Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Stuck in Traffic on the Road to Success

As you’ve probably noticed, the real

world is scary. It’s brimming with

guns and E coli and unstable Renaissance art. Planes crash, bombs explode, trains collide. Such events, however, can lose their potency once you turn off CNN. There is only one way for a university student to experience the true horror of day-to-day reality, and it comes under the guise of career education.

The danger is especially great for those of us who fall somewhere between the I-banker and the Peace Corps enthusiast. If you don’t want to destroy Third World countries or rebuild them, you’re prime meat for the slave labor ring known as the “unpaid internship.” In this arrangement, you spend a lot of hours hanging around great people doing interesting things. Sometimes they make you do things, but not the interesting things. There is absolutely no justification for you to be doing these things other than the fact that you owe them something for letting you hang around for free.

I’m obviously exaggerating, but every internship has its moments of absurdity. Last summer I interned for a high profile newsmagazine show – not an easy position to get, and I appreciated the experience. But there were moments of panic. The host insisted that an intern wait for him directly outside of the elevator before every taping. The intern was stationed there for the sole purpose of handing him his makeup bag. Since he was a half an hour late almost all the time, but 10 minutes early once a year, the lucky intern would end up waiting by the elevator for 40 minutes, sheepishly holding the leather bag and trying to hold on to her last shreds of dignity. Other people – real people, the kind with jobs – would walk by and make witty comments like, “Makeup duty, huh?” and then give a knowing wink. It was sheer hell. Standing by the elevator, I would cycle the same questions over and over – Is this what people do? Is my life going to have any meaning whatsoever? Is this where that $120,000 piece of paper gets you? Did I remember to dampen his face sponge with tepid water?

The really awful thing was, when the interns went back to school, the host’s assistant took over. It was this guy’s job to make sure the host had his makeup bag. He had a piece of paper that cost just as much as mine, but the object of his life was to make sure the host had the right kind of Tic-Tacs on his desk when he arrived. How does one endure such an existence?

I know what you’re thinking, bourgeois student body. There are no unimportant jobs. Complete every task as if it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done. Little strokes fell great oaks. Now, using those maxims, I might as well run off and be the best sniper I can be, even if it just means slaying squirrels in my backyard. Perhaps it’s true that anything worth doing is worth doing well (though I doubt it), but there are definitely a lot of things that are not worth doing. Hard work doesn’t mean much in and of itself.

There is another option – blatant self-deception. I could pretend that handing off the makeup bag is crucial to the continuance of cosmic order. In dropping it, I might distress the host, who will then explode at the guest, probably some over-stressed world leader, who will then detonate the nuclear weaponry he’s got stashed in his palace, which will trigger a world war and inevitably result in the subsequent extermination of life on earth. I should be quite good at this sort of thing – after all, I’ve spent a whole lot of time at an institution that operates on statements like “fewer free condoms mean less premarital sex.” I’ve got plenty of imagination and loads of time. But somehow, I always get knocked back into reality.

I caught a whiff of realism every so often as I was holding the makeup bag and ruminating about the relation between careers and self-worth. I’d be standing, staring into space and making all sorts of frenzied revelations, when I would see the irritated host in the corner of my eye, impatiently waiting for me to hand him his damn bag. Success at an internship is inversely proportional to the amount of thinking one does on the job.

I’ve taken a poll, and it seems that most people’s experiences right out of school are roughly equivalent to makeup bag duty. It’s really far too much to worry about. Maybe I’ll just turn on CNN.

Kerry Howley is a senior in the college and can be reached at howleythehoya.com. Infinite Regress appears every other Friday.

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