For last summer's college break, I was looking for work that would lead to lots of "networking" and "opportunity." I ended up at a retirement home, washing dishes at minimum wage for sixty hours a week. I trained and was then replaced by a deaf, mentally challenged gentleman.
This summer, I'm an intern at an international, multi-billion dollar company. I'm not sure exactly how this happened. I do know it started on the Internet. I blogged about a product I liked-right as the product's creators simultaneously started their initial online advertising campaign.
They latched on to me as a poster boy for their first success story, proclaiming 'YOUNG PEOPLE LOVE US' and 'LOOK HOW MUCH THE COOL WE ARE!!! DOT COM!!!'
Some time later I drove to one of their offices and was quickly hustled from meeting to meeting, speaking to executives about "effective marketing strategies for engaging millennials," regurgitating info I'd crammed into my brain the previous night and dropping the few buzzwords I remembered from my Intro to Marketing class.
After each speech at least one wise guy would say "You know you're younger than us, right? LOL."
"Are you interested in working for us?" asked an executive. She clarified that she wanted me to drop out of college for them. I looked at her like a big dumb cow, blinking and chewing my cud. She and another executive went on about how I'd exceeded their expectations and they'd found an opening for me.
"How about an internship?" they asked, after I said I was really stuck on the idea of obtaining a college degree. I said I'd be interested. A few hours later I was headed back to school, a little too buzzed off free alcohol at the 'day-end' party. During the drive their marketing director told me that I was "so much bigger than [my hometown]" and that "our company needs someone like you." I focused on not throwing up on the Jaguar's dashboard.
In the early spring HR emailed me, asking me what dates I'd like my internship to last. I quickly replied-and didn't hear back for weeks. My only other summer job option was being a day laborer at a business park. The day before l resigned myself to trimming shrubs for the summer, HR sent me forms to fill out-forms that would officially make me a salaried employee.
They explained that giving me a salary was easier than making me an intern.
I never sent a resume. I never interviewed. I never wept on my hands and knees in front of an HR director. I never sexually serviced someone at a cocktail party. I was hired.
When I flew to the office in the early summer, Matt the Driver met me at the airport. He has slicked-back hair, a full Jersey Shore accent, claims to have gone to high school with Soulja Boy and has a thing for Van Heusen's Donald Trump Collection. He is my favorite.
He took me to my home-to-be for the next couple months, a massive suite apparently intended for short term visits from Batman. The rent was being paid for by my employer. During the drive he asked me what I'm into, and said he could provide me with "anything." He pointed out where all the "beautiful girls" and "total sluts" hang out, and told me which strip club has the longest runway-"if you're into that," he added. I looked down at my Express vest and tie ensemble, complimented by a "found" pair of 80s blue and white checkered pants, and back at him. I decided to nod. "Okay man well you just call me, alright?" he said.
"Oh yeah, if I'm looking for some fun you'll be the first to know," I said. He grinned and turned up the 50 Cent.
I wondered how soon one of us was going to get iced.
That evening, I decided to stock up the kitchen. I call Matt the Driver and he took me to Whole Foods. "Man what you gonna get here?!" he asked, excited.
"Just some groceries," I said. "Y'know, hangin' with the bros stuff." I added the second part because I could feel him judging me.
"Oh sweet! Beer, steaks, condoms," he said. "Sounds good man!"
I purchased whole grain bagels, spinach, tuna fish, almonds and Starbucks ice cream. This would become my diet for the rest of the summer.
On the drive back, Matt said there'd be a wet t-shirt contest happening in an hour at a nearby club and that he thinks I'd like it. I replied that I wasn't in the mood, but definitely another time. "Well if you change your mind," he said, "that's where I'll be yo!"
My first day! Tim, who would be giving me a tour, met me at the office. During the tour I was left next to a cubicle for a moment. The encubed employee looked at me and smirked.
"Is Tim your boss?" she asked.
"Uh…no?" I said.
I had no idea what the implication was, since I'd known this man for all of five minutes.
"I bet he wants to be your boss," she said.
She was very careful to ensure that I caught her drift. I didn't. Throughout the rest of the orientation I watched Tim warily, trying to catch any indication of a desire to be my boss.
Between phone calls to set up my schedule, I was left sitting in a huge empty office with a door and floor to ceiling windows. I decided that it would be my office and unpack my briefcase. No one objected.
Now I sit here. SimCity 2000 is reporting small riots in the industrial sector. I place a couple police stations.
Any time I am not on the phone, I guiltily watch the door, waiting for someone to burst in and scream "We KNEW you were in here doing NOTHING! You're FIRED!"
But it never happens.
My Sims rioters blew up the power plant and now my industrial sector is on fire. I knew I should have set the firefighter's budget higher than 40%.
After a week passed, I began to understand that this internship was an all-too-real glimpse of my working life after college. I thought my experiences as a dishwasher fairly murdered my soul, but office work has taken it and actually replaced it with something else. Do people really work in places like this? Where the lemon juice of defeat is constantly squeezed into the open eyes of hope?
Shit, there goes my casino. The Awesomeville riots of '41 will be remembered for generations.
Henry Berger is the pseudonym of a college student from New England with a job who is, with all apologies to Sam Biddle, not quite ready to give it up.
Photo by Mark Sebastian from Flickr.