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Writers Yelling at Writers
It's easy to play the part of the chameleon as an intern. Just sink into your cardigan a little, hunch over your desk, and watch the office drama take the stage. Drama thrives everywhere, but any office full of creative people is likely to make drama a mantra. I've seen dirty deeds and have plenty of sketchy stories from my days as an intern in the arts and journalism worlds. Yet I've only ever seen someone get fired once.
She was by far the oldest person in the office, or at least the years spent mending her broken heart while on the road had taken a toll on her body. She made her living as a travel writer, but had fantasies of penning bestselling fiction. It should come as no surprise then that she had lived and been everywhere. At the time, she maintained two homes about 1,500 miles apart from each other. Working on a temporary project for the publication where I was interning happened to be her version of retirement. I couldn't resist her sense of humor or the way she made her writing sparkle. She'd take me out for lunch and, over a slice of chocolate cake, she'd spin yarns about cities I could only imagine visiting. I fell in love with her the way a kid falls in love with Grandma.
When our boss swung by, she was a different person: uptight, snappy. She resented our boss, who was much younger, much perkier, and much less experienced than she was. Our boss had come by the job honestly but, perhaps, according to some, too easily. Our boss was simply too young, everyone told me over and over again. I did not see what they meant then. I did not ask questions; I blended in with the wallpaper.
I observed the way our boss talked to her. Our boss found her annoying. Our boss did not appreciate her sparkle. Our boss wanted results. All she wanted to do was tell stories. The job had required more technical knowledge than she had anticipated.
The days leading up to the blow-up, she would confide in me. She couldn't stand our boss. She was going to quit. She was a writer and she was meant to write, not bother with data entry—even if such technical fiddling meant giving her the fodder she needed to write certain stories.
The day she meant to quit, our boss called her into her office after we returned from lunch. I heard yelling. A lot of it. Then a quiet fell after the storm. She marched out our boss's door and grabbed her bag and coat from her desk. Before she left, she scrawled her phone number and email address on a Post-It. I took the piece of yellow paper from her wrinkled hand and put it in my purse. I'd email her a week later and receive no response.
When our—my—boss emerged several minutes later, she tersely explained what had happened. I spent the rest of my internship eating chocolate cake by myself.