This being my fourth internship, I thought I had adjusted, come to expect even, the learning curve that inevitably ensues witch each new experience.
Nope. I am yet again, un-prepared for the idiocy I’m capable of.
I had one simple assignment; get a cutesy quote to round out a story about lotto fever in Italy. Now, what I understood was that I needed to find a “tourist” in Rome who was playing the ‘superenalotto’ as it’s called here.
I must have waited for an hour at the largest lotto-ticket vender in downtown, moronically asking every single ticket buyer (and there was heap) “are you a tourist?”
Finally I found two women vacationing from the north of Italy who were buying tickets and showing some enthusiasm for the game. Admittedly, I lost a little impartiality because they were so freakin’ charming! But I got a couple ‘cutesy’ quotes, confirmed some facts from the manager, and headed back to the office.
I sent my material to the news editor of the day, and then the blow came.
“The lottery is national, why would we care about quotes from someone who could have bought tickets in their home town? I need someone from outside of Italy who’s playing the game, that’s the angle. I thought I made that clear.”
I think I momentarily left my body. “Um” I weakly replied “Right, of course,” mustering up every ounce of positivity and go-getterness. I probably looked like a mad grinning lunatic.
Then she went on to analyze my quotes from the manager. Thankfully she found one piece of information useful. Relief was short lived.
“So the max you can spend on a ticket is 13,000 euros, did you happen to ask him what the most expensive ticket he’s sold this month cost? That is the logical next question. You see Suzanne, the thing about journalism is…”
‘Oh no! Not the journalism 101 lecture! What have i done!?’ I thought frantically.
I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs all these justifications and how much better I am than this, or apologize for being so overcome by such a simple assignment. But one thing I’ve learned; justifications, excuses, apologies, they can be pretty annoying when you’re as low on the ole totum pole as I am, if not in general. So I faithfully nodded my head in response to the criticisms and let her think, without objection, that I’m a moron.
Not an unfamiliar experience I regret to report. When interning at the Austin Business Journal, so many times I thought ‘how could I not have known that? Why didn’t I think to ask that utterly obvious and important question? Don’t I know better than to start a story with a quote?’
Sometimes it seems like at the start of each internship, someone takes me outside and beats me with a stupid stick.
To conclude the lotto fever anecdote, I did return to the scene of lottery commerce and even earned a few chuckles from the employees. “So, are you moving in?” one of them asked.
I found a lovely Scottish couple who were intending to buy tickets. Thanks again Peter and Nicola! I also asked the ‘logical question’ of the manager. Turns out someone had spent 2,000 euros on a ticket the day before. These quotes did satisfy my superior, thank heavens.
Even though I know I can’t always know everything, would it be so much to ask of myself to perform in such a way so as to not earn ‘the thing about journalism’ talk?
Oh well, the story flew and all parties seemed satisfied. Even a moron like me knows at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.