Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Heard: Job Karma

Our (former) intern coordinator was awful. It wasn't abnormal for an intern to come in for a week, and never come back after the abuse. We tried to calm her down and explain that interns work for free and shouldn't be expected to know the ins-and-outs of mail systems after 30 minutes of training.

Anyway, one of our interns who was very smart and probably would have worked very hard, got a job interview after two weeks on the job. Intern coordinator actually gave a bad reference because it had only been two weeks. The rest of the office was irate, but intern coordinator didn't remember who had called so we couldn't call back to fix it.

Intern wound up getting the job anyway. Turns out, it paid more than intern coordinator. When she came to announce the news, intern coordinator couldn't manage to make it out to say congratulations.

Spotted: I'm Just a [Wiki] Bill

I work for a trade association and each Spring and Fall we take a few interns for extra hands on deck. Last Spring, we had an intern who was INCREDIBLY eager for the job--she was a senior from [insert West Coast state] and played up her political experience to get the job. She was also a Political Science major.

About two weeks after she arrived, I asked her to put together a short one-page memo outlining the content, sponsors, and progress of a piece of legislation I wasn't familiar with, figuring I could look it up myself but it would be interesting for her to research. At the end of the day, she stopped by my office and handed me a stapled stack of papers. She had copied and pasted the Wikipedia page of the bill, including the reference links at the bottom, formatted it into 12-point Arial font, and removed the hyperlinks. She also failed to notice that the page wasn't even about the correct bill I had asked about--it was an old piece of legislation from a past session.

She then asked me how a bill becomes a law. I tried to explain it, but she didn't understand that Congress has committees. I was so flustered, all I could do was repeat "I'm Just a Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock! to try to explain it to her.

Worst Intern Ever.

Spotted: Senior Staffer Intern

I am a former House employee, and my job gave me unrestricted floor access. It was great, and I made quite a few friends on the floor. So when the time came that a few of my friends asked if I could give them a Capitol tour, I asked my former boss and was given the okay (given I get Official Business passes, meet at the Speakers' Lobby). I was giving a tour -- not the most formal -- but was showing the bullet holes in the room to my friends.

Suddenly, a woman who I've never met approaches me and tells me I'm giving my tour wrong. She then apologizes to my group for them having such a bad guide. I ask her nicely what the hell she's doing, only to hear her reply that she's a senior staffer and that she knows the rules of the House better than I ever will. I asked to see her badge; she said it wasn't important.

I finally demanded to see it, and you guessed it: intern.

After I see her badge, she returned to her group, head down.

Spotted: Bus Bust

It's around 8:15am and I'm on the bus on my way to work. When the bus driver closes the doors and starts to drive away, an intern comes running out of her building and proceeds to run into the middle of Wisconsin Avenue during rush hour. As she's dodging angry DC drivers she's screaming and behaving as though she can't figure out why everyone is honking at her. The bus driver stops the bus to avoid hitting her and when she finally gets to the sidewalk the driver opens the door and chastises her for running into traffic to catch the bus.

She takes a seat across the aisle from me and turns to the boy next to her and says incredulously "Is she [the driver] serious? I mean, I was just crossing the street!" The boy looks at me and rolls his eyes as the girl continues, "I mean, I really can't be late to work. I just really can't."
I almost wish one of those cars had hit her. I bet that would have taught her a lesson.

Heard: Shift + 3

I work for a lobbying shop downtown and our interns for the summer started this week. On Monday, I was in charge of getting them set to log onto our computer network. We use a standard password as a default which includes the pound sign. I proceed to give the intern his log-on information and go back to my desk.

Three minutes later, I get a knock on my door. One of the interns is there and says "Mr. [My Name], I can't figure out how to enter that number sign you gave me in my password."

I can't tell you how fun this summer will end up being.

Heard: Majority Leader Pelosi

As a DC intern for the past two summers who is returning again this summer for a third internship, I want to tell you how much I love your site. I have lived in intern housing and I tend to agree that as a whole interns are somewhat idiotic alcoholics. I think the big difference between interns are those who work on the hill and those who don't. The best thing about hill interns is they are somehow high on the power and think that answering phones makes them amazing.

My favorite intern moment ever.

Intern Roommate: I met some Congressman today, he seemed to think he was all important but he just just an old dude.
Me: Who was it?
Intern Roommate: Some guy named Steny, dumb name.
Me: Steny Hoyer? He is the majority leader.
Intern Roommate: No you idiot that is Nancy Pelosi. I thought you knew something about politics.

Spotted: Red v. Green - Battle for Beer

I currently work on the Hill but also waitress at a restaurant in Foggy Bottom on the weekends for extra cash. Foggy Bottom as you know is the center point for all summer interns. This past Saturday I had 4 young people (2 boys and 2 girls) come in for dinner and sit down. I went over to take their drink orders when i realized that the 2 boys STILL had their intern badges attached to their pants. Clearly they thought they were important when all 4 of them ordered beers. I asked for some ID and after they scoffed at me, one of the boys proceeded to take his red INTERN id and hand it to me. I looked at it, laughed, handed it back and said "I'm sorry I can't use this."

They all began to give me attitude saying things such as "Well, we work on the Hill for Congressmen and these are our federal government badges but I guess you wouldn't realize that since you don't work there." I then handed him back his id, looked at the four of them and said "I actually do work there and I have a green badge not red, maybe if you had a green one." He just glared at me and ordered a coke and went back to muttering.

Side Note: they tipped me in quarters. Hey interns: I hope you enjoy working for that academic credit.

Spotted: Foggy Bottom Rush

As the rush hour hit around 8:30 AM this morning, the blue/orange lines at the infamous Intern Central, AKA Foggy Bottom, ran a no passenger train. This caused the backup to be ridiculous. As everyone scurried on to the next train, the train was clearly full when three Hillterns thought it would be great if they ran and pushed into the train. As people are stumbling, stepping, and squirming to make room for the three Hillterns who just plowed into a spot they clearly did not fit. To top it off, they giggled as if it was a success that they got on the train by inconveniencing at least 15 other people with REAL jobs.

Of course, they were proudly displaying their red badge of pride (shame) and talked about how they were too cool to give that tour today and were just going to ignore that email they received yesterday. Good luck getting that past your supervisor, kid.

Spotted: We Have Glue Sticks for That

I just want to start by saying that I absolutely love your blog! As a second-summer Capitol Hill intern and DC native, this blog has essentially articulated almost everything I've been thinking over the past two years.

This is a story about an intern in my office last summer. Let's just say that his first-day behavior should have been a warning.

On his first day, the new intern was given the fairly harmless task of folding response letters and stuffing them into envelopes to mail to constituents. The new intern's first day happened to be the day after Memorial Day, so Congress was in recess, and our boss's personal office was empty. The new intern proceeded to take the stack of letters from his desk and move into our boss's office to complete the task. Furthermore, the new intern decided the best place to fold and stuff was at our boss's desk. However, being a first-day intern and thinking he already knew how everything worked in the office, the new intern licked all 100+ envelopes to seal them.

We have glue sticks for that.

Heard: Painted Marble

I just discovered your blog, and I love it! As a former Hill intern, I really appreciate the opportunity to laugh and myself and my peers, and to realize how ridiculous we all must have sounded at times. And just to show that some interns do have the ability to laugh at themselves, here's one of my many gaffes made during my time as an intern:
I was leading one of my very first tours, and we were waiting in line to get into the House gallery. The couple I was leading asked me how often they painted the Capitol in order to keep it so white. As I did not know the answer, I panicked and thought of the most official sounding lie I could think of: "Well, they start at one end and go all the way to the other, and then have to start over again because it's so big!" My tourists were impressed and that was the end of it.
As we were sitting in the gallery, it finally dawned on me that the Capitol was made of marble and indeed did not require painting. However I neglected to correct myself to the tourists, and as far as I know, they probably still don't know the difference. Despite this major gaffe, the staffers in my office were heartily amused when I relayed the story, so it ended up not doing too much damage to my bruised ego.

Spotted: Metro Sensors DO Work

One particularly crowded day on the metro going home on the orange line a Capitol Hill intern, still wearing his scarlet letter even though its after 6pm and no one really cares, decided to take it upon himself to stand directly in front of the doors. Now normally I wouldn't care but this intern did not seem to realize where the sensors were in the car nor the meaning of DO NOT LEAN ON THE DOORS. After going about three stops and trying to close the doors at least six times each stop as well as our driver asking on the intercom to move away from the doors.

The intern finally acknowledged the many dirty looks by fellow passengers, attempts by our driver to close the doors, many warnings that you cannot lean on the doors, and threats that she would kick everyone off the train if whoever was leaning on the doors didn't stop. Said intern acknowledges this by saying "I like how everyone is giving me dirty looks, its not like my foot is sticking outside the doors! You'd think that with all this technology Metro would have a sensor to tell you which car and which door was the problem."

Metro doesn't need sensors to do things like that, they just need you to stop leaning on doors and hitting the door sensors, then trying to pass it off as someone else. Next time try leaning on the wall, or holding on to a railing like the rest of us do.

-Former Intern and Fellow DC resident

Heard: Intern Resignation

Apparently, our summer intern from a few years back was hoping to conduct policy briefings for the Senator during his first week. Unfortunately, this did not happen and he packed his bags after the first week. What a terrible loss of talent the Committee endured from his absence. Although this masterful resignation letter seemed to fill our void.

This was actually sent to the Committee. Enjoy! We sure did....


I am writing to express my gratitude for being offered the chance to work in the office of Senator XXXXX. An internship represents the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and an insider's view of the political process. Therefore, it is with considerable regret that I must tender my resignation. This decision has been a difficult one for me, reached after a considerable amount of soul-searching. I have had to make a choice based upon academics, aptitude, and my personal finances.

Earlier in the summer, I had the opportunity to work in the office of Senator XXXX. In so doing, I fulfilled a requirement for my major, which was a key factor in my seeking an internship in the first place. Additionally, I learned a great deal about the internship experience, rendering much of my current activity redundant. I worried that this might be the case before coming to work for the senator and I expressed these concerns to the intern coordinator. He said that there was a position available for me on the XXXX Committee and, fearing the burden upon the committee my absence might create, I agreed to come.

Unfortunately, since coming to work for the XXXXX Committee, I have been assigned to duties to which neither my skills nor proclivities incline me. The work has been entirely administrative, consisting of making scans and copies for members of the staff. My previous internship experience had left me with no illusions: I understand that the role of an intern is to perform a considerable amount of menial labor. At the same time, my understanding was that the volunteer services of an intern are tendered in exchange for the learning experiences embodied in substantive work. Such work has never materialized. In fact, when I raised concerns with members of the staff, I was merely told that substantive work might--or might not-become available in a week or so. This prospect was not reassuring.

Of the low-skill work I have been assigned, there has not been enough to fill my time. Members of the staff can attest that I approached them seeking additional work. Despite this initiative, since coming to work for the XXXXX Committee, I have been unwillingly idle for hours at a stretch. There does not seem to be a pressing need in the office for my services after all.

Upon examining all of these factors, I can see no alternative but to end my brief tenure of service for the committee. I leave you with my sincere thanks and warmest best wishes.

Heard: Intern Faux Pas

Last night at a big event, a fellow intern at another workplace told me that he was only doing his internship to hand out resumes, and was not really interested in what he was doing. He then asked me if he could just show up at the place I'm working and look for a job.

He said this all in front of the full-time paid staffers we intern for.

Heard: An Awesome Lunch Date

Our interns regularly cover phones for the receptionist over the lunch hour. This afternoon, the office was awakened from our pre-lunch haze by an intern shouting over the all-office PA system (addressing a Vice President of our organization, mind you)...

"Mr. *****, your lunch date is here to see you. If you could come get him, that would be awesome."

Heard: District v. DC Interns

I am a former congressional intern, but I worked in my Representative's District Office, and the DC interns were the laughing stocks even to the District interns.

The DC/District dyad is amusing. The DC office tends to be filled with policy and votes, a.k.a. tasks that relegate most DC interns to important tasks such as collating, getting coffee, and playing solitaire. The District office is more casework-based, and with the amount of casework that comes in, summer interns are the one way for the office to get caught up. To put it simply, DC interns didn't even require an interview (and typically got in the office because of well-to-do connections). District interns had a phone interview and an in-person interview.

Even as a summer intern in the District office, I rued the day when I actually had to call the DC office, because I knew I was going to have to put up with one of the interns.

Once, we received some mail from the DC office with a load of casework files, sent by one of the summer interns. However, a few pieces of casework were out of our district, so therefore they needed to be forwarded to the appropriate Congressperson. I called the DC office to rectify the mistake and explained the concept of congressional courtesy, whereby a Congressperson would defer caseworking to the appropriate district, rather than taking up out-of-district requests. I might as well have been speaking Farsi. Not only had the DC intern not heard of congressional courtesy, after explaining it, he had no idea the name of the other representative (my state has VERY few Members of Congress).

So [some] DC interns, remember that you are even regarded with disdain by other interns.

Spotted: I'm a Little Teapot

On Tuesday, an intern at my department was running to catch an already full elevator. As she reached it, the doors began to close on her and she squealed like a tea kettle.

Inside the elevator, the rest of her intern swarm laughed. No one else did.

Spotted: Do Not Mess with the Cap Police

Though rushing to beat the rain, myself along with multitudes of other staffers respectfully adhered to a Capitol Police Officer who instructed us to stop as he directed traffic. However, one lanky hilltern--complete with khakis and a blue blazer--ignored the Officer's request and proceeded to charge across the street.

The Officer yelled at him to stop but to no avail. Finally, he grabbed the kid get him to pay attention, at which point the hilltern flashes his scarlett letter and yells "Get your hands off me you Rent-A-Cop." It was like a sad re-enactment of Lloyd Christmas shouting "It’s ok...I'm a limo driver" in Dumb and Dumber. Unfazed by hillterns comically unjustified powertrip, the Officer grabbed the scarlet letter, wrote hilltern's info down and sent him on his way.

Heard: No Badges, No Tours

While waiting in the security line…

Intern 1: (Rummaging around in her giant purse looking for her intern badge/scarlet letter). I can’t find it, I guess I must have left it at home. Oh well, no tours for me today (she says this happily).

Intern 2: Oh my god, we should like totally do that! “Forget” our badges so that we don’t have to give tours! That’s awesome!

No interns, it isn’t awesome. I don’t really know what you thought your job was going to be, but tours are an integral part of it. And if your office has to send the staff assistant out to give a tour (who is likely also your intern coordinator) expect to be on tour duty for the rest of the summer as retaliation. Maybe this problem could be solved if you wore comfortable shoes instead of your weekend shoes to work – I’m a fan of heels too, but even I don’t wear them on days that I know I’ll have to be standing or walking a lot.

Heard: Close Encounters of the Staffer Kind

Intern (or at least I really hope she was): You remember [insert generic male name] from last weekend? Yeah, he’s totally NOT an intern! (said with such glee that she might as well have jumped up and down in the air).

Congratulations, you hooked up with an actual staffer, not just an intern. This brings you so much closer to the policy world, really, you’re virtually writing the laws of our country by virtue of your proximity to an actual male staffer. Your mother would be so proud.

Spotted: Coke Cans Contain Metal, Too

While waiting to go through security…I know, this topic has been covered a lot.

Female intern has placed her umbrella and purse through the metal detector, so she’s clearly familiar with the machine, and has mastered the idea that certain items used daily contain metal. However, she’s still holding her can of diet Coke in her hand. The Capitol police officer (because no, interns, they’re not “security guards”) says to her no less than three times (seriously, three) “put it to the side, you can’t take it through.” The look on the dear intern’s face was of total bewilderment – eyes wide, mouth open, desperately trying to interpret was the officer was saying.

Finally, she gets it – “oh, I can’t take the drink through.” The officer didn’t even respond, just shook her head.

Heard: Thank You - From an Intern

My mom interned in DC 25 years ago and when I was planning to spend my summer as an intern here, she trained me. She taught me to stay on one side of the Metro, or walk up with the left side. She said don't hold a map out unless you're in your own apartment.

She explained, "you're in their city, they're not in yours, get over yourself."

I just want to shout out that not all interns are ill-prepared and I thank you for letting us use YOUR city.

Heard: Ed and Ted's Excellent Nickname

I overheard this conversation between two interns in a Senate elevator this morning. Both interns had pretty severe "valley girl" accents.

Girl intern: Ok so we need to go to Ted Kennedy's office next.

Boy intern: I thought his name was Edward.

Girl intern: Well yeah, but Ted is like a nickname for Edward. You know, like Bill is a nickname for William.

Boy intern: But Ted isn't even close to Edward!

Spotted: Open Letter to Skirt-Wearing Females

Dear Female Intern:

The slit in the back of your skirt is not meant to show off leg. It is meant to give you some mobility when sitting and walking. If, when standing still, your slit reveals your entire leg right up to where the sun doesn't shine, perhaps your skirt is too tight and/or too short. Crazy as this sounds, please consider purchasing a skirt that fits. Or wear pants. The city of DC thanks you for your cooperation in this matter.

(P.S. Girl in Hart on Monday - this means you. The four male interns walking with you weren't captivated by what you were saying, as you think they were; they were looking up your skirt. Ever wonder why they were at least a full step behind you?)

Spotted: Barber Shop

Yesterday evening, I'm waiting in a cramped barber shop for a haircut when intern #1 answers his phone loudly:

"Hello? Yeah, it's in Dupont Circle...that's on Massachusetts Avenue...you're on route 50?...New York Ave...hmmm, I can't give you directions, but we're leaving now; [intern #2] got his haircut."

That's when I notice that in fact intern #1 was taking up a swiveling chair.

Spotted: Camera-Happy Intern

This morning on the metro, an intern though it would be a great idea to run through our crowded train taking pictures of the various members of his posse. Even sadder was his comment that "these photos would be great Facebook profile pictures."

I almost (almost) felt bad for those in his crew that were somewhat adhering to metro protocol.

Heard: Titanic Blunder

While walking through the Capitol one day, I overheard an intern telling his tour group the history of the chandelier hanging in the Small Senate Rotunda.

The punchline of his story: "This chandelier is one of the only recovered artifacts from the Titanic."