else–the diverse student body, the jam-packed social calendar, the endless partying–became just as significant.
I remember a few months into my first year in grad school, the rankings came out. I didn’t realize it was going to be such a huge production. Students crowded into the cramped common area on the bottom floor of the main building and watched as each rank was announced. I remember a 2nd-year telling me, “It’s going to be exciting. It’s like watching the NBA draft.” The show began with #20. The announcer said the school, gave some commentary, and worked his way down the rankings. My memory fails me and I can’t find exactly which rankings these are when I do a flippant web search.
By the time the #10 school was announced, the basement of our school building was packed. Everyone had gathered around. I remember a wide-screen projection, but there was so much commotion. Several students had powered up their laptops. People were looking at the laptop that was closest to them. Beer was being passed out. We were screaming and cheering.
#9…No, not Chicago, another school.
#7…Still no Chicago.
As the announcer progressed down the line, the screams got louder only to be punctuated by silence as we listened for the next school.
#5…Still no Chicago.
The whole building shook as students stomped in glee. I had never experienced anything like it. I felt like I was at a major sports event, but inside, with a bunch of geeks. Beer spilled all around me as people jumped and hugged and cheered. The guy whose laptop I was watching cautioned those around him, “Hey, watch the laptop!!!”
The crowd went berserk. A mass of single index fingers pointed to the ceiling. “WE’RE #1. OMIGOD, WE’RE #1!!! YEEEAHHHHH! CHICAGO, CHICAGO, CHICAGO.” Screams and yelps echoed all around the corridors.
“The University of Chicago comes in at #2…” A united sigh briefly ended the glee, then cheers and claps as we congratulated ourselves for getting ranked that high. The sigh turned into a Chicago chant, then brief speeches from our Deans (who I assume had some premonition or knowledge that we were going to do well), and finally music, champagne, alcohol, appetizers. I remember being completely elated. I had made the right choice.
It’s been a long, tiring journey, but the view from the top is spectacular. Congratulations to my alma mater.