internal hell

Community service is over. I tried to help the boy find a job with someone other than me but the world of human services has apparently figured out that a clueless middle-schooler with only five hours to spare is too much work for them. Kind of like building a fire in a badly designed fireplace--instead of helping, it sucks all the heat from the place.

B2 was a better intern than the first intern I had at the magazine. Hmmm... I've blocked on her name. Her time in my office? Unforfriggingettable.

There's an old joke with professors: they don't like to schedule too many big exams because tests seem to raise the mortality rate of grandparents. First time I heard about that sick grandparent syndrome was when I had the Intern From Hell (IFH).

During her semester with me, IFH had two very sick grandparents. Maybe even one of them died? I can't remember. She was cursed with unreliable cars and a horrible break-up and an actual broken bone. By the time she showed up with the cast on her arm, I wondered if she'd put it on herself to look pathetic.

It's not like I was a horrible tyrant--I was a push-over of a boss. I asked her write an article, and suggested she come up with an interesting topic that would fit the magazine and I'd run it past the publisher. That was too much. Okay, if she didn't want to do a big feature piece, how about doing the boring-ass calendar section? The IFH's personal life was in shambles just now and she couldn't concentrate.

Okay, then how about fact-checking this finished article? Oh, God, she couldn't call people. She might break down crying because her grandfather was so sick and, by the way, she needed to take the rest of the day off to read to him or something. I was glad to see her go--I was busy and she usually needed to talk about her boyfriend who slept with her best friend last semester and yet she had to forgive him because he was the love of her life.

She promised to check the article when she came back. I had to go fish the untouched article out of her box a week later.

I didn't much care. She started in on the slackerage right off the bat, so I never actually gave her any vital work. The situation didn't bother my boss either--the girl wasn't on the payroll. She actually PAID the college to pretend to work for us.

It all came to a sad end when the IFH came storming into the office clutching my required mentor's report. "How dare you imply that I was lying?"
I pointed out that I hadn't implied a thing. I had simply listed the reasons she had given me for not coming to work. She wept and I ended up crossing out one line of the letter--something about her broken down car, which I agreed wasn't really her fault.

Did I mention that I was a dreadful wimp? No, actually I felt sort of bad about the whole thing. I suspected she was a huge drama queen or even liar but what if she was facing dreadful circumstances all the damn time?

A couple of weeks later, I called a professor at her college for something else and he asked me about the intern. I hinted that she'd been less than a success and he said, "Too bad. I hoped that getting her out of the classroom would help cure her grandparents."

I loved it. My husband's a professor now so I hear variations of the dying grandparents schtick all the time, but I still snicker when I remember Dr. W saying that.


  1. ...getting her out of the classroom would help cure her grandaprents...

    You make me laugh. :)

    When I went back to college after dropping out to join a circus, my aunt became ill. (I actually left the circus more to help her than to return to academia.) At the end of my first year (Sophomore--transfer credits) she went into the hospital. I asked for an extension on a test in Ecology because she had gone into ICU. The prof gave it to me, and then I was horrified to learn that no one had received their test back because he was waiting for me to take it. There was much eye-rolling amongst the students.

    Then she died just at the end of the term. I asked for an Incomplete in Ecology because I knew I couldn't get the studying in for the exam. I felt so guilty for asking: "But I swear. The dog DID eat my homework and my aunt, whom I living with, really did just die." But the prof was a sweetie and gave me the Incomplete, which we cleared with a final exam over the summer.

  2. Poor intern.

  3. At the time I was mostly frustrated not just because these things might have been her inventions or elaborations -- she wanted me to be actively filled with pity for her (which got old because I didn't have time because I was always on deadline and she was a dead weight).

    Now I feel sorry for her, not so much because of what was going on with her but because I got the impression she craved pity from anyone in any position of power over her. It seems a sad substitute for actual respect but it's what she wanted. She mistook pity for warmth, I guess. Very screwed up.

  4. I wonder if the pity=warmth problem doesn't also include a large dollop of needing a sense of drama in her life too.

    I'm think ing of the fantasy of dying slowly on a soap opera while everyone around you expresses their love for you and sorrow for all that you've gone through... I wonder if she needed to be at the center of everyone's attention while getting pity from her superiors.


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