Thursday, June 11, 2009
A few years ago when I was still on the hill we had an intern who used to disappear often. After a while I stopped wondering and just excepted that I would never find him when I needed him. He complained that I didn't give him any interesting work like I gave the other interns, my response was always, "You weren't here when I gave out the assignments." The summer continued.
One day the phone flashes "Office of the Speaker..." I pick up, the Speaker's scheduler requested to speak with said intern. I told him he was our intern, wasn't here, and could I help them or point them towards a staffer that could be more helpful. I am then told that said intern left his "card" with the scheduler and requested a meeting with the Speaker. I said, "Oh no that won't be necessary, but thank you."
When said intern arrived back an hour later I asked him what that was all about. He informed me that he had an objective of having his photo taken with every Member of Congress before his departure, this is where he was when he disappeared. He also shows me the business cards he has made up for himself with the Committee name that I worked for at the time, his name (not title), direct line and e-mail. I told him this was not very appropriate, he should not be pursuing anymore, and he needs to be at his desk doing his job.
The story does not end there. The following spring I received a phone call from the White House. Said intern had applied for an internship there and was in the running. This intern had put me down as his supervisor. I simply said yes, he had an internship here last summer. The WH staffer paused and asked if there was anything he should know about him. I responded, since this is the WH you should probably get some information on him, this intern has a tendency to wander and I would not be surprised if you didn't find him in the Oval Office. Needless to say, he did not get that internship that summer.
Yesterday afternoon during my lunch break I made the decision to go to a panel on the upcoming confirmation of Judge Sotomayor. The event had free food and as you can imagine attracted many dozens of interns. Many of them were of an extra special variety, the law school intern. Be aware these special interns, may not make stupid mistakes but, their attitude makes up for it ten fold.
As I went into the actual event I waited in line and grabbed a seat near the middle of the room. In front of me in the packed crowd I noticed an especially boyish looking intern with three seats on either side of him. As I watched I had the pleasure of observing a DC resident tell an intern off. Two women approached the boyish intern and asked him if all of these seats were taken. He then said in a very high school way that the seats were saved. The women told him that this event is first come first serve seating. The women and her friend then proceeded to take two of the seats and sat down. The intern got a very sulky sad look and went to find his friends.
That single event made my day and gave me hope that interns might learn something in DC.
Intern: (pointing to his eaten-on plate, mumbling) …disgusting….couldn’t eat it…swine flu…
Lady Serving at the Counter: I’m sorry you didn’t like it.
Intern: (still mumbling) …gross…money back…
Lady Serving at the Counter: I’m sorry sir, what can I do to fix this?
Intern: (shouting) I hope you don’t serve this to Members of Congress!
Then he turns, stares disgustedly at those of us in line, and storms off. He didn’t like the pork, I guess, but he did appear to belong to the clean plate club. And the Red Badge was prominently displayed, clipped to his suit pocket. I’m only sad that I didn’t see him approach the counter, to see if he cut the line or waited patiently to whine. Hope he warned his boss about today’s Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin.
Our office needed something picked up down the street on Penn, which naturally is an intern job. It was a hot day and the kid decided he would walk outside. He got halfway, realized he didn't have anything for pay for what he was picking up, and walked back. When he came in he was red-faced and sweating and I was the only one in the room. He told me his problem and I gave him my credit card. I felt bad for him (some intern compassion for all the whiny interns who read this), and it was around lunchtime, so I told him to pick himself up a sandwich and put it on my card.
About an hour later he returned with what he was instructed to pick up, but had a very timid look about him. He admitted, "I don't know where I put your card, let me go back to the mail room and look for it. I know it will be there somewhere."
Thirty minutes later he came back and confessed that he had lost my credit card, but added, as if to soften the blow, he had really meant to keep track of it. (Note to interns: on all occasions, your screw-up does not become less of a screw-up simply because you didn't mean for it to happen).
I cancelled my card and paid the renewal fee. Over the weekend, my online transaction log showed that the last two purchases on the card had been the item he picked up for the office, and a $28 charge to Quiznos. Lunch for at least three, probably four.
On Monday when he came in I said, "Hey, you realize there's a website where I can see all the charges put on my card, right?" He silently left the room and returned a minute later to give me 28 bucks.
(Talking about the recent pirate troubles off the coast of Africa)
Intern #1 So do these pirates look like pirates?
Intern #2: What do you mean?
Intern #1: Well, what do they look like?
Intern #2: They’re people with normal clothes . . .and guns.
Intern #1 So they're not like real pirates?
Intern #2: ?
Intern #1: When I think of pirates I think of Pirates of Caribbean. Do they look like that?
Intern #2: Pirates back then dressed like that because that was the clothes of the day. Pirates today dress in today’s clothes.
Intern #1: Well they should at least still have eye patches.
I was asked to escort a senior staffer to the capitol building to have a meeting with Reid and then Pelosi. I was so happy and eager to be given this task (after professing I knew the building very well) I started marching the staffer to his meeting with Reid, but ended up taking him towards Pelosi’s office. Halfway through the rotunda he stops and says “I don’t think this is the right way.” I began to blush the color of my badge and had to backtrack all the way where his actual meeting was, making him very late.
Oh, and for the current interns who read this site; there is a huge difference between “working for” and “interning for” a congressman. The staffers you meet can tell the difference.
However, while the VP was speaking, one person who I believe was an intern, leaned against the wall and turned off almost all of the lights in the room. Instead of realizing his mistake he just stood there, leaning against the wall and the other interns around him were just as clueless. A staffer had to make his way thru this crowd of interns- and while doing so they seemed irritated that he was asking them to move so he could turn on the lights- and then move the guy standing against the wall leaning on the lights and turn the lights back on. The intern who turned the lights off acted like he didn't do anything!!! And the others around this guy gave the staffer dirty looks as he had to weave back out of this pack of interns. Sigh-is it September yet?
My first day on the job I was introduced to all of the main people in the office as well as the other interns. When my intern coordinator came around to one of the male interns, he introduced himself but he had an accent that I wasn't prepared for so I didn't catch what his name was...too shy to ask him to repeat it, I let it go. The intern coordinator proceeded to explain that xxxx was with the firm for about 6 months so he was "like a president intern." But what my little intern brain told me was that "President Intern" was his actual title.
Later on that day a higher up at the firm asked me what I had been spending my time on. Trying my absolute hardest to make it sound super important (he knew that it wasn't), I made the mistake of referencing the President Intern to which he responded with an extremely puzzled look and then a smirk and then some judgement.
"I uh...I didn't catch his name...the President Intern" (I'm mumbling and bright red now. Partly from being confused and partly from being addressed directly by an actual member of the staff)
"I don't think we have one of those..."
For the record, I did wise up eventually and I feel that I came away from that summer with a lot of life lessons. Thanks DC.
Nothing screams professionalism like wearing your ear buds throughout House office buildings.
Rock on, intern. Rock on.