the new alphabetization scheme, the identical twin caper, and other stories of summer internships

Last week we talked about summer interns, and these are 12 of my favorite stories you shared.

1. The bookshelves

Best ever intern was at a publishing company. She re-alphabetized multiple bookshelves (hundreds of books) by AUTHOR FIRST NAME. Every time I looked at it I started laughing.

2. The identical twins

Years ago, I worked in a department store as a part-time job. The store decided to partner with local high schools to provide work experience for high school students, and they brought in about 10 students to work on Saturdays only, helping the sales associates on the busiest day of the week. On the second floor, which was women’s clothing, they brought in four teenagers, two of whom were sisters, and identical twins to boot!

One sister was assigned to my department (Special Sizes, which was plus and petite) and the other was assigned across the floor to Misses Sportswear. From the start, it seemed like we’d always have to go over to Misses Sportswear, find our intern, and send her back. Misses Sportswear would come over to our area to find their intern and send her back. We just thought it was the two sisters wanting to chat with each other. It took us over a month to figure out that only one sister was showing up on any given Saturday, signing in for both of them, and floating back and forth between the two departments.

3. The naps

We had an intern who would vanish every day for pronged periods of time. The intern’s manager and I kept noticing the disappearances and started looking around for him. We were in a small mixed office/warehouse space. At one point we found a desk chair in a corner of the warehouse where clearly he had been napping. He must have figured out we found it, and so found a new nesting spot.

We looked and looked and finally realized he had taken several throw pillows from the informal lounge/meeting area and put them under the stairwell outside our interior backdoor. One of the guys in my department put A MINT ON A PILLOW. The kid actually put a sticky note on it saying “touche.”

4. The hole

I worked at a national park, as a natural resources intern, for $15 a day and housing. Being a natural resources intern meant a lot of manual labor. All of us had second jobs or were on food assistance to make ends meet (I folded jeans overnight at the Gap, but that’s a different story). We were all exhausted all the time, and hungry.

The park was divided into cultural zones and natural resource zones. Silt and debris washed down a steep hill from a cultural zone into a natural resource zone. On a hot summer day, we were instructed to shovel the soil into wheelbarrows and push it up the hill back to where it came from. After dutifully following instructions for several loads, we decided to dig a big hole in the natural resource zone, dump the soil there and cover it back up. Then we sat in the shade for a while. Whelp, a couple weeks later there were a bunch of wildflowers that had sprouted where we had dug the hole. Flowers that hadn’t been seen in that national park in decades. We had inadvertently exposed the dormant seed bank! We were praised for our hard work, and I later learned that this was actually good ecological practice. Smarter, not harder!

5. The black mold

We had a year-long intern through a program that placed interns from a particular European country in U.S. nonprofits that did work related to that country’s history. One of said interns showed up for weekend shifts (9-5, a regular workday that rotated among all staff and full-time interns, in a public-facing role) drunk and would sleep it off in a closet. Intern lived in an apartment provided by the org. Over the course of about eight months, he destroyed a brand new sofa (not sure what he did, exactly, but it was covered in black mold) and did … something that resulted in the bathroom also being so covered in black mold that it had to be gutted. (The European-style stovetop espresso maker — you know the kind — was also packed to the brim with cigarette ashes. Intern claimed not to have known it wasn’t an ashtray.) Intern was removed from both internship and apartment, and org now provides a rent stipend for interns to secure their own housing — including signing their own lease.

6. The non-competition

In this instance, I was the intern, and the weirdness came from someone who was working in the office where I was interning. It was with a political campaign in 2012 or so, and I was recruited to the internship after volunteering by one of the organizers. After about a month of being there, the other organizer (a man in his 30s) who did not recruit me got really paranoid that I was going to take his job. I was a 19-year-old college student who was only home for the summer and was not interested in a full-time position, but the guy got super combative — he’d challenge me with pop quiz type questions about how to do something, then get weirdly pissed off if I knew the answers. He’d pile work on me one day, then ignore me for two or three, then get mad at me for not doing anything even though I had finished everything I was assigned. The office supervisor was rarely on-site and I didn’t really know how to deal with it.

In my last week, Paranoid Guy was shocked that I was actually going back to school (even though I’d told him that practically weekly) and suddenly started acting like we were best friends and complimenting my work and telling me he’d miss having me around. It was definitely a whirlwind lesson in office politics, which was not the political educational opportunity I was expecting!

7. The wrong job

My old job had two buildings, spread out but you couldn’t get to one without going past the second. The day the intern was supposed to start, he drove past the first building (where he was supposed to work) to the second. Boss at second building says, “Ah, you must be our intern!” and puts him to work. We spent two weeks wondering where the intern was, and the intern spent two weeks working at the second building. It wasn’t until he repeatedly fell asleep on the job that boss started asking around, realized the mistake, and sent him to us. He was similarly unproductive in our building.

How did it take so long to correct the mistake? How was the intern reporting time with no one noticing he hadn’t shown up? Why wasn’t this fixed by calling the intern on the first day? All questions I will wonder about for the rest of my life.

8. The parties

I worked for a large company, close to 5,000 people at that location. This was in the 90’s and this company was really good about celebrating the employees.

Our summer interns kept disappearing for hours at a time. We finally figured out that they were attending every celebration in the complex. Years of service parties, retirement parties, promotion parties, achievement celebrations. You name it, they went. The announcements were always sent building-wide because there were so many intersecting teams and many people had worked there for decades. A higher than average number of parties were in the summer because of common hiring/retirement months. It was not uncommon for there to be 10-15 gatherings a week.

They were mostly going to score the free food. We were sympathetic to them being poor college students so we finally said they could go for 15 minutes near the end of the scheduled parties, and no more than one party per day.

9. The assignment

As an intern at a very large energy company in the mid 90s, I was introduced to my manager, who was a large, sweaty, angry man who informed me (through clenched teeth the entire time) that his wife was having an affair and had given him hepatitis, and that his plan for the next several weeks was to arrange divorcing and suing her, suing her affair partner, and suing the company we were working for (I don’t think the company had anything to do with the affair – he was just furious at them separately). He handed me a single printed 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and told me to accomplish the project on it, and as long as we never said another word until the last day of my internship he would sign whatever paperwork needed. In stunned silence, I went and read the project, which was to program an automated security system to monitor whether or not a critical piece of nationwide energy infrastructure was on fire (at the time, the company was paying dozens of people across the country to visually inspect it several times a day to make sure it was not, in fact, on fire).

The hitch with this assignment is that I was not a computer science major (nor did I have any formal science, programming, or engineering training). I was a high school graduate who was starting a Fine Arts degree the next fall. Long story short, I wandered around the dozens of floors of the corporate skyscraper for days (probably looking like a lost toddler) until I found a floor that looked like they might have the foggiest clue how to do what I had been tasked (they had lab coats, and better computers, and science looking equipment) – and managed to get directed to someone who gave me some how-to software manuals and technical documents, and would answer questions if I got stuck – and, against all odds, I did in fact come up with a very duct-taped computer program which would use a scratchy old-school modem to dial into various computerized monitoring stations connected to the thing and use some very rudimentary diagnostic information to determine if the thing was (probably) on fire. It made a wonderful screechy alarm noise if it thought the thing was on fire, and otherwise just dutifully wrote a little “probably not on fire” log, that anyone could check from the computer running the checks every couple of minutes.

There was an end-of-summer intern project demonstration – and I was incredibly frustrated to learn that there was actually more than *two dozen* interns working at that company that summer (no one told me, and apparently they didn’t know I was there, so I didn’t get invited to orientation, or group events, or check-ins to see how I was doing). Also, all the other interns had group projects like “learn how to use the internet, and come up with 10 ideas how the company could use it” or “look up info from old printed records and enter them into a spreadsheet.”

Everyone was astounded to see my software demo, and I heard at least one senior executive ask, “Who approved that as a project, we were told that wasn’t possible?” True to his word, my “manager” never said one more word to me and spent the entire summer yelling at a series of lawyers on his phone. But did write me a nice signed letter that I’d completed my internship to his satisfaction a couple of hours before he resigned in spectacular fashion, yelling profanities at everyone as he stomped off to the elevator and telling them they’d be hearing from his lawyer.

10. More napping

Not my intern, but a neighboring department. The intern would park the truck in the woods and nap underneath it. He would tie his hands to the undercarriage of the truck so it looked like he was working on it. He was busted when someone called it in for a possible tow.

11. The Spiderman

At a former job, people would always tell stories of a long-ago summer intern known only by the nickname “Spiderman.” In an effort to be deferential to his superiors, he would dramatically leap out of the way of anyone walking by in the office and press himself up against the wall, invoking the image of Spiderman sticking to walls with his superpowers.

12. The successful coaching

We had an intern a few years ago who was smart and hardworking but had no concept of work place norms. He thought that work email was optional – he said he didn’t want to use it so could we just tell him or text him what he needed to know? So we explained to him that unfortunately, he had to use email. He also had a terrible handshake (wet fish fingertips) and didn’t know how to tie his tie. One of the guys set up some coaching sessions with him to work on these things including introducing himself and shaking hands with everyone in the department. He is now working full time and is successful.

{ 349 comments… read them below }

  1. my cat is prettier than me*

    I am both fascinated and disgusted by the black mold. How? How did this happen? What did he do?

    1. PivotPivot*

      My guess is he hauled the couch outside and it sat in the rain. But, the mold in the bathroom? Yea, I don’t know.

      1. Gretta*

        Good idea for the couch. Maybe he kept overflowing the toilet and then used the shower and sink to try to get water to clean it up, but then it got moldy? That doesn’t jive with the expresso pot though – he doesn’t seem to care at all. Maybe he just left the taps running and thinks went haywire? So weird.

        1. Look User! Even the shop is for sale!*

          Maybe the intern couldn’t be bothered tho open a window from time to time? I guess he showered regularly and the humidity never got out of the apartment and if the couch really sat outside in the rain for some time and got soaked and then moldy and the intern sat on said couch some spores got on his clothing and from there to the bathroom and the humidity there was like heaven for the mold

      2. ArchivesPony*

        Mold is super common in the bathroom. The thing with black mold though it’s different because it comes from decay, not just moisture.

        1. Overthinking it*

          “Black” mold is a really nebulous term. A lot of people seem to think it’s synonymous with toxic mold ( . . and was it BLACK mold?!), but in fact, there are zillions of species of mold, some toxic, some not: black, red, green and blue. Just a personal bugaboo: please don’t perpetuate this! You can say “toxic mold” if you know that’s the case, or otherwise just “mold”.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Many species of mold are black – it’s not a specific type. Mold from moisture comes in all colors, including black, depending on what sorts of mold spores are floating around in the environment.

          1. froodle*

            TIL. very cool, I legit always thought black mold was a specific and particularly dangerous species

            1. Tinkerbell*

              There IS a specific and particularly dangerous species that is black, but there are also black molds that aren’t dangerous and dangerous molds that aren’t black :-)

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Mold’s only goal is to grow; one loose washer or leak upstairs and it’s everywhere. It undoubtedly made its little spore-ey way from the couch on intern’s clothing or shoes or gross towel he never washed and found Paradise.

        1. Hroethvitnir*

          “It undoubtedly made its little spore-ey way from the couch”

          I love your turn of phrase, haha.

      4. Momma Bear*

        My guess is never used the fan in the bathroom and then put wet towels or something on the sofa.

      5. Ally McBeal*

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure he hauled it out to the backyard or apartment patio/balcony and left it there in all weather. Too bad about the mold – an old couch is a great bonfire starter (yes I am from a rural area, why do you ask) but not if it’s covered in mold spores.

        1. Ellie*

          Yeah, in order to smoke on it, probably. Assuming he went outside to smoke of course, he might not have even done that.

        2. Bananapantsfeelings*

          Couches are usually treated with highly toxic chemicals, and made from all kinds of artificial materials — I really wouldn’t burn it!

      6. shrambo*

        I had a roommate who achieved this feat with our bathroom in only 3 months. (Me and our other roommate were both out of town doing internships.) All she had to do was take hour-long hot baths twice a week, never turn the fan on, and always keep the (windowless) bathroom door closed. When we returned, the entire bathroom ceiling was covered in mold.

      7. EchoGirl*

        If anything, I think the couch is more remarkable. Bathrooms are mold-prone, especially in older houses that might not have all the ventilation features. A couch you have to actually do something to in order to create this situation.

    2. Fiachra*

      The only thing I can imagine is a combination of two factors:

      1) Intern’s living space had black mold which deposited spores on their clothes

      2) Intern was somehow causing the furniture to be damp (sweat? spills?), providing the mold spores with its preferred conditions to grow.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I’m guessing a bong (water pipe) that increased the humidity in the space enough that mold could thrive…. but it might also be an indication that the place had some unseen mold in the walls to begin with.

      1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        What the what? That’s not how bongs work, it would be no different than having an open container of water 24/7. Neither would increase humidity so much that mold would grow on a new couch.

      2. Ellie*

        Oh, I just remembered I did that once with a tea/coffee percolator… we hired one for a party, and accidentally left it on all night. We ended up with mold growing on the ceiling above it.

        My partner at the time fixed it up and it was fine, but I guess if you continuously did stuff like that, and never fixed it?

      1. my little actuary*

        I briefly thought “hey!” at your comment but my first guess was also that the intern was Russian (and I am Russian).

        1. Dog momma*

          I laughed at Raisin’s comment. Then I read yours. We think alike. My first thought was the intern was Russian. I’m Slovak, Polish, and… Russian too. Pass the pierogi!

    4. toolegittoresign*

      My best guess is that he didn’t use towels. Yeah. Some people are weird like that. So a lot of water was just sitting in the bathroom and then he’d be sitting/lying on the couch wet. Or his clothes would be damp. It’s likely the mold was mildew, which is also blackish and can get really thick if you don’t keep it in check. I just can’t believe people will live like that and not even try to clean.

      1. Rain*

        The idea of someone doing this literally makes my skin crawl.

        New irrational phobia unlocked!

    5. Artemesia*

      my first thought is ‘this is why we can’t have nice things.’ Someone always louses up a good thing. Interns had lodging provided which is a huge benefit and now they don’t because of one POS.

      1. Chickadee*

        They still get a rent stipend though. After my first couple internships, I’d take a rent stipend over living with other interns every time.

    6. constant_craving*

      Honestly, I’m assuming this was a problem with the apartment itself. Poor ventilation, leaky pipe, etc. He was a poor intern, so they decided this must be his fault too rather than the much more probable scenario that they put him up in a crummy apartment.

      I read this one and felt like this was likely an unfortunate case of blaming the wrong person.

      1. OP for the mold intern*

        Having been a poor intern myself, I have an abundance of empathy. This was 100% his fault. I didn’t even include the “best” stories about this guy…

  2. HannahS*

    11 (Spiderman) is so funny!

    It reminded me that when I was pregnant, there were some people–exclusively white men between the ages of 16 and 30–who, at the sight of me waddling down the hallway, would leap out of my way and plaster themselves against the walls. Gents, it’s not contagious.

    Because of the year (2021,) no one touched me or was otherwise inappropriate and did normal polite things like hold doors open and eye-smile at me over their masks…except for that one store clerk who assured me that she could tell that I would make good milk, but that’s another story.

    1. Crabby Corner Lady*

      “make good milk” OMG…there really is no limit to what people feel entitled to say to pregnant people.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Some folks like to get proactive with the whole ‘it takes a village’ thing.

    2. Observer*

      except for that one store clerk who assured me that she could tell that I would make good milk,

      I think that this is the first time I actually nearly choked when I read something. What one EARTH!?!?

    3. TeratomasAreWeird*

      I was diagnosed with a large ovarian tumor during the height of the pandemonium, and I am sure that I avoided a large number of awkward conversations as a result of that timing (and bulky winter coats).

      Though I will always treasure the expressions on the faces of the couple of people who asked me “How far along are you?” when I answered, “At least two years.”

      1. Dog momma*

        Tera, I’m sure you meant to say pandemic, but it was certainly pandemonium. From a fellow ovarian tumor ( cancer) survivor. Also 2 years out. Hope you are doing well.

        1. Kara*

          It’s not uncommon to refer to the pandemic by various irreverent nicknames beginning with P, so there’s a decent chance they actually did mean “pandemonium”! “Panini” is a common one in my corner of the internet.

          And congratulations on winning! Wishing you continued good health!

    4. ForestHag*

      “Make good milk” is hilarious! But also very awkward. People sometimes say such weird things. When I was pregnant with my second, an older man in an elevator congratulated me on my pregnancy, and told me he was glad I was pregnant, because “we need more good American babies.” I was so shocked by the statement I just went “huh?” and then he exited the elevator before I could really process it.

    5. IntoTheWoulds*

      OMFG, the random freaking observations and “advice” from strangers when one is pregnant. I am happy nobody commented on my milk-makers, but I did have a complete stranger come up to me at an event I attended when I was 30 weeks pregnant, to cheerfully tell me that she is a doula and she could tell my baby dropped and would be here very soon!

      I assume I don’t have to go into detail into the layers of WTFery abounding in her choice to say that to me. I wish I’d had the wherewithal to do something more than just kind of politely smile and scuttle away. Like, ask for clarification on whether she was implying that I look huge for 30 weeks, or that I was about to go into preterm labor, or both?! (And not that it matters at all, but I was measuring right on target my entire pregnancy, baby had definitely not “dropped” yet, and there were never any concerns from my actual care providers that I would go into preterm labor. Which I didn’t – full term baby born 2.5 months later.)

  3. mary owens cook*

    Omg the intern who actually made their assignment happen with no support whatsoever !
    I hope they are a CEO by now.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      That story was BRILLIANT and one of my worst nightmares–a big “I just became a ball of tension and rage” issue for me is having no idea of what I’m doing or how to find out for a job or project. That intern was a demigod.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I had an internship with an overly ambitious project with insufficient support, and I just completely failed the project. In my defense:

        1) I was supposed to write integration testing, when I had no experience with integration testing;
        2) I was somehow supposed to write testing covering *all* of the software the giant company produced;
        2) the testing was supposed to be in a proprietary programming language only one person in the company knew, and that person was on vacation much of the summer and didn’t want me bothering him when he was in; and
        3) it took 40 minutes to compile any code change, so learning through trial and error was an extraordinarily time-intensive process.

        At least I got pretty good at minesweeper?

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Seriously, I know people who’ve worked 20 years without that kind of initiative, to find the right people to help them and basically build a program *from scratch* like that is amazing. And with ZERO managerial support. I hope they found a job that pays amazing because that’s the sort of thing that’s hard to teach and should be appreciated.

    3. WiscoKate*

      As frustrating as I’m sure that was for the intern, I would also guess they probably gained the best real world experience in getting that completed. Wow.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Because they were about to start a program for a Fine Arts degree? I’m more fascinated how they ended up in this internship given that piece of info.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Do Fine Arts students lack the ability to do internships with office work? I ask as a 20+ year office veteran with a Fine Arts degree.

            That intern was *supposed* to be working on typical office intern work. The examples of what other interns were working on are right in the last section where they presented their project. Nothing in any of the other internship examples sounds like something one couldn’t do for a summer.

    4. cindylouwho*

      It reminds me so much of what it’s like to do a PhD or higher level graduate degree. “Do this semi-impossible thing, I won’t talk to you again, good luck!”

      1. Boba Feta*

        I was not expecting to be triggered on this thread but here we are. This is SHOCKINGLY accurate. (sigh)

    5. Kevin Sours*

      This one gives me hives. Which is in no way the fault of the internal who showed remarkable initiative in a bad situation. But when management was told it wasn’t possible that may not have been referring to the plumbing the intern implemented but making sure that the results were sufficiently reliable to be useful. Because when you are reporting “thing is not on fire” you really need to be right.

      1. lunchtime caller*

        the great thing about being an intern stuck with a terrible project is that it probably didn’t even matter if it worked! Definitely not their problem either way!

      2. It seems I need a name to comment here...*

        that’s why the intern had the program say “probably not on fire”.

          1. whimbrel*

            “Dear sir slash madam, I am writing to inform you of a fire that has broken out at the premises…”

      3. MsM*

        I have a horrifying suspicion that the company is still relying on that system to this day, with few if any improvements to the underlying code.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        On the other hand, having a program that can alert to fires is incredibly useful… even if it doesn’t catch every fire, it can potentially improve response times.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Maybe. As a adjunct to existing systems you are correct, but that’s so rarely how it plays out. You have to account for human psychology. People get less vigilant when they think they have a safety net. And nuance on the limitations of automated systems gets lost as you go up the decision making chain. Mr “we were told that wasn’t possible” is going to start questioning why they are still paying dozens of people to check multiple times a day to check that the thing isn’t on fire when there is a computer doing that cheaply.

          In so many cases an unreliable alarms is worse than no alarm.

      5. Meow*

        My assumption was that the program just reported the temperature of the thing, which would be pretty easy to test. And the people reading it everyday would have a pretty good feel for what the temperature should be, and anything wildly off should be inspected manually. There was probably a temperature threshold that would alarm as “probably on fire.”

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I want to see a movie where the origin story is “Intern wanders the building until they find a floor where people have lab coats and nice computers, and asks these people how to do the thing.”

      1. GoryDetails*

        Me too – though for me it was the whole “probably (not?) on fire” bit that I want to see on the big screen! (I was in software development. I know a lot of software folks from the 1980s, when most people had no idea what computers could and couldn’t do. I absolutely believe the details in that story, and I love it!)

    7. lunchtime caller*

      honestly the ability to find the right people to ask and to otherwise forge ahead with incredibly minimal instruction has taken me so far in my career, I would bet the same is true for them

    8. Delta Delta*

      This is one of my favorite stories I’ve read here. It’s the right amount of a high school kid who doesn’t know any better combined with that same kid trying their best to do their assignment. I absolutely love it.

    9. Artemesia*

      I can think of many similar things both with employees and interns. My major professor for my doctorate told a similar story of being handed a huge project that required producing material in Arabic with no guidance whatsoever how to get it done except, ‘you are a PhD student, figure it out.’ The programs he was in had nothing to do with Middle Eastern History of business or languages of Arabic. He did it.

      My success at being the only person to survive a merge where I was terminated along with my and several departments, was that in the part time job I was able to secure in the same institution, I managed do a task I was asked to do and then had senior people asking ‘how did you do that — we have been trying to do that for years?’ I can only think ‘not trying very hard’ because it was not that difficult. I parlayed that part time grant job to a full time job with benefits over a couple of years and retired there 35 yers later.

      And yeah — the fact that the OP succeeded says much about their competence and dare I say it, gumption.

    10. Aa*

      I love this one, but really wanted it to end with, “And that’s how I discovered my career path on computer programming.”

    11. Chris the Constructor*

      I have to wonder how you put something like that on a resume without the hiring manager going “haha yeah right!”

      Signed, an intern who managed the construction of a bridge with no one from the organization in the country besides another intern.

      1. WorkingRachel*

        A BRIDGE? That is even more terrifying. Please tell me it was like a goat crossing or something and not a bridge meant to support cars or people.

    12. LW #9*

      Thanks for the kind words! Not a CEO but have had a long, interesting career in film and television, started and sold a company, and generally love what I do (at much as even a great job is still “a job” a lot of the time).

      I continue to take great pride that particular thing remains not on fire to this day. ;-)

        1. Bananapantsfeelings*

          That’s when I started chuckling too.

          And I’m wildly impressed by this person’s brain!

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        Yours is such a great story, #9. College placement offices ought to reference it before they send their tender interns out into the big old bad world of business. And it’s fascinating to hear of your career in TV and film. Your story-telling ability is tops!

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Definitely the best story here. And very glad to hear you continued in creative fields.

      3. Jennifer*

        I read your story like 5 times in disbelief. Totally amazing. Thank you for protecting all of us from the thing possibly being on fire!

    1. Tori*

      I agree! Would love to hear more from this letter writer about where they are in their career today.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      We meet again. I’ve been collecting Kafka-esque AAM stories. There are more than there should be!

        1. Abogado Avocado*

          Yes, Not Tom, please compile the links and send them Alison. They would be a great new subject for Ask a Manager!

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Agreed, would love a kafka-esque week in December when old stories get republished.

  4. Antilles*

    #10 is clever. Love the idea of arranging it so your hands look like you’re doing a repair rather than just napping in the cab or whatever.

      1. ecnaseener*

        If it were a cartoon, it’d be the setup to the car getting stolen and various hijinks ensuing. But yeah, IRL that could go sooooo badly!

        1. Observer*

          Given that the truck was called in for a tow, it sounds like it nearly did end VERY badly.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            The tow driver is unlikely to hook up the car and start towing without realizing that someone is sleeping underneath it… I’d be more worried (having grown up in the American South) that someone would see an unconscious person tied underneath a truck and assume foul play, call the cops, the whole nine.

      2. Artemesia*

        The only person to die at Woodstock was crushed when he was napping under a huge truck that was then moved.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I was thinking he’d used something like a belt–a wider strap than simply string or rope. Less likely to cut off circulation.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      We had a full time employee get busted for this at my previous job. Of course, they also finally realized why he ate lunch in his car (ever see those little quarter-bottles of wine? yeah, his front seat was full of them.)

    2. WheresMyPen*

      This astounds me. As someone who can only fall asleep in a dark, silent room after much tossing and turning, I’m bewildered as to how anyone can nap lying under a car with their hands tied to the underneath :O

    3. Wes*

      For some reason #10 was the one that made me laugh, so hard.

      The audacity. The laziness. The mental image of someone tying their own hands up and then untying them at the end of the day. The driving out to the woods first. The simplicity of the story and the title ‘more napping’.

      10/10, perfect short story.

  5. CubeFarmer*

    First, the company should have hired Intern 9. Second, that sounds like a great premise for a movie.

          1. LW #9*

            For anyone wondering where my career went, look up the AAM about “spookiest work experiences”, I’m also the LW who had a ghost suddenly start yelling in an empty office at 2am (it’s been reprinted a couple of times).

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yeah, especially because there happened to be an opening right about that time… :)

      1. Boof*

        I’m not sure they would have particularly inspired to deviate from their plan to study the fine arts after that internship! But it does sound like they could be wildly successful at, well, anything given they pulled off their impossible assignment XD

    1. [insert witty username here]*

      Same!! I feel like this is part of what internships are supposed to be!

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, me too! I had an intern who I had to coach pretty extensively on dress code (she just didn’t understand) and whenever I hear from her I’m so proud she’d doing well! (And no longer wearing exposed thongs to work!)

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Same. Things like that aren’t intuitive, even though people like to think they are, so I’m glad they taught the internet the skills to succeed.

  6. Sabina*

    I took over as office manager of a small business and discovered the filing system set up by my predecessor had a huge number of files under the letter T and few under the rest of the alphabet. I finally figured out that things were filed under T for “The”. The phone company, the electric company, the workers comp forms, etc. I wish I understood “The thinking ” that went into this system.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I thought my predecessor’s habit of using envelopes instead of file folders was bad (no way to quickly glance at which was which and took up more room) but “the” really makes me laugh. I’d probably leave the bookshelves in alphabetical by author first name too, just for the sheer amusement of it.

    2. KaciHall*

      A couple decades ago, a new Home Depot opened near my dad’s. He and my grandpa were ecstatic. It opened right before the new phone book came out. Dad Eagerly opened it up to look for the phone number because he wanted to call and ask if something was in stock before driving in what was quite possibly a literal hurricane. He couldn’t find it in the phone book. He drove there anyway. He told me how annoying it was that they weren’t in the phone book, and showed me how he just left the last receipt on his fridge in case he needed to call again. (No, I don’t know why he didn’t just write it down… Dad was an interesting person.)

      I was playing with the phone book and stumbled across The Home Depot in the white pages section. Under T. Dad was LIVID.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      This (and the intern story) reminds me of the bit in Good Omens 2 where “Jim” takes it upon himself to alphabetize the books in the store – by the first sentence. “It was the best of times…”, “It was a dark and stormy night”, “It is a truth universally acknowledged”, etc.

    4. Don P.*

      There used to be a bookstore in Newton, MA, called the New England Mobile Book Fair, which was neither mobile nor a “book fair”. It seemed to be sort of a warehouse thing, and it had the book arranged in sections by publisher, and within publishers by either book title or author’s first name — I honestly forget. But it was an interesting browsing experience. (There was also a large used book section of the store, which was itself about the size of many other bookstores.)

    5. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My mom had a prof or something who told the story of, when he was a clerk in the Army, rearranging all the files alphabetical by the *second* letter of people’s last name. I think he was bored and was trying to amuse himself. When his commanding officer demanded to know why he couldn’t find anything, the prof said something along the lines of “a system will work as long as you know the rules. Now that you know it’s alphabetical by second letter, you know the rules and can find what you’re looking for.” IIRC, the officer agreed and thought it was very clever but demanded prof put everything back the way it was.

    6. Agnes Grey*

      I used to work at a bookshop where some sections were organized by title, and we discovered a new hire was, yup, counting A or The as the first word. Not even intern age, either!

    7. Nessun*

      How long ago was that? Because there was a secretary in Are You Being Served in the 70s who filed everything under A – A Letter, A Memo…it infuriated Rumbole but Captain Peacock was just surprised by it.

  7. Oxford Common Sense*

    Hehehe I think I know what #5 is about… I had one of those interns, and it was not a successful placement either.

    #9 you are a genius and probably running the world by now.

      1. Myrin*

        For real. I read that story when the original post was up and still can’t for the life of me figure out what in the heck happened here.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      My guess….water pipe AKA bong? Something that increases the humidity in the space enough to let mold thrive.

      1. Dr. Vibrissae*

        I’m not sure why a water bong would be the likely culprit, they increase the humidity of the smoke you breathe in and reduce the heat to make for a smoother inhalation, but unless the guy was then emptying the bong water onto the couch, it wouldn’t increase the overall humidity more than say leaving out a half drunk cup of water or a vase of flowers.

      2. LaurCha*

        That’s…. not how bongs work. They have at most a cup or two of water in them. Not nearly enough to humidify an entire apartment. If they did, small dorm rooms across the country would be engulfed in mold.

    1. Generic Name*

      For real. And programming in the 90s was a lot more, let’s say involved, than it is now where you have programs that will write script for you.

  8. CowWhisperer*

    #2. My twin and I worked as baggers / cashiers at a regional grocery store during high school and college. We worked hard and were valued employees. One summer, I took an educational leave for an internship while my sister was off educational leave because she was home from Rochester Institute of Technology for the summer. Nothing memorable happened much to the surprise of some new workers; my twin is Deaf – and more than capable of running a register.

    Summer draws to a close and I tell the job that I’m available for scheduling while Sis lets them know she’s gotta go back to NY. Each new schedule has Sis working and me off. Finally, she’s gotta go – and I’m not getting hours yet. Since I had scads of free time, I went in to meet with the Service department boss to make it clear that they didn’t have the right twin scheduled.

    The boss looked at me and said, “Honestly, we don’t care which of you shows up as long as the shift gets covered and neither of you end up in OT.”

    We still laugh about that. Also – most of the bosses couldn’t tell us apart which was hilarious since I never had bangs and my sister always had them.

    1. ferrina*

      For a short time my sister and I would take continuing education classes together. Our personalities are wildly different, but we look very similar (we’ve been asked if we are identical twins). One of the professors never could tell us apart, and he eventually gave us both highest marks because he didn’t know which of us did which assignment (it was partially graded on in-person activities).

    2. Momma Bear*

      When I was in college, we had someone working at the computer center. One day I looked up to see my employee (I was a management intern, so “employee” was really just a lower level student) at the window. But she was also behind me. The identical twin had transferred to our campus and they had a good laugh at the confusion. I think we did hire them both, just for different shifts.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        We had that happen a lot. Someone would stop one of us and blurt out either “How did you get from the back corner of the store to right here so fast? ” or “How did you change your clothes like that? ” – and sometimes both!

        Trick answer: two humans in two places with two sets of clothes and nearly identical DNA.

        Because we were in different school districts, we’d also get stopped by someone who was sure they knew me – and I was equally sure I’d never seen them before. Telling them that I am CowWhisper, Sis’ hearing twin generally did the trick.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Lol, that’s nice that he didn’t care but I hope you told him that you very much cared whose name went on the paychecks and tax forms!

      1. CowWhisperer*

        We had magnetic strips on our name tags to punch the time clock so thankfully we didn’t have to rely on people ID’ing us correctly to get paid.

        We had three sets of identical twins working there at once and the six of us threatened to get the union involved over breaks and lunches, though. The authorized cashier managed sending replacements or closing lanes to cover breaks. Twins (and teenaged or young adult sibs) generally worked shifts within a half -hour of each other to simplify
        transportation. The problem was that an AC would send a bagger to cover Sis’ break – but mark down that she sent both of us on break. That means I wouldn’t get a break within the union contracted window because the AC mismarked the board. We tried to keep an eye out for our sib – but sometimes we were doing different jobs in Service and didn’t realize. A member of each twin pair were chatting one time and we realized we were all getting late breaks. Turns out there were same gender sibs having the same issue – so we alerted our boss.

        After that, the ACs had to highlight sib pairs in different colors and initial break times as soon as they sent a replacement. Apparently, the ACs were trying to keep people straight in their head and not all of them can do it, lol.

    4. Elitist Semicolon*

      RIT (…and NTID?) represent! Woo!

      (Didn’t go there but am a hometown girl.)

      1. CowWhisperer*

        Sis attended NTID on paper to qualify for in-state tuition – but my parents started using sign language when we were 18 months old so Sis was fully fluent in ASL and written English at an age-appropriate level by Young Fives. She graduated high school with honors and was more than ready for college.

        NTID had fun mixers and dealt with getting ‘terps for all the courses with ASL users.

        Go Tigers!

        1. UnCivilServant*

          When your twin attended, did the students still have the tendency to paint the *ahem* Anatomy of the tiger statue blue?

          It happened more than one year during my time there, and I was never sure if it was an unspoken tradition or one prankster with an inflated sense of cleverness.

    5. Bruce*

      I knew a pair of twins in college, I was on a sports team with one and barely knew the other. They REALLY looked like each other. After a while I realized I could tell them apart, but could not understand how. I mentioned it to my friend and he said “Oh, we are mirror images! My hair parts on the right, his on the left. I’m left handed, he is right handed. We each have a shape in the iris of our eye that is reversed between us.” Once he told me it was obvious, mainly because of the hair, but when I paid attention the right hand vs left hand was a clue too. I did not get close enough to confirm what he said about their eyes though…

      1. Kaboobie*

        I also knew a pair of twins in college, Stu and Mike. One was a science major like me, and the other was an English major IIRC. Once I got to know them, it was easy to tell them apart, because their styles were very different.

        One day during our senior year I ran into “Stu” entering the dining hall, but much to my amusement it was Mike, deliberately dressed like his brother! He explained that only Stu had a meal plan that semester. Mike was living off campus but occasionally borrowed his brother’s ID to eat in the dining hall. I was sure he didn’t have to go to all that trouble just to fool the person scanning IDs, but better safe than sorry?

      2. Bananapantsfeelings*

        I am very curious about how that worked, genetically. I know two fraternal twins who look very similar. But identical twins who are a mirror image is so interesting.

      3. Nessun*

        I knew a set of triplets in high school – only about 200 students total, but somehow the Religion teacher didn’t figure it out for about 2 months, and kept wondering what the student was doing with all the hall passes she gave ‘him’. Got one of them in trouble regularly (any one of them) until she happened to see each of them pass by her going the same direction in the space of 5 minutes and realized there was THREE dudes with the same face.

    6. Elk*

      The bangs thing just delighted me—I’m 35 and live half the country away from my identical twin these days, but I still have bangs because she grew hers out in kindergarten and ever since then it’s been how people tell us apart.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        I’ve pointed out to a lot of people that Sis and I respond very differently to sound. I hear most sounds; my sister does not.

        Oddly enough, nearly no one thought to say one of our names loudly and watch for a response…. but hearing people are weird about that.

    7. Dog momma*

      I 1st read your sister is deaf and attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as Rochester School for the Deaf…yes I’m from Rochester lol

  9. fka Get Me Out of Here*

    I’m gobsmacked at number 9. I keep re-reading it. Truly amazing work and hilariously bad management.

    1. Jaydee*

      I want #9’s story to be made into a movie and then I want to go to the theater as soon as it’s released and watch it. And then go back the next day and every day until it’s no longer in theaters, at which time I will subscribe to whatever streaming service it’s on so I can continue watching it daily, and I’ll buy a hard copy too just to be safe in case it ever stops streaming.

      1. Properlike*

        And then turned into a novelization that becomes a hit musical, featuring those ‘90s dial-up modem sounds!

    2. Sherm*

      Yeah, in addition to the obviously terrible supervisor, I have some side eye for whoever said “Oh hello, lost teenager, here’s some software books that can help you detect those pesky fires. Holler if you need me!”

      1. Archi-detect*

        sounds like an engineer- they solved the problem rather than questioning the problem lol

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        I’m imagining them hearing, “I’m supposed to write a program that . . . ” and they stop listening and hand over a couple of really thick 3-ring binders.

  10. Festively Dressed Earl*

    Too bad LW #9 didn’t know about LW#8 – you locate your intern cohort by lurking around their cake-and-pizza grazing grounds or following the assembly call of “lunch provided.” Isn’t that covered in orientation?

      1. ferrina*

        I felt worse about the orientation than I did about the assignment. It sucks so bad to have no idea who to talk to and think that that is the normal experience, only to find out that no, you are the only person that literally did not get the memo.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And because it was the 90s, it probably was just a paper memo that they were supposed to be given. (Yes, email existed, but not all companies would give precious email addresses to temporary staff. Or they would, but introductory paperwork was all hard copy.)

  11. Timothy*

    Somehow #9 reminds me of my first work-term job — with just a year of university education, and no knowledge of writing assembler (just BASIC, FORTRAN and COBOL), I was tasked with writing a file sub-system in assembler. If you’re not in the industry, imagine being asked to come up with a complete kitchen design, when all you know how to do is operate a circular saw and hammer nails.

    I struggled for a few days, then admitted to my manager that this was way beyond my capabilities. I was then given the simpler job of writing multiplication and division routines — still challenging, but doable. Two years later, I was doing orientation for new employees and other work-term students.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, I had a similar experience with a wildly ambitious intern project that my manager didn’t know how to do himself so he couldn’t help me. When I finally convinced him I was incapable of writing a new integrated test system for a software suite in a proprietary language that took 40 minutes to compile and he gave me some bugs to fix, I almost cried in relief.

  12. RandomNameAllocated*

    I am tired – I misread no. 6 as Nun-competition and wondered if I too could intern at a convent

    1. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

      So that actually is a thing. I know several monasteries (male and female both. Convents are not female monasteries, they are something else), that offer or had offered summer or school year interships.

  13. Catabuda*

    We had one who’d run into people’s offices, play air guitar dramatically (as if he was winding up a show) and then bow, as if hearing applause.

    No one knew quite how to react, so he got a lot of blank stares. He finally did it to a super grumpy person who yelled at him What the F is the matter with you!?

    That cured him.

    1. FricketyFrack*

      But did anyone ever figure out what the F was the matter with him? What a weird dude.

        1. Trina*

          Yeah, it reads very much as the “lol, so random” stuff that was the peak of humor in the 2000s (at least online)

        2. Cat Tree*

          At first I read your comment as disruptive-ass hat rather than disruptive ass-hat. Like when “ass” is used as an adverb, such as, “wow, that’s a big ass cheeseburger!” And now I’m trying to imagine a hat that is extremely disruptive and I can’t stop giggling.

    2. PivotPivot*

      I wonder if his mom said that was very funny and clever and was never dissuaded from that notion til grumpy person gave him a reality check.

      1. Generic Name*

        This suddenly makes me feel better when one time my 17-year-old son said something outrageously dumb and I told him to not be a jackass.

  14. Funnybutnot Funny*

    My summer internship job in the mid 80s was at a state-run police department (think county sheriff-like).
    My job wasnt formally authorized by the barracks Captain I worked for and funds were misappropriated for my paycheck every week.
    It started a HUGE scrutiny of the entire department- which is now run by our Stare Police.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      So… who do you call when you find out the police are embezzling?

      Also, I’m a bit unclear: you said it was a state-run police department, which as a result of the scandal is now run by… the state? I’m not following.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        No, it’s now run by the Stare Police, who sound slightly terrifying :D

        More seriously, State with a capital the second time, so a rough equivalent of city police being taken over by the police force of the surrounding county?

      2. Siege*

        If the department is run by the county, the state would indeed be a higher form of government. Based on the explanations, I think state and county aren’t correct terms, and the first use of state just means in the sense of government rather than a specific administrative division.

        1. ABC989*

          I’m wondering if it is more that both are at the state level but only one is *The* State Police

          For example, university police are officially a state police in that they are a police force ran by the state. But they are not the State Police (Troopers)

  15. bamcheeks*

    There’s at least a 10% chance the national energy infrastructure is still running on the original “probably not on fire” programme.

    1. Ultimate Facepalm*

      I know plenty of things – metaphorical and literal – that this report could apply to.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It sounds like it’s 15+ years old, reports on critical infrastructure, was never adequately tested and was only ever held together with silly string.

        It is 100% still in use.

  16. Petty_Boop*

    I would have loved to be able to do the twin thing! Sadly, my twin is male and I am female so we’d likely get found out pretty quickly!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I don’t know there was at least one Disney Channel movie that had the twin girl take over for her brother. Had something to do with BMX bikes.

      1. Petty_Boop*

        I’m not sure that wearing a helmet to a mall retail job would have been a great disguise though lol .

        1. KaciHall*

          Oh, Andi cut her hair. but the problem was she forgot to remove her nail polish.

      2. Librarian of Things*

        Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet was based on the same premise. The sister went for knight training in her brother’s place. Excellent fantasy series, strong female lead.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Yeah, but nobody at knight training actually knew the brother, or the jig would’ve been up based on behavior alone…

      1. Expelliarmus*

        As does She’s the Man, which is based on Twelfth Night and is about a girl who pretends to be her twin brother so she can play soccer at his school.

  17. You want stories, I got stories*

    Dang I didn’t think to share my daughter’s stories. She is working with chimpanzees at a sanctuary. She has learned she needs to duck when they throw their feces at her. Her favorite chimp is the one who doesn’t throw feces at her that day.

    1. Laser99*

      Please tell her to be very careful around them. I’m sure she already knows this but they are many times stronger than humans and have caused truly horrific injuries (don’t look it up, you don’t want to know).

      1. You want stories, I got stories*

        Thanks, she is studying to be a zoologist, so not some random intern not knowing anything.

      2. H.Regalis*

        Lighter story of chimp strength:

        Many, many years ago, my partner’s old biology teacher had just got done with basic training. He and a couple of his army buddies went to a local fair, and there was a “Wrestle a Chimp” attraction. You paid a fee to try, and if you could pin the chimp, you got a stupidly large amount of money, like six months’ rent.

        Being a bunch of eighteen-year-olds who had just finished basic, they all signed up to wrestle the chimp. Her handler said they could even all wrestle her at the same time! That was not enough for any of the army guys to twig what was going on. They all went into the ring, each put a hand on the chimp, who was perfectly still until her handler gave the go-sign. The teacher said he remembered touching her arm and being surprised at how it was entirely thick, corded muscle. Then the handler blew the whistle and she threw all of them out of the ring like a bunch of rag dolls.

        1. Laser99*

          That is a hoot. I’m imagining all these macho-acting guys limping away shamefacedly, ha ha

  18. DefinitiveAnn*

    Two of my brothers are identical twins. They both worked at a nice steakhouse during late-college years. Diners were often surprised to see their bartender working as their waiter 15 minutes later.

    1. H.Regalis*

      During the pandemic, at the place I take my laundry to—small family business—the same guy was always working the counter. Didn’t matter what day or what time of day, he was always there. I felt bad for him.

      One day I came in to drop off my stuff, said hi, and turned around to see the same guy doing another task. Not twins, but brothers and with masks on they looked identical. I was so glad when I found out it wasn’t just one guy working eighteen-hour days six days a week.

  19. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    We have a guy who isn’t an intern but is in his first office job, and on the weekend after his first week at work he kept WhatsApping his new manager- not even with work related issues but with “how are you” and updates on New Guy’s weekend. Nope, it wasn’t a flirtation, just him being friends- the manager politely told him to knock it off and he stopped. I suspect in a few years he will look back and cringe himself inside out.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I can totally see a manager saying “message me if you need anything, or if you have any problems outside of work (meaning things like he was going to be late, sick, etc) and the new guy thinking “Oh this boss is so cool. I’m going to be friends”

  20. Peanut Hamper*

    #1 reminds me of when the new Barnes and Noble opened up in my city. They hired a bunch of very young people who were not aware of a lot of things.

    The biography section was alphabetized by last name. There were a bunch of books about Douglas MacArthur in the “A” section because all of the covers just said “MacArthur”. They thought his name was “Mac Arthur” and didn’t realize it was “Douglas MacArthur”.

    Their high school history teachers have some explaining to do.

    1. ferrina*

      I recently learned that if you look at the publishing page, it has the author name listed alphabetically (I was misalphabetizing Emily St. John Mandel). That knowledge has changed my life.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I was very intrigued by this information, but I just picked up the two books closest to me and on the publishing page I just see the author’s name listed the same way as it is on the cover as First Last. Am I looking in the wrong spot?

        1. Cheshire Cat*

          The title page lists the title, publisher, pub date, and the author’s name as Jane Doe.

          The reverse of the title page is the copyright page—there is a copyright notice and some other information. Usually, at the bottom of the page, is the CIP data. The author’s name is listed as Doe, Jane, 1970- there; it also includes the title, a call number, and some subject headings.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Whoever did that should have looked at the shelves and said, “I shall return!”

  21. Alan*

    For #8, one summer the project I was on decided to reward everyone on the project with a catered lunch for all our hard work. They chose the patio of a building that had a bunch of interns and interns descended on the free food like a horde of locusts and then disappeared. People on the project who weren’t there at the start got nothing. In fairness to the interns, the company did often sponsor intern parties with food so some/most likely thought this was yet another giveaway for their benefit but wow it was disappointing for those of us who were hungry and supposed to be there.

    1. Chas*

      I remember our post-doc committee used to organise charity cake and coffee sales where people would donate cakes and then you could have cake and coffee on a “donate at least £1, take whatever amount of cake and coffee you like” basis, which had worked well for a few years (lots of people would donate more than the £1 because it was for charity, and most people would be reasonable and not take too much.)

      Then one year, due to a combination of the person advertising the event hyping up the “all-you-can-eat” aspect, lots of new PhD students who weren’t familiar with how things usually went having just started, and several of the volunteer bakers deciding to cut their cakes in massive slices instead of smaller portions, we suddenly had a whole bunch of people who just donated £1 and then piled their plates high (because they were taking a portion of everything) and hardly left anything for everyone else.

      After that, we had to switch to a “£1 per cake piece (but coffee is free)” system, which never seemed to work quite as well. Some people were less inclined to be generous with their money, so we never raised as much. And we started to end up with more uneaten cake at the end of the day because people were only taking 1 slice instead of 2-4 like they used to, so the bakers gradually became less inclined to donate cakes. The events were gradually getting worse and worse until the pandemic put an end to them completely.

      1. WellRed*

        If they are going to conspire together, they can take the fall or consequences together.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I assumed they were taking turns skipping work and covering for each other.

    1. NMitford*

      That was my story, and both twins were fired. Or, at the least, the one who’d showed up that day was fired and told to go home and tell her sister she was fired too.

  22. Sled dog mama*

    #9 reminds me of a job I had straight out of college. I was starting a teaching contract in the fall but needed to earn some money between graduation and 1st real paycheck.
    The local health care system was getting terrible complaints about how long it was taking to get reports back from radiology. They couldn’t understand why since the system told them they had an average turn around of 8 hours for outpatient studies (so everything not for the ER or people admitted).
    They hired me and handed me several months worth of data on times that orders were entered, read, transcribed and sent to the ordering provider and said “tell us why”

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Oops, hit submit too early.
      The outcome was that while they did have and average turn around of 8 hours, they weren’t looking at any other statistic which would have told them that some types of reports took much longer and most of the complaints were about that type.

      1. Observer*

        I’m impressed with you – but profoundly unimpressed with management. The only thing they looked at was averages? Why?!

        1. Boof*

          One guess is management has no clinical experience and doesn’t understand there are really different types of radiology reports…

          1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            You don’t need to go that far. They’re management, they probably don’t have any idea there are any statistics beyond an average. Even plotting a distribution and noticing a tail would have helped (after which the domain experience to figure out “how is this tail different from the rest” comes in).

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I remember years ago, we got results of a survey that were actually pretty good. Instead of celebrating, our “leadership” went on a witch hunt to find out why one particular department was the lowest scored. Keep in mind, their score was in no way bad, just lower than the other areas.

              I tried to point out that when you rank a group, even if everyone is doing well, someone has to be at the last spot. To this day, I don’t think any of them understood.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      In my experience, the answer is also “radiology is one of the most annoying departments in the hospital system” :P

  23. HailRobonia*

    My sister used to supervise a work-study student who was remarkably inconsistent. One day the student would be great, the next day it was like she had amnesia and had to be taught everything from scratch again. I joked that maybe the student was twins who were alternating their work…. now I am beginning to think maybe it wasn’t as much of a joke as I had thought…

    1. Overthinking it*

      sounds like a story in “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith!

  24. MassMatt*

    OK #4 seems to violate some sort of physical law. You dug a hole, dumped wheelbarrows full of soil into it, and covered it over. With what? What happened to the dirt, or sand, or whatever that you dug out of the hole? Or was this some sort of M.C. Escher spacetime paradox?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Same! I had to stop reading to comment about that! I’m sure it happened…somehow, but I can’t picture it.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I’m thinking they dug a hole filled it with the sand, then piled the dirt on top, causing the seeds to come to life.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I think that silt would be more compacted and wet than regular soil so it would fill comparatively less volume than the original soil. Once the water had dissipated from the silt into the surrounding soil, the mound, if there was one, would start to settle. And, if you spread the original soil from the hole all around, there won’t be a mound at all.

      1. ferrina*

        This makes sense to me.

        It’s basically surface area vs density. If you were using something that is of a constant density (like a building block), then your surface area has a 1:1 ratio. You take one block out, you can put one block in. (Minecraft is a great example of this).
        With dirt, it has a variable density. It can expand or contract based on things like how wet it is and how it’s structured. It’s more like Tetris- you can fill up a Tetris board and still have lots of blank space, or you can fill it up and have very little blank space.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yup, this. Before you dig up dirt, it has a lot of air in it, but once you dig it up the air is release so that when you put it back where you dug it up from, it’s more compact and takes up less space.

    4. MansplainerHater*

      It was silt that had run down into a sandy area, and it was different in texture, composition and color. So we dug the hole and buried the silt, filling it back in with the sandy soil. The inversion allowed the native seed bank to come to the surface.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I am ridiculously curious as to what the native flowers were! I imagine that if you told me you’d be giving up some of your anonymity so don’t feel like you have to. But that’s a really cool story!

  25. Phony Genius*

    On #2, are you 100% certain that there were actually twins? Were they ever seen together? Could it have been a very resourceful (and creative) teenager living a double work life?

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I was definitely a napper in my first internship, though at least I did it during lunch breaks!

      My sleep schedule was a wreck, plus I had undiagnosed ADHD so the understimulation of a staid office environment and low-level tasks was exhausting to me. I was only in for half-days and was BAFFLED by the concept of making it through a full workday every weekday for the rest of my life. How were people not just toppling over left and right??

  26. I'm just here for the cats!!*

    This was a guy that I went to college with ( a few years below me) who later was interning at the customer service call center company that I worked for. He intervened as front office staff (I think he did some HR tasks, orientation and other things like that). They guaranteed work after graduation, which turned out to be a job taking calls. Not anything he went to school for (business). He didn’t stay very long.

  27. Anon but very obvious if you worked there*

    #9 is 100% my favorite and makes my personal Super Intern story look like nothing. My second assignment as an employee wellness intern at a medium sized organization was to write catchy descriptions for the five new company values. By the end of the semester, I’d done that, designed handouts and banners, rewrote the company performance review based on the new values, created an employee recognition program based on the new values, and for the finale, wrote and delivered in-person training to all 220 employees.

    This was 15 years ago. I was in the building a couple of months ago and the banners are still hanging.

    1. KaciHall*

      When I was in elementary school, our county Just Say No program would have a student design contest every other year to design new shirts. My design won in 5th grade.

      11 years later, my baby brother got to join and they were still using the same shirts. Mom said she was thoroughly sick of it at that point, since all 5 of us had gotten one.

  28. The Kulprit*

    I’m so glad that #10 didn’t end in a medical emergency. A lot of effort to not work.

  29. AnneCordelia*

    I worked with someone once who would only answer to Peter Parker. HOWEVER, he was five years old.

  30. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    This reminded me of the twins in my college dorm who were rarely seen together. One of them has a lateral lisp (the dramatic, hissy kind), but the other doesn’t, and since a lot of people didn’t know they were twins (and also didn’t know manners) the one with the lisp would get accused of “faking it for attention.”
    Because lisps are the height of cool, you guys.

  31. Anony*

    Number 12 is the feel good story of the day! Maybe interning isn’t supposed to teach you skills THAT basic, but imagine the difference it made in that kid’s life. Way to go for coaching him!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      That reminded me of when I taught middle school and when basketball season started and the boys needed to wear ties, most of them had no idea how to tie them. (I taught in rural/working class areas.) I taught a lot of kids how to tie a tie every winter.

      Yep, that team did a great job of coaching that intern. This is part of what interning is all about: learning those norms that you may not have picked up in school or from your family. I’m so glad they helped him instead of feeling resentful toward him. We’ve seen way too much “Ugh, young people these days.” Yeah, young people. They don’t know. How would they unless someone teaches them?

  32. MBK*

    As a professional software developer and system architect, I am rewriting all of my system maintenance documentation to specify “probably not on fire” as our minimum reliability target.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        The SunOS manual page for the operating system command “fasthalt” said to use fasthalt, instead of a more orderly shutdown, if the processor was on fire. Thankfully, I never had to use it.

  33. BellyButton*

    I can’t believe I missed out on this call for stories. My fav (ug…worst??) Intern story.

    3rd yr engineering students, beeing paid about $900 per week for a 9 week summer internship.
    Day 1– I am onboarding, we had some sort of computer issue and we were wating for IT to come by to help.
    Intern: “uh, hi. I can’t be here tomorrow.”
    Me” “Oh, did you approve that with HR and your manager? We have a very intesive 2 week onboarding program.”
    Intern ” Uh, no. I can’t be here tomorrow,”
    Me : “Ok… um… well.. was it approved before you were hired or for a family or medical emergency?”
    Intern ,” No, I am going to my family cabine for a few days.”
    Me: *stiffles laughter* “That isn’t how this works. You are only here for a 9 week period, paid, and unless you are sick, or a family emergency, you don’t get time off for that 9 weeks.”
    Intern: “oh I gotta call my mom.”
    Me ” sure! Leave my office to do that.”
    *5 min passes and interns walks back in*
    Intern “my mom wants to talk to you.”
    Me: HAHAHHHAHAHAHAHAH “no. either you are here for work or we hire one of the wait listed people. I will NOT speak to the parent of a 20 yr old.”

    1. Observer*

      So what happened?

      I’d like to think that he got a clue. But I suspect that you had to replace him.

      Either way, lesson learned.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      I read this and reflexively removed my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose while saying, “Oh, son.”

  34. L*

    I’m sitting in my office at work and can’t stop giggling about this insane “is it on fire?” programming project.

  35. AZ Fell and Co*

    #1 makes me think of this small antique book store that hired a guy as kind of an intern, mostly as a favor to the poor dude, and he started rearranging all the books by the first letter of the first word in the book.
    The boss only let him get away with it because he didn’t really like selling his books anyway.
    Weird time.

    1. AZ Fell and Co*

      Forgot to mention, same guy was using the books to swat at flies, and he later showed up to a party the owner was throwing dressed like Liberace. Jim was such a strange dude.

    2. my cat is prettier than me*

      I knew what you were referencing even before I saw your name :)

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Nicely done, Mr. Fell. I’ve heard of that intern and mentioned Jim elsewhere on the thread.

    4. Nina*

      For clarity, this is an anecdote from the book and/or series Good Omens, not something that purports to have really happened.
      It’s popular, but not universally known by any means.

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        Definitely not in the book, so I must assume that it’s in the TV series.

  36. Lobstermn*

    I used to need and hide naps at my jobs all the time. Then I got an adhd diagnosis and meds, and now I don’t. I wish someone had mentioned it to me years ago, and so now I say it here.

    1. Wren*

      Yeah the sleeping intern stories in the original thread reminded me of a friend with narcolepsy, which takes an average of ten years to diagnose (so intern aged people are unlikely to be diagnosed). Narcolepsy in popular culture doesn’t show the desperate hunting for a place to nap during the day, just the dramatically falling asleep in inappropriate situations. But there are SO many chronic health conditions that could manifest this way, I hope people bear that in mind if they run into an intern napping situation. A lot of us at that age are ALSO learning how to navigate chronic health conditions that we don’t realize are chronic health conditions yet. Be the adult who nudges the young person to see a doctor (and keep seeing doctors until they get results), because there’s a good chance they don’t have that kind of adult in their life. And a good chance that they have more support through school than they will after they graduate (or drop out because of their undiagnosed health condition!)
      / end rant

      1. Anon for this*

        That was my story.
        The intern was bartending at night. Every night. Until very late. He was actually really really good at it. His poor parents, however, paying full everything for a really high end university and he ends up being a bartender. A good one. But I wish they had all just been honest and accepting with each other from the get go!

      2. ferrina*

        Yeah…..there’s a lot of conditions that don’t look like conditions. And there’s symptoms that aren’t clear symptoms- for example, are you lazy or do you have fatigue? Are you not paying attention or do you have brain fog? Are you a trouble maker or an understimulated ADHDer who is trying to engage? (er, that last one may be based on my entire childhood).

        A third party has no way of knowing, because often the measuring stick is “I have actively tried to improve on my own and it’s not happening.” If you tried adjusting your sleep schedule and it’s not happening, check with a doctor. If you are constantly tired and don’t know why, doctor. A good doctor will ask questions and help figure out what it might be. Sometimes it’s lifestyle changes, sometimes it’s a health condition. Also important to note that not all doctors are good doctors, so if you get the vibe that your doc isn’t listening, find a different one. You can also do your own research, but be very careful, because not all ‘information’ is accurate.

        As a coworker/boss, you can’t ask someone to get a diagnosis, but you can share information and set a cultural tone. De-stigmatize health conditions (including mental health) and be clear on what is flexible and what is not. Know that different bodies have different needs and health conditions have variable presentations (I really hate the “you can’t have [CONDITION] because your symptoms don’t look like I’m expecting!”). Educate yourself by learning about and listening to a wide array of experiences (including different health conditions). I’ve been in the patient advocacy for several years and I’ve found that my language and approach has really evolved. It’s not an intentional thing, but it comes across in causal interactions that gently exposes people to different viewpoints and experiences.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      I just mentioned this above! The understimulation of my first internship was EXHAUSTING and I had no idea how full time employees lasted 40 hours a week without toppling over. I went into roles where everything was (metaphorically) on fire a lot so that kept me awake-enough for another 10 years or so until I got a diagnosis, with a side of chronic illnesses exacerbated (if not straight up caused) by the constant exposure to cortisol and adrenaline.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, same. I didn’t sleep very well at night and at my job I remember being so tired that once the weather got nice I’d go to a park nearby and nap on one of the benches (I didn’t drive to that job or else maybe I’d have napped in my car). I remember telling a coworker regularly, “I am soooooo tired and I don’t get why, because I definitely got eight hours of sleep last night” so as to ward off any thoughts that I was out partying late at night or anything. I think she knew me well enough to know that that wasn’t my style anyway, but I still worried about it. Thing is, while I may have been in bed for ten hours, I probably was still only getting six hours of actual quality sleep each night. It was exhausting. Only after medication and an ADHD diagnosis was I able to function during the day without either literally falling asleep or being a zombie all afternoon.

      But of course Anon for this already explained that he was actually just bartending all night long. I guess it’s hard to know if you’re a manager what the actual reason is behind your employee needing to sleep all the time.

  37. merida*

    Re: #1 and the re-alphabetizing – ok that’s kind of endearing and amusing! When I worked in publishing, our book shelves were re-organized by title… including articles like “a” and “the,” so if we had a book called “The Book” it would be under T, not B. So in order to find a book you had to remember if it had “the” or “a” (or no article). Books in a series were not together. So much wasted time staring at the bookcases with desperation and exasperation. I only wish it had been our intern who did it! But it was the company president who insisted on it. No one was allowed to change it.

  38. Rick Tq*

    #1 – If your intern had reorganized the books by color of the spine you could have finally helped the customers who come in asking for the “book with the blue cover”…. Also easier for the ‘interior designers’ who want uniform blocks of color on book shelves.

    1. Siege*

      The trend I currently hate is the one where you shelve the books spine-in for a uniform appearance. Tell me you don’t actually read the books you own.

      1. Kendall^2*

        In junior high I went through a phase where I organized my books by colophon; I liked seeing all the penguins together, and the sowers, etc.

        I got over it pretty quickly, though, and switched to something that made a lot more sense. (Plus it was only my own books, not for public browsing, so not as horrible.)

      2. Nina*

        I used to have a very bright room, about half the ceiling was skylight. It was fading the books horribly, so I did shelve them spine-in to stop them bleaching away to nothing, and penciled the title on the leading edge.
        In my defense, I was 16.

      3. Timothy (TRiG)*

        I did reshelve one of my parents’ books spine in. Their copy of Then There Were None is old, and bears its original title. Spine in seemed better.

  39. Pickle Pizza*

    #9 absolutely amazing! I bow down to you!

    Truthfully, it sounds like you actually had a more meaningful and useful internship experience than all the others. Learning how to independently research ideas and problem-solve is more valuable than the nonsense the other interns did.

    1. buddleia*

      I agree, no. 9 was such a boss. The letter writer I mean. The boss himself… At least he was never in the intern’s way?

  40. Raida*

    2. The identical twins

    I wonder if one twin wanted to work and the other didn’t, or if the other one was also off doing something for the team!

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The twins might have had 4 jobs between them, each twin bamboozling 2 jobs

  41. LabRat*

    I am wondering if the legendary Intern 9 worked somewhere in the DOE complex or a national laboratory. Because that combination of “it would be a good idea to have some interns”, a plan beginning and ending with “here’s an intern, have Larry mentor him”, and just finding some benevolent labcoats to provide the raw materials of self-education and project execution sounds hauntingly plausible to that setting.

  42. Industry Behemoth*

    #2: The identical twins.

    I know a pair of twins who attended the same university, and people still got them confused despite one of them clearly being physically challenged.

    Several years ago, there was a restaurant in Nee York whose gimmick was all the servers were identical twins. But working was a both-or-none proposition. At least once a server came to work without her twin who was sick, and the place sent her home despite her pleas that she needed the money.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      That’s why you need identical triplets!

      There was a set of identical triplets at my college. They all had the same hairstyle and clothing styles. Lotta drunks took second looks at them on Friday and Saturday nights.

  43. Bruce*

    LW4 reminds me of the summer I was 17, I worked at a regional park that included shoreline on the Bay, meadows, a lot of eucalyptus groves and the remains of several explosives bunkers (the park had been an explosives factory site, the trees were planted to dampen the shock waves of any explosions that happened). Mostly I picked up trash, once spent a day picking up EVERY CIGARETTE BUTT in a large parking lot. One time I was riding around with one of the regular workers, we saw a camp fire burning on the beach in an area that had a lot of wood debris, it was small but was starting to spread out. We stopped, grabbed the back-pack sprayer, and discovered it was empty. So my senior coworker handed me his hard hat and had me run to the water line, fill it up with water and run back. Then he took the hard hat and carefully poured it over the fire, handing it back to me for a refill. We put the fire out after about 4 trips, I think he decided not to report it since he didn’t want to explain why the sprayer was empty.

  44. BrandNewBandName*

    I think this should be an annual feature; I loved these! My faorite of them.all was the “Is this thing on fire?” programmer! Great job, you!

    I’m sorry you didn’t get a better supervisor, but I’m glad he kept his word about giving you the required paperwork at the end.

  45. Bruce*

    Aside from working several years for a science team, my coolest story for a summer job was working for a small company that made specialized medical test equipment. Their systems were run by a PDP11 computer, and I was asked to update the program to run on the latest operating system. It was pretty low stakes, since they had working copies on the previous revision, and while it was a real project I was not likely to cause any damage. They had a big install going on in a Middle Eastern country that had a lot of oil money to spend… we got a call that the hard disk they’d brought along was completely wiped. They were embarrassingly stuck! We boxed up a drive with my latest revision and air couriered it to the Middle East, they dropped it in a day later and BEHOLD, it worked! I really had not done anything challenging in the update, I just had NOT MESSED IT UP. For that I got a nice thank you from the engineer doing the install. Later they realized that after they packed the crate with the hard disk, someone had put the charger for the forklift on top of the crate, let it run overnight, and it had enough of a magnetic field to wipe the disk… new rules were put in place…

    1. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

      I remember those disk packs! About 2 feet in diameter and 10 inches tall. They were the only method of transporting an executable from one system to another.
      My second job out of college I was to do bug fixes for a system on a PDP11. But my work was never tested. The “live” system was on a military base (on an island off the California coast) that I, as a lowly contractor, was not allowed to step foot on. The civil servant (M30?) who took updates there to test decided that mine (F27) were not worth testing. And he spent all three days on-site debugging his code which STILL did not work!

      1. Bruce*

        That’s a hilarious but frustrating display of a self-own by a misogynist!

        My own testing was done using a very simple switch box that could force the inputs of the computer to one single static value at a time…since the real data was a fast moving stream of inputs of many values, the only reason I think the update worked is that I touched as little as I possibly could!

        PS: I interviewed with a SoCal military contractor my senior year, I had just gotten over the flu and as the day went by I felt a relapse coming on in the form of a splitting headache. I could barely hold my head up. They were polite but did not give me an offer. I did not mind. A couple of years later they merged and were pretty much scattered to the wind…

      2. Bruce*

        More stories about old hardware: The lab I worked in at school had the single platter hard drives, they were fairly early adopters of Unix and PDP11s. I remember our Systems Admin wiping a platter off one time with cleaning wipes. I also worked on a rack mounted PDP11 that ran Forth on dual 8″ floppies, one for the OS and one for data and programs. Note that I did NOT become a programmer by career… a lot of the physics Phds went into programming if they did not find an academic position, they did a lot of programming while processing the data we were getting. I wound up as a chip engineer in various roles…

  46. Retired tax auditor*

    About 10 years ago, a government office I worked at had an employee named Spider Mann. People said he had legally changed his name. I didn’t know him but people said he was eccentric.

  47. Rick Tq*

    Reading the twins comments reminded me of a summer theatre session when I was in high school. We did a couple sets of short one-act plays and one major one at the end, the choice that year was Alice in Wonderland, possibly because we had twins participating.

    No, we didn’t use the girls for the Tweedle twins. We had a Cheshire Cat who could ‘jump around the stage’ courtesy of some creative use of lighting and scrims… One of my favorite memories of high school theatre as a lighting tech.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I think for a lot of interns they’ve been having college schedules where they can stay up late and sleep in, and they’ve got friends who are wanting to go do things (video games, bars, etc) at 2am. They might not have an 8am class, I had a roommate whose classes started at 1pm. They may also have been able to sleep through classes, not be super alert and contributing.

      Once your friend group is all working you tend to stop being tempted by late night hangouts in favor or sleeping a regular schedule. And you get used to the expectation that you be well rested for work.

  48. GenuinelyBaffled*

    “He would tie his hands to the undercarriage of the truck so it looked like he was working on it.”

    Uh-huh, sure. And he’d just untie himself lickety-split, too, I imagine?

  49. Once too Often*

    Reshelving. A college friend spent a semester abroad, where she had a part time gig in a small library. When she came back, & back to her part time job in the college library, she told us this story. Overseas, they asked her maintain & “shelf-read” the library stacks. She was surprised to see them so badly out of order, & patiently, carefully, reserved everything. The boss later looked for something in the library & couldn’t find it – & noticed that things were out of order. Friend was asked about it. Turns out the little library was using the Library of Congress system, & she had patiently reshelved it to the Dewey Decimal system. Once they figured it out, they had her reshelve everything back to the LC system.
    Side benefits to us was a) she’s a great story teller, b) we learned about the LC system c) a great reminder that that obvious might be an entirely different system of “obvious.”

  50. Impossible? Nah!*

    #9 is my favorite kind of project (angry yelling bosses aside.) Nobody told me something wasn’t supposed to be possible…so…I hammered on it until I made it work. My software vendors both love, and hate, me for that trait.

  51. Roscoe da Cat*

    Re: interns wanting free food

    When I worked in Congress, the members who were nice would agree to go to receptions for 10 minutes, so the interns could get free food.

  52. Misty*

    Several years ago, I had an intern who called off from his shift because he had to do a load of laundry.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      FWIW, when I was teaching, there was more than one occasion when I was at Walmart late at night buying new socks and/or underwear because I had forgotten to do laundry, and didn’t feel like staying up all night to do it.

  53. Brad Deltan*

    Re: LW9 I would hire that intern in a heartbeat…but I’ll bet they’re already making big bucks somewhere and I can’t possibly afford them. Let’s break it down:

    1. They were hurled into a wildly inappropriate boss/mentor relationship, but adapted.

    2. They were treated VERY poorly by management (never told about other interns), but adapted.

    3. They were handed an impossible task, but instead of giving up, starting asking around for help until they found someone. (life lesson kids: most people DO want to help if you ask)

    4. With the significant limitations on them, they still created a useful and mostly-functional system that did exactly what was asked of them.

    5. (Best of all) They showed up their shitty boss to senior management by making an impossible deliverable on-time and under budget.


  54. IntoTheWoulds*

    LW9, what an amazing story!

    It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story a professor told us in grad school, about how the field of modern visual cognition was basically started when a student was given a “quick” summer assignment in a robotics lab to “make the robot see”. Turns out, that’s… complex. And multifaceted. And enough to sustain an entire subfield for decades+.

  55. Catgirl*

    I’m sorry I missed this call-out because I have a doozy of a story. I worked at a laboratory and our small team had a university student each summer. Sally started out getting along well with everyone but over time became deeply paranoid. If she was talking about something and you made a neutral remark like “I can see that must be difficult” she’d storm out in a huff thinking you’d insulted her. She kept complaining to our manager that we were criticizing her behind her back, sabotaging her by hiding her equipment, deliberately ruining her experiments, many other things. We told our manager we thought Sally was mentally ill but he kept telling us to try harder to get along with her. We were afraid she’d retaliate against us for the things she’d imagine we were doing to her. Then one day Sally went to him and accused us of trying to kill her by putting poison in her water bottle.
    The manager called Sally’s father and he came and took her away, and we never saw her again. I hope she got the treatment she needed and recovered.

  56. Elarra Harper*

    I can so relate to No. 7. Co-intern on a data analytics project for a large government agency on the 2nd day confessed to the trainer that she had no idea what he was talking about and this wasn’t what she signed up for. She explained she was an Art major and was supposed to work with someone on marketing design. Despite us having spent half the day before with HR, it took most of the rest of the day to discover she was on the wrong floor, at the wrong agency.

  57. Lucy Van Pelt*

    Right after college I had a summer internship at a journal that was a star in its little socio-political niche, and its editor was likewise a niche celebrity. A big perk of the internship was having personal access to his Wisdom and Big Ideas.
    The journal was published out of his home set among the trees in a beautiful suburb. He and his wife–who was the journal’s publisher and business manager–had recently divorced. She left, taking her financial know-how with her, and left him moping in the house with his Big Ideas and a small professional staff. I guess the money ran out, and the staff went on strike. When we half a dozen interns showed up, we were told that we would be putting out the summer issue of the journal by ourselves. (We belatedly understood the situation and realized we were scabs.)
    Most of the time we were on our own. Articles had been chosen by an editorial board, but we edited them (have you ever tried to proofread by committee?). Someone called about advertising. I put them on hold and yelled across the house, “Anybody know about advertising?” A fellow intern picked up and said, “Advertising Department, can I help you?”
    We did have a few Big Conversations with the Editor. I can picture him eating salad with his hands and complaining that the community didn’t offer enough help to people seeking a romantic partner.
    One of the Editor’s Big Ideas hit the mainstream that summer and he went off to hobnob at the Democratic National Convention. The deadline to get the issue to the printer was approaching, and the two of us who had worked on our college newspapers spent long hours laying out the issue on giant Macintosh computers. One morning, we arrived at the house among the trees to discover that our work area had been sprayed by a skunk. Gagging, we wrestled the Macs out onto the patio and got the work done, making it to the printer at the last possible minute.
    I don’t know exactly what happened, but most of the staff came back. The Editor expressed his mild thanks and mild regret that we had been forced to do so much unpaid labor. We each received a free copy of the journal.
    I got an offer to work at a local newspaper, for pay, and without skunks.

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