Welcome to Intern Horrors, the weekly feature wherein interns past and present write in with their tales of low-to-no-pay woe. This week: Canadians! Canadians in publishing, Canadians in finance — you name it, Canadians are interning in that field.
Elizabeth shares her story about a common experience of Canadian transplants in New York City:
In the summer of 2005 I interned at a now defunct hip-hop and graffiti magazine in Brooklyn. The magazine itself was a great read and for the most part the editorial, marketing, publishing and advertising staff were awesome people. There was however, an exception: one of my fellow interns. Don't get me wrong, I got along with the guy when he wasn't offending me with his ignorance and he ended up becoming editor-in-chief of the mag before it folded. But, if there was an award for Dumbest Questions Asked by an American to a Canadian he'd win and get voted into the hall of fame.
On my first day he asked me where I was from. When I told him Montreal he a) had no idea that it was in Canada and b) didn't believe me when I said the drive from Montreal to Manhattan is only 6 hrs. He couldn't fathom the idea that the province of Quebec, where Montreal is located, borders not one but four US states and that the NY border is only 45 minutes away. I let most of his entire roster of ridiculous comments slide since I needed this editorial internship to get my writing career started but there were some that I just couldn't.
One day we were discussing Barry Bonds and I mentioned that I've seen Bonds play more than once. He said, "How do you know who Barry Bonds is?" He had trouble grasping the fact that Montreal had a baseball team from 1969-2004 and that the Expos were in the National League which would allow me to see Barry Bonds play against the Expos at the Olympic Stadium about 3 times a summer with the Pirates and then the Giants. He was floored when I told him I'd seen Pedro Martinez, who at the time was with the Mets, pitch about a dozen times from 94-97. His response: "I thought you guys only liked the Canucks." Then I had to explain to him that the Canucks were Vancouver's team and that my team was the Montreal Canadiens.
Here are some more gems:
-He said, and I quote: "Do you guys have Star Wars in Canada? If not you should see it. Do you have a DVD player? Do you know what that is?"
-He asked me if I knew what the NFL was and when I told him that not only did I know what the NFL was but I even had a favorite team, he lost his mind.
-He wanted to know what McDonalds was called in Montreal and if I had ever eaten a Big Mac.
-He was outraged that I had been to Boston and Philadelphia more than once and he'd never set foot in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania. (I think he has since been to both and probably offended people there too.)
-He tried to explain who Jay-Z was, assuming that because I am a white, Jewish, Canadian female I'd never heard of Hov. Mid-conversation I pulled the Black Album out of my purse and held it up in front of his face, doing my best Pepper Leach from Major League impression said "Look at this fucking guy! If I didn't know who the fuck Jay was would I have this?!?"
-He asked me who I voted for in the previous US election, not really understanding that Canadians cannot vote in American elections.
That was my summer of '05.
Here's an anonymous take on what it's like the intern for one of the Canadian Securities Commissions. At first, I thought this person was referring to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and I had prepared a five minute stand-up routine about Phillip Fulmer and derivative trading. Alas:
A couple of summers ago, I had the (unfortunate) opportunity to spend half of my summer as a legal intern at a certain Securities Commission (i.e. one of the organizations that dropped the ball during that little crisis we had recently). During this period of time, the proverbial economic crap was just about to hit the fan, so there were really no IPO work to speak of, which meant that my department effectively had no work to do at all. By no work, I mean that my days were generally spent in a tiny internal office with another intern in my department passing the time by playing 'Brick Breaker' on our Blackberrys.
Not to complain about this — it was definitely a relaxing few months. It was so 'relaxing' that one Friday, after a friend had come into town the night before and we had really had a raucous night, I didn't call in sick until 12:45 in the afternoon and nobody noticed or cared in the least. But, after quite literally two weeks without having received a single piece of work, I was given an assignment: I was going to be taking notes in a board meeting a few days later. When the day arrived I entered the boardroom, eager to tackle my first real piece of work in weeks. I was shuffled over into a corner, a solid 5 paces away from a circular boardroom table where there stood 2 plastic chairs straight out of a elementary school classroom.
On one of the chairs was an overhead projector, with one of the three legs broken off. Balanced on top of the broken projector was a laptop. This was to be my desk for a 5 hour meeting. A 3-legged overhead projector balanced on a plastic chair. Better still, I could see the names of approximately 5 or 6 of the 20 people at the meeting as the table was circular and I was a fair distance away. For the first hour, my minutes consisted of: "Woman in green said:....; Guy with grey hair replied:..." Finally, during the first coffee break, I asked whether I could move my laptop up to the boardroom table, where there were about 10 empty seats. My request was greeted a look from my boss like I was demanding a throne of pillows and bar service. Only once I showed him that I couldn't see the vast majority of the names of the speakers did he relent and let me sit quietly at the table with my laptop for the remainder of the day.
In terms of using my internship on my resume, my boss' boss (for whom I had done absolutely no work) came into my office on my last day and said "I'm going to tell you what I tell all of our interns: if you say nice things about us, we'll say nice things about you..."
Now you know why our Securities Regulators were so utterly useless in the face of the boys on Wall Street - broken overhead projectors as tables, quid pro quo references for their interns and employees calling in sick in the afternoon.
Finally, Rockmellamadeus chimes in with a story about working in a print shop:
Back in the day I was a newly degreed graphic designer and wound up doing some intern work at a printers. This wasn't a glorified copy shop, but the real deal, 4 color press, large format etc. The owner and his wife ran the place, and this guy had a temper as big as Canada. (He once told me he was prescribed medication for depression, but he never took it, as he preferred the "highs" and "lows" as opposed to everything being "bland".) Anyway, the slightest mistake would set this guy in to a paroxysm of spittle flying rage, and his wife and I were always walking on eggshells, as he was so unpredictable.
Everything in this shop was MAC OS, and we were constantly reminded how great Steve Jobs was and what a thieving asshole Bill Gates was. I'm pretty sure this guy jacked it to pics of Steve in the bathroom everyday. One day he goes and purchases a PC and proceeds to set it up in the front lobby, so the public can come in, and using their own files, can do small print jobs (a la Kinko's). Well he dicked around for a looong time, and he couldn't get the thing to boot up. He was muttering more and more, the back of his neck was getting redder and redder, and his wife and I knew it was going to be showtime in a few minutes.
Finally he screams "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" and storms into the back of the shop (probably to apologize to Steve Jobs' picture), leaving his wife and I up front. All was quiet for a bit, then he came up and slowly unplugs everything. He proceeded to take the PC, opened the front door, and pitched it out onto the road, where it broke apart beautifully. He then did the same to the monitor, with even more spectacular results.
By now his wife and I were in freak out mode, as he was definitely going postal.
He came back in the door, looked at us and quietly said "You know, there were two things wrong with that computer".
I asked what they were and he replied "It wouldn't compute, and it couldn't fly."
He then said, "God I feel much better now".
Nothing was ever said about the incident again.
That last one was a bit of a stretch, but Canada was used as part of a simile so we're counting it.
Sorry for running back-to-back theme weeks, but this was pretty much an accident. We'll try and get back to more of a hodgepodge of selections next week. Brief Programming Note: Although I've sorta been promoted, I have a lot of fun reading through these and doing these posts and will continue to do so until someone approves my idea of "The Boring Bag." To the sign-off!
Have you ever been terrorized by a xenophobic or any sort of phobic (reverse-coulrophobics are encouraged to write) while interning? Were you stuck in the elevator with that one intern who talks way, way too much about Spaced? Send in your stories. Subject Line: Intern Horrors.