Episode One: The Night of the Iguana
May 14, 2018
The Unpaid Intern is serialized fiction for entertainment purposes only. Names have been changed to protect the identities of the corporate training survivors. The rest of the story has been told exactly as it happened out of respect for those interns who were not offered full-time employment.
Charlie was the unpaid intern on the night shift. Why was there a night shift in the corporate training department at Bill’s, the top mail order charcuterie outfit in the Midwest? They had acquired a 200-employee shop in India dedicated to supporting the 30-minute orientation training delivered across Bill’s 33 global franchises. 32 of the franchises were in Indiana and Ohio. The global one was in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where Bill’s wife had a catering business she ran during the Miss Ukrainian Canada contest each summer.
You see there are two seasons in India: the monsoon season which lasts from June to September, and the bandwidth shortage season which lasts year-round. It was the night crew’s job to piece together PowerPoint decks coming in from India, a bullet point at a time, and then readying those slides for the grizzled-veteran instructional designers to review in the morning. None of the night crew knew why the onshore “talent” did not write their own bullet points, and none dared to ask.
Charlie showed up on time for his first night at Bill’s. Nobody greeted him, but after about 7 minutes of searching, he found the converted meat slicer storage closet that was now used as the training innovation center (TICk). Charlie was good at keeping accurate time, a skill that probably won him the internship over more qualified, master’s degree-holding candidates – and he was really good at color-coding Excel spreadsheet cells. Rachel and Darcie, the other two night-shifters, looked up from their computers, made eye contact with Charlie as he entered the TICk, and then disinterestedly looked away. “Hi, I’m Charlie,” Charlie says to me, the omniscient narrator, seeing he will get no love from his new work colleagues. Charlie sat down. After about 4 hours of doing nothing, Rachel and Darcie went to the break room for their lunch, and on their way out of the TICk, Rachel told Charlie that they will show him how to feed Bill’s iguana when they get back from lunch.
Rachel was the senior unpaid intern and had been with Bill’s for over two years now. She liked to think to herself that she was the Bill’s version of Billy Joel’s lyric: “quick with a joke or to light up your smoke,” because she had no idea what she was doing there. However, she was the only one who could operate the ancient Ashton-Tate MultiMate data splicing utility that was used to piece together the data spurts from Bill’s India operation. It was probably because she had used camouflage tape to hide the on-off toggle on the Compaq luggable necessary to run MultiMate on MS-DOS 1.2. It was her skill, though, and she took pride in it. You might even say she was compulsively territorial about the whole thing. “Shut up,” Rachel turns and tells the narrator from the break room.
Darcie was Bill’s longest serving employee, having 27 years under her belt. She took the arcane files from Rachel and converted them into modern PowerPoint slides. Darcie once had a promising career at Bill’s. She sold charcuterie packages and negotiated contracts with conventions and large meetings. However, in the mid-1990s she had a major blow-up with the Future Farmers of America (FFA). During its Indianapolis convention, she mistakenly substituted the beloved old-fashioned loaf lunch meat with the more exotic prosciutto in the Bill’s charcuterie platters delivered to the Golden Tractor awards ceremony. Bill immediately demoted her from sales to training as an appeasement to the surprisingly tenacious and grouchy young farming community. Darcie had also suffered another career snafu after the India operation was acquired. Bill brought in a pet iguana for the office to celebrate the new global diversity he relished. Not being a political animal, Darcie mentioned that iguanas are generally from Central and South America, not India. Bill never said a word, but a week later Darcie was demoted to the night shift and lost her healthcare, which happened to be 80% of her total compensation package.
From that point forward, Darcie took pleasure in having the new unpaid intern care for the iguana. The rest of the office called the iguana BJ, the affectionate term Bill’s wife had given the iguana as short for Bill, Jr. However, the unrelenting instructional design day crew never let Darcie hear the end of it, and secretly nicknamed the iguana “Prosciutto.”
Two hours after heading to the break room, the other night-shifters returned to the TICk. Darcie spent the rest of the evening introducing Charlie to BJ, and all the tasks associated with caring for an iguana. Charlie could not help but wonder how this would ever lead to training design and development experience. He decided to spend his time online finding out everything he could about iguanas. Although it did not seem he would be creating training any time soon, at least he could do a little subject matter research. Shortly before sunrise, Charlie overheard Rachel and Darcie discussing a colleague from their India partner: Rohan Om Srinivasaraghavan. Everyone just calls him Ross.
On the next episode of The Unpaid Intern: The One with Rachel and Ross.