a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

Interning Stories

< by Dave Heller >

I have very little to show for my past as an intern. While seemingly unremarkable, I should add that I’ve been an intern for six different entities, a fact of which I’m not too proud. But if anything should be gleaned from such an enduring mini-career as an unpaid gopher, it’s the stories.

• In an attempt to get some brownie points with my boss, I came into work at 5 a.m. to work with a counterpart in London. At around 6:45, my counterpart took her hour-long lunch break, so I laid my head on the desk until then. At 7, my boss shook me awake, asked me if I had slept there for the night and reminded me, “This isn’t summer camp.”

• I was at a fundraiser for a conservative GOP member of Congress. While sipping scotch and pretending to be more important than I was (read: not important at all), the congressman talked shop about the upcoming public relations agenda. He brought up how the shortage of H1N1 vaccines could be likened to Hurricane Katrina, “except people are dying this time.” I could hardly keep the scotch in my mouth. Others nodded.

• One internship was above the best coffee shop in DC. I never drank coffee all through college, and when I did, the caffeine made my tummy rumble. The coffee at this one place tasted so good and was so close to me that I couldn’t help but habitually drink it. I eventually became addicted, and the rest is coffee-drinking history.

• The summers in Washington, DC make wearing a suit nearly prohibitive. There is no mitigating having the outward appearance of dressing professionally and sweating profusely. While interning in Congress, I was very nearly late for a committee hearing. At the last second, after having sprinted from the metro stop to the hearing room, I found a chair right behind Ted Kennedy. I sat down, and while both sweating and heaving to catch my breath, Senator Kennedy leaned to his aide to “get that kid out of here.” And I was gone.

• I had the pleasure of answering phones at reception at one internship. For 45 minutes, at least. The seemingly never-ending well of attractive female receptionists had run dry, and the head principal of the company had me answer phones “until we can get another one in here.” 45 minutes later, he told me to stop answering phones, and that he would have his female assistant answer from then on.

• Some internships would require me to become an instant expert on any matter. The prompt is most often, “Read this.” My first day on the job at one particular internship, I learned my summer task would be to create a company-wide training PowerPoint on a 1,500-page document. After I absent-mindedly nodded and mumbled out a parade of uh huhs, okays, yeahs, and sures, my boss slammed the document on my desk. Read this.

I may not have a job from any of my previous internships, but at least I have the stories.

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