Monday, June 22, 2009

Spotted: Sardines

On my daily trek to work, I happened across an intern leading a massive constituent tour. He was in the Russell tunnel, waiting for the next trolley car. His tour was obviously too large to fit everyone comfortably in one trip, but by-God, that fancy red badge he was wearing comes with privileges and one of those privileges is riding on that darn train, even if it's not going to fit the mob you're bringing along for the ride. Several staffers that wanted to ride saw what was going to happen and opted to walk the tunnel instead. We were almost to the Capitol when his trolley car passed (it took a long time to load). Tourists were squeezed in like sardines, layered three thick in the front car sitting on each others laps and looking rather peeved.

A note to intern: Next time, you'll save yourself a lot of time and possibly some contagious skin diseases if you just walk the tunnel from Russell to the CVC. It's not that far. Promise. Plus, had you walked, your tour would have seen a prominent Senator as he was walking back to his office.

Spotted: 125 Pages

Early one morning, one of our interns was asked to make 125 copies of a letter on colored copy paper.

Coming up to my desk with stack in hand, he holds up the paper and asks "is this 125 pages?"

All I could do was stare back in disbelief that he even asked the question.

Heard: Whose Bill?

As a reporter I often have to deal with interns who have no idea what I'm talking about and don’t understand that they can answer simple questions without violating any rules.

I called [Sen. #1]'s office to ask if they had a bill number yet for a specific bill. The intern paused and said, "Why would we know that?" I replied, "Well it is your boss' bill." The intern counted, "Um, actually [Sen. #1] isn't in town right now so there's no way that bill is his." I told the intern that it was [Sen. #1]'s bill and asked to speak to the press secretary or communications director but she said they wouldn't know either.

I gave up and called [Sen. #2]'s office. An intern answered and again I asked for the number of the bill. The intern replied, "Well if that's [Sen. #1]'s bill shouldn't you call his office?" I informed the intern that her boss was working on the bill and would likely would have this information if it was available. Her response: "We only know stuff about our own bills."

Luckily a staffer overheard and took my call.

Heard: Poor Choice of Words

In grad school in the winter of 2004, I got an internship with my local congressman for the upcoming Spring semester. One day, and I was ignorant of this fact, it was some big pro-life rally or whatever, and people I assumed to be constituents were in the office waiting, these details unbeknownst to me, to talk to our LA who handled abortion (my congressman was a pro-choice Dem). I asked these people if they were constituents, if that was why they were visiting?
A few minutes after they left, the CoS, who had overheard, explained to me what they had been talking about, and how there would be many pro-life protests around the Hill today.

Later, more pro-lifers were in the office, waiting to talk to that same LA. I was sorting mail and sitting next to the office staff assistant as I had a pleasant conversation with the visitors, a talk having nothing to do with anything political. They asked me what I did in life, and I explained I was in graduate school, in the process of earning my MFA in Writing. Somebody asked what I intended to do with that degree.

“To be honest, I’m really not sure. Sometimes I think the only thing you can do with an MFA in English/Writing is become an English teacher, but I hate kids,” I bluntly put it.
I instantly realized what I had just said, and to who, as staff assistant’s head dropped and he slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand. These were some strongly pro-life people, here in DC to protest.

“Uhhhh… I mean…. I mean… a live kid is better than a dead kid,” I immediately and self-consciously sputtered.

Fortunately, they understood I meant absolutely nothing by what I said. That I was in no way intending any kind of political statement but was rather just some dumb intern who meant well and made an innocently poor choice of words.

Heard: Humility Comes with Age and Experience

After my freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to intern at a private lobbying group. I was assigned to a very reluctant lobbyist, X, who basically ignored me, but allowed me to tag along to all his meetings with hill staffers.

I was never sure what I was supposed to do during those meetings, but I was always looking for opportunities to demonstrate all the skills and expertise I had acquired in my one year of college. During one meeting where he and another lobbyist were speaking with a senior staffer, I realized that I actually had some knowledge of what they were discussing. Wanting to contribute but not giving much thought to how I might interject my minuscule knowledge, I interrupted what X was saying, turned to the staffer and said "What X is actually trying to say is...." and proceeded to educate the staffer with the few facts I knew of.

The staffer looked scared and laughed nervously. X, God bless him, never said anything to me, and continued dragging me along to his meetings. Now, as a professional, I always keep the lesson in mind that humility comes with age and experience.

Heard: Pint Walk

"I found this text on and I am assuming it belongs here...

(301): We are brilliant. We call it the pint walk. Killing a pint of vodka while we walk from cleveland park to dupont. just making mama proud.

If this is the same mama who is no doubt paying your rent for the next eight weeks while you blow your birthday check from Grandma on cheap vodka, then yup, I bet she's totally proud."

Heard: One and Done

E-mail correspondence between a company's softball coach and an intern player.

E-Mail #1 (in response to Coach's initial e-mail):


I'm game. I was heading to play college ball before injuring my soldier [sic]. I've taught myself to throw with my other arm now, but probably still have some of that lefty batting magic."

[dialogue from coach] I didn’t think anything of it at first, but I should have figured something was up when he kept giving me excuses as to why he couldn’t make it to any of the games. Finally, about halfway into the season, he makes his softball debut. After his less than impressive pre-game batting practice and considerable lack of “lefty batting magic,” I decided not to play him at all during the game, since it was a close one against a division rival. We won the game, no thanks to my “star” intern. The next day, I have this little gem of an email waiting for me in my inbox:


Congrats with the win yesterday! I want to say a couple of things: First, I wish you would have made it clear about playing time not being that much. I work part-time at night and need to take advantage of any free time. I love showing up and playing, but my friends play baseball games during the week and I am more willing now to go with them now and actually play. Being benched is a new experience for me as a guy (a good humbling experience) who broke the state home run record in my division, who had college scholarships for baseball lined up, and who received the equivalent of a golden glove for center field. Still, I got injured; I’m not in the same shape; I’ve lost speed on my throw, so I of course respect you wanting to keep in the usual players for a meshed team. I love being a team player but have to be on a team to be a player. Second, I thought you wanted to play competitively yesterday. I was fine with you playing people you thought are better players as they have performed before. I had hoped to get a [insert other player's name] in instead of a couple of the mediocre interns as this was my first time but understood that they had performed before. However, I realized during the game that your choice of players had nothing to do with being competitive or respecting the regular players when you had [insert other player's name]. I am the fastest runner on the team and can assure you a base hit off of most anything hit in the infield. So if you had wanted a base runner I thought you would want someone who could ensure a base. Moreover, I know [insert other player's name] hasn’t shown up to a single game this season or practice as well, so your choice had nothing to do with him being a regular player.With that said, since that’s the way y’all play, I’m probably going to opt for sticking to baseball with the guys and truly contributing to a team."


My” one and done” summer softball intern.

Heard: Intern Exodus

Wanted: Nice Home for Moral Interns

Heard: Adams Morgan?

UPDATE: This post was sent in twice, by two different people, who were unfortunate enough to be in the same elevator while this statement was made by yet another person.

"Last weekend, I learned that Adams Morgan is not the name of a bar. It's a street."

Spotted: Urban Outfitters

I was in urban outfitters this Sunday when I spotted a woman wearing her green staffers badge around the store. Honey, its Sunday, Father's Day, you're obviously not working and believe it or not, wearing that badge won't get you a discount.

Heard: Job Offer

Flying back to DC on the last Delta Shuttle, I sat in front of a young woman who was enthralling her foreign seatmate with her tales from the Obama campaign in ’08 and her internship with a Congressman. Of course, she really wanted to get a job with the Obama Administration, and was offered a job, but as she told her new friend, she decided not to lie on the background check and that “yes, she had smoked grass once on New Year’s Eve.”

Apparently, that was enough to disqualify her. But, not enough to discourage her from mentioning three more times during the 45 minute flight that she HAD been offered the job.

Spotted: War and Peace

I was on the blue line one night and a bunch of interns stumble onto the metro at Capitol South, talking loudly about an intercollegiate happy hour they had just gotten out of. They proceeded to yell at each other until one of them finally noticed how loud their voices had gotten. He shushed one of the girls in particular, and mentioned they might be disturbing the passengers reading. (Props to that young gentleman for being considerate.) His companion yells even louder "Why do I have to be quiet?!" then towards the passengers reading, "It's not like you're reading f**king War and Peace!"

Funny? Actually, yes. Obnoxious? Definitely.

- Someone else who also was not reading War and Peace