The Serial Intern Who Counts Straws and Hauls Trash

Another long-suffering fashion intern.Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

This week, Daily Intel is taking a peek inside the lives of summer interns. Today, the Serial Intern Who Counts Straws and Hauls Trash: Female, 20, marketing major from Delaware working two unpaid internships: one at a fashion label, the other at a fashion PR firm.

DAY ONE

9:30 a.m. First intern to arrive at the fashion label and I’m instantly remembered. This is a great start.

9:33 a.m. New Intern No. 2 arrives, so that calls for a tour. We also learn our dos and don’ts, then sign our lives away. Does anyone really read those forms?

9:47 a.m. New Intern No. 3 and Old Interns No. 1 and No. 2 have arrived. I instantly label the old interns “Super Interns,” simply because they are asked to do something.

9:52 a.m. My first task of the day is to count cups, lids, and straws. Scratch that. My first task of the day is to count the cups, lids, and red straws. Forget the twelve boxes of green and yellow straws. There are 56 red straws.

10:56 a.m. Task: Take the subway to Union Square to buy more red straws. The 56 red straws we already have will not be used.

11:47 a.m. Super Intern No. 1 advises me to sew tags on garments. Super Intern No. 2 tells to organize the hangers. Where’s my internship coordinator? Why are interns delegating to other interns?

1:18 p.m. Office Starbucks run. Typical intern duty. The only downside: My two hands held six coffees and none of them were for me.

4:36 p.m. The bathrooms are dirty. Super Intern No. 1 suggests I clean them, and then take out the trash.

5:55 p.m. Intern coordinator stops by to inform us that Thursday’s call time is 7 a.m.! I don’t work Thursdays.

6:04 p.m. Super Intern No. 1 to me: “I can’t look at Intern No. 3’s face everyday.”

DAY TWO

8:45 a.m. After being told I arrived too early for my initial interview (fifteen minutes) at the fashion PR firm, I do a few laps around the block. At 8:53 a.m., I decide it’s okay to head to the office.

10:18 a.m. I learn how to check in sample clothes that were sent out. I’m warned about looking too available. Free time is prohibited here.

11:43 a.m. Sitting around, pretending to do something. I also look around at the other interns to see what they are or are not doing. Should I ask? Apparently I shouldn’t.

12:07 p.m. Another intern asks if I’d like to learn more about returning clothes. I reluctantly follow her. A lot of rules go into maintaining the showroom, all of which revolve around uniformity. One slip and the employees get angry.

12:19 p.m. I make my rounds of asking interns if they need any assistance. At this company, you always ask the interns what to do and not the employees.

12:33 p.m. I head back up to the showroom and help a girl Windex everything in sight. She keeps looking for more surfaces to clean to avoid going back to work. I get the not-so-subtle hint that she doesn’t care for this internship very much.

1:45 p.m. Head out to get coffee, my lunch of choice. 

2:17 p.m. I’m back to working on our online server. I’m faster than any other intern. I’m also the only one who notices.

2:58 p.m. We’re being yelled at. The clothes in the showroom are messy and we are incompetent at answering the phone. I am then instructed to learn how to answer the phone. Ten times in a row.

3:35 p.m. Every time I’m alone with another intern, they give me survival tips. Of my seven internships to date, this is a first.

4:44 p.m. My boss addresses me for the second time all day. Did I look too available? No. I hadn’t printed my contact sheet, which contains my contact information and photo. Name, number, e-mail? Done.

4:49 p.m. WRONG. The font size is wrong. What? It looks perfect!

4:50 p.m. WRONG. Okay. Does she not see what I see?

4:51 p.m. WRONG. “How do you not understand how to do this?” My perfect vision has failed me. Or her sanity has failed her. She obsesses over the intern contact-sheet board and demands they all look identical. I nod and head back to my desk.

4:52 p.m. When I present my fourth copy, she says: “That’s fine, I guess.” (Mumbles of frustration are heard as I walk away.)

4:53 p.m. I begin to tack up my contact sheet when I’m told my tacks are the wrong color. After the font-size fiasco, I’m really holding back laughter. Who has time to care what color the tacks are? My new task is to run to Duane Reade and buy tacks. Clear tacks.

4:59 p.m. Of course Duane Reade doesn’t have clear tacks. I try another location. No luck. I’m told to try the hardware store.

5:12 p.m. Finally, a store with clear tacks! Twenty blocks away, but who cares? I have the tacks.

5:30 p.m. I’m back and no one seems to notice I was gone or that I have returned with the now-perfect tacks to hang up my now-perfect contact sheet.

5:37 p.m. Everyone seems hard at work. Either they’re better at faking it than I am or they really were given work to do. I begin to organize hangers by color, size, and type.

6:05 p.m. The font-crazed employee brings us chocolate. Is it poisoned? Just kidding. The gesture was kind and the chocolate sweet.

6:46 p.m. Facebook. Twitter. E-mail. I’ve exhausted all of my resources and no one has anything for me to do.

7:36 p.m. Dismissed.

DAY THREE

9:20 a.m. My boss at the fashion PR firm calls for me by name to deliver something uptown. I’m impressed.

10:47 a.m. Working for a public-relations company, I’m learning how to clip press on our clients. I thought I was getting really great press. Instead, my boss informs me that I wasted my time because they had probably already been done.

11:02 a.m. Still searching for press.

11:34 a.m. Still.

1:27 p.m. I witness an intern roll her eyes and get severely annoyed when another intern misunderstands her. I guess she assumes her French accent is easy to comprehend. It’s not.

1:41 p.m. I volunteer with another intern to deliver some samples to a showroom a few blocks away. We both decided that we would never want to work for the company we’re interning for.

6 p.m. I volunteer to do my first showroom pull all by myself. My boss appreciates this.

6:34 p.m. My boss leaves and says she’ll send us more work to do once she’s gone.

7:39 p.m. The employee who previously complained about the intern contact sheets says they all have to be redone.

7:42 p.m. The office’s two remaining employees pour themselves a glass of wine and begin watching music videos.

7:45 p.m. A fellow intern is asked to join them for wine. If you’re thinking this is inappropriate, so am I.

8:03 p.m. I overhear the intern who is drinking wine say the “F” word. Now I know everything surrounding this girl is inappropriate.

8:05 p.m. If you listen closely you can hear the three of them complaining about other interns.

8:07 p.m. Take out the trash. Black bags for garbage, white for recycling.

8:14 p.m. Dismissed! I’ve also noticed that one of the interns conveniently stays behind to use the bathroom each day as we all leave. It’s standard for all interns to leave together. Wine girl also stayed. Maybe staying after is the way to the employees’ favoritism-filled hearts?

DAY FOUR

9:38 a.m. Back at the fashion label. I’m learning how to make labels for the garments we send abroad. I assume Super Intern No. 1 has already had enough of Intern No. 3’s face. She’s being very short with her and couldn’t be nicer to me. I’ll take it.

10:07 a.m. I’m sent to the office supply store to pick up a box of file folders.

10:16 a.m. I’m return with the files and am immediately sent back out. They’re the wrong size. I’m making great friends at the office-supply store this morning.

2:29 p.m. Super Intern No. 1 is nowhere to be found, so I am asked to run to the fabric store for color swatches.

2:34 p.m. I’m at Mood. Do I want matte or shiny? What shade of pink? What size? Uh …

2:46 p.m. I return with the swatches; they’re pleased!

DAY FIVE

9:43 a.m. I read through the papers at the fashion PR firm to see if our clients are mentioned. Have you read about the freak zombie incidents going on?! 

10:41 a.m. The employee that criticized my contact cards has asked for a volunteer. I jump at the chance. I need to look up press on one of our clients, but I find only two things. I’m an absolute Google Queen so I’m not sure why this is so difficult. 

2:41 p.m. I’m still Googling this client. I find press, but nothing reputable.

5:08 p.m. My boss asks for all of the press I’ve found today. At least she said please.

5:49 p.m. I just found one more article so I send her a total of three. Let it be known I have found tremendous amounts of press on our client, but they’re old or they’ve already been sent in.

5:50 p.m. “That’s all you’ve found?” I expected this.

7:31 p.m. As all the interns are leaving, I am told I need to find more clips—now. I decide to send her everything; the good, the bad, the ugly, the really ugly.

8:02 p.m. I’m searching this client so quickly and I’ve managed to find five more articles. How many did she want? I dare not ask.

8:07 p.m. I’m up to six.

8:14 p.m. Eight.

8:32 p.m. Nine. I’m hesitant to stop looking but I cannot find anything else. I send them in.

8:33 p.m. “Are you sure that’s it?” Yes. “Are you 100 percent sure?” I start to look up more.

8:42 p.m. I’m dismissed but she is not pleased. She says she has found pieces that I have not and she simply does not understand why I can’t find them. She says she’ll find someone else who can do it. Ouch.