(5/6) The Internship: Or, How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Government

Friday. Finally. In the Washington Bureaucrat’s hard hitting, soft power, six-part series going undercover at the State Department. Will anyone actually be in the office?


All night Thursday I check the Office of Personnel Management website to see if the Federal Government will be closed Friday. Washington is expecting a major snowstorm of over twenty inches starting Friday late morning. Harold said that he would be in by seven and that I could call him to check before coming in.

When I wake up, I check the website again. Government offices will be closing four hours ahead of schedule. Should I even bother to go in? Will anyone be there? I call Harold. No answer.

At eight I call again and again there is no answer. I try convincing myself that I am not going, that I don’t need to put on my suit again. Who am I kidding? I want that badge.

At five minutes to nine I knock on the door of my office and Harold lets me in. Turns out he screens his calls. I show him my approved badge form and he tells me to take the elevator down to one.

After the door closes behind me, I realize that all I have on me is my driver’s license, which I’d put back in my pocket after showing it to get through security. My wallet and cell phone are in my suit jacket pocket, and nobody wears their jacket there when not in a meeting.

Diplomatic Security is located just inside the “joggers’ entrance” but just outside the security turnstiles. The guard on duty lets me out so I can go to the office. Inside it feels like being at the DMV. People look like they’d been waiting for hours, and the lady behind the desk looks like she could go on ignoring them for twice as long.

When she gets to me and I tell her I am there to get my badge, she says fine, all she needs from me are two forms of ID. I pretend I didn’t hear her, handing over just my driver’s license.

“I need to see two forms.”

I tell her I’ll be back soon. But there’s been a shift change; the new guard doesn’t know me. I show her my temporary badge and my ID. She says they don’t have the list of interns at that entrance. Someone from my office has to come down and get me. She asked for the number to my office. I don’t know. She calls directory assistance to try and find it. They give her Steven Apple’ number. He doesn’t answer. I stand there for ten minutes. She calls again. No answer. I keep standing there. A guy coming out of the Diplomatic Security office asks if I need help. He says he knows a guy in my bureau and if he gets the chance, he’ll see if he can talk to him. He’ll be back in an hour, if I am still there.

The guard tells me someone is sending over the intern list. About another ten minutes later, still no list, she decides it is okay for me to go in after all. I go up to my office, knock on the door, wait for Harold, grab my passport, and go back down. I bump into Geoffrey in the hallway. He says he was just downstairs looking for me. Together we return to the Diplomatic Security office.

With Geoffrey, I am suddenly somebody.

“Oh, he’s with you?” the guard at the joggers’ entrance says with a smile. We walk right through.

“Well, hello there!” says the lady at the desk in the Diplomatic Security office.

She takes care of me immediately, collecting my driver’s license, passport, and temporary intern badge. Only now it turns out that they need my briefing form. I have no idea what that is, and neither does Geoffrey. I tell him every form I’ve ever been given is in my desk drawer. He tells me to sit down and wait for him, he was going to get it.

Geoffrey reappears with everything from my desk drawer. Nothing in there resembles a briefing form.

“All right, let’s go talk to Sharon,” he says, “I can’t believe these guys these days. When I started we didn’t have any briefing forms. You’re only here for what, five weeks, and we have to go through all this trouble for you.”

Even without any badge at all, the guard lets me right through the gate behind Geoffrey.

I tell Sharon I need a briefing form in order to get my badge.

“Oh,” she says, “you get that after your security briefing.”

Deborah Walker is sitting where I sat a couple days earlier filling out forms for Cam.

“That’s right,” she says, “you did your orientation on your own. You’ll need to go to the next security briefing, which I believe is on Monday. You’ll want to talk to Suzy Miller about that.”

“I can’t come in on Monday, I have class.”

“They might have one on Wednesday morning. Check back again next week.”

“I don’t have my intern badge anymore. They took it when I was downstairs.”

“Cam, go with him and get that badge back.”

Deborah tells me that if they don’t give it to me at the badge office that I will need to go down the block to the building where I was the first day to get a new one, and if I have to do that, I may as well just go on home after because we were closing early.

Cam leads me back down to the Diplomatic Security office.  The same lady is at the desk. She is on the phone with a friend and talking about manicures.

I stand there for long enough to hear the full saga of her cuticle crisis. She finally gets off the phone and asks if I have my briefing form.

Just then they call my name from the back. My badge is right ready to be picked up. All I need is to give her my briefing form. Cam tells her I don’t have it yet. What I need is to get my temporary intern ID back.

She fishes any old temporary intern badge out of a brown manila envelope on her desk. On the way back I notice it is number 43 and not my 55. I am not going back there. Not without my briefing form.

Instead I focus on setting up my voicemail. Geoffrey responded to the email I sent him asking him to reset my password by telling me that the password was the one that it was supposed to have been. The one that wasn’t working. I try it again just for kicks. I doesn’t work. I try it twelve more times and send him another email.

Next I call Deputy Assistant Secretary Bill Siraglio’s administrative assistant to schedule the introduction I’m told I’m supposed to schedule with him. She says she isn’t sure about his schedule on account of the weather. I’ll have to call back next week.

I now have an email from the director of the intern program asking if I know that my position is listed in the directory as division chief and could I please call IT to get that straightened out.

While I am on the phone with IT, Geoffrey shows up at my desk.

“Is that your mother?” he asks. “Because if it’s anyone other than you’re mother I am not waiting.”

The tech support guy tells me that it will take twenty-four hours for the change to take effect. I am division chief for one more day. I tell him I’ll be sure to create some major new policy and hang up.

“Show me how you check your voicemail,” Geoffrey says.

I put the phone on speaker and go through the process as outlined in the manual. I get a message telling me to contact my system administrator.

“You tried it too many times,” Geoffrey says, “now I have to go and reset it again.”

“It didn’t even work the first time,” I say.

“Yes it did. I tried it from my office when I did it. I’ll reset it again on Monday.”

He leaves and I move a few more emails about the Assistant Secretary’s upcoming schedule into the trash folder. It’s one-fifteen. Technically I am scheduled to stay till two, but Steven has not yet bothered to look at the email I sent him proposing said schedule.

I put on my jacket, stuff everything back into the drawer, restart my computer, and go home.

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