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May 19, 2011

Confessions Of An Unlucky Intern

Interns Kara (left) and Meghan depended on each other to get through difficult times at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Championships.

I have spent a fair amount of time as an intern—at a fair share of different companies. I had my first internship at 20 and kept up a pretty steady schedule until I graduated. Landing my first job outside school, I didn’t foresee myself interning again at 25, but then again, I also didn’t plan on leaving New York City to spend five months in the middle-of-nowhere Kentucky as a dressage working student, or running off to Europe for several months as part of my quarter-life crisis.

The point is, you never really know where you’ll end up. And that’s half the fun in living life. A nomadic life has taught me to adapt to diverse situations—and write about them.

I don’t know how my age compares to past Chronicle interns, but I am willing to bet a good deal of my weekly intern salary that in the history of the magazine’s interns, I happen to be the least fortuitous they’ve ever hired.

In the beginning—as in, the second day on the job when I walked into the office with an ACE bandage on my wrist—my editors and the staff writers probably thought I was just joking when I warned them of the general lack of luck in my life.

They might have still not thought much of it when, three weeks after I hurt my wrist, I FINALLY discovered it was broken and needed to be put in a cast. I suppose it could have also been debatable when I spent a period of time practically homeless because I had to move out of the house where I was originally living due to what is most easily described as a domestic violence dispute—not involving me, but causing me to swiftly give my 30-days notice.

But after the weekend of May 6-8, there was no question.

As my fellow intern, Kara, and I headed down to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship in Lexington, Ky., we shared some concerns about our aptitude in effectively executing our first assignment solo. We’d both been on the road one previous time in the accompaniment of editors or staff writers. Whilst on my trip, my colleague was introduced firsthand to my personal adversity as our flights southbound were delayed, then cancelled.

Kara managed to get about an hour or so from her planned destination (The Fork Horse Trials in North Carolina) before realizing she had left her laptop in her car. In the Chronicle parking lot.

Needless to say, our superiors’ expectations for the weekend were probably not set super high.

After about an hour on the road and Kara manning the wheel of the rented Chevrolet HHR, I decided I would check out our camera equipment and possibly document a bit of our road trip for our editors’ enjoyment.

Although not a photographic guru by any means, I was given a thorough introduction to photojournalism by one of our staff writers while on my first assignment. So, I assembled the camera in the fashion I’d been taught, taking pains to treat the apparatus as gently as I would my newborn niece. Despite my solicitous efforts, the lens (neither one of them, for that matter) would not attach to the body.

Inquiring to Kara as to whether or not I was a complete idiot, we jointly came to the conclusion that, yes I was. However, on this particular occasion, my efforts at camera assembly weren’t faulty. We decided we’d let Kara attempt later while I was on my driving shift—which she did, to no success.

But early the next morning, our eyes puffy and yawns a-plenty, the lens miraculously twisted right onto the body of the camera—and we were in action! A day’s worth of gorgeous (though terribly amateur) photos were uploaded into our Day 1 gallery, and it seemed that we really weren’t the worst interns of all time!

But alas, calamity would ensue as Day 2 dawned. Physically, Kara and I were a mess. My improper shoe choice the day before caused me serious pains in my foot, and Kara’s running regimen on the back roads of Middleburg had given her a sore knee and a limp.

But that was just a sidebar, because even with our neophyte image production knowledge, it didn’t take long to deduce that the camera’s “auto focus” option wasn't working. So, while the camera would still take pictures, it really limited the types of photos we could take—over fences and action shots were out. We finally realized we’d have to call the office. Our editors instructed us to remove the lens, and that should remedy the issue.

Well, the tiny problem was that no amount of brute force could remove the lens from the body of the camera. I, of course, had less-than-optimal strength in my rotating wrist (see above explanation), largely in part because I had removed my own cast prematurely so I could finish the foxhunting season (but that’s a whole other story). And Kara’s superhuman strength was no match for the Nikon. We were, at this time, completely terrified that we’d actually broken the camera—the really expensive camera—that belonged to the company for which we were interning.

So what was there to do but find a resolution to the problem? Kara would stay at the show grounds, and I would take the camera to the nearest (the only, mind you) camera shop in Lexington.

Two hours, several phone calls, a Chik-Fil-A drive-thru run and a favor (I’m from Lexington, so that boded well for the weekend) later, we had broken the news to our editors that the camera was presently un-fixable, but that we were in possession of another, thanks to my friends at WebMedley. We were going to make it work. And we made it back to Middleburg alive on Sunday night.

Kara spoke about the trials and tribulations of an IHSA rider’s journey through intercollegiate territory in the May 23 Chronicle, and perhaps it was the association’s preparation that got us through that weekend arguably unscathed. Or perhaps it was the fear of termination from our internships. Whatever it actually was, there was really no option but to get through it, and since it was Kara and I, laugh about it.

But I imagine my editors have discussed purchasing me a good luck charm for my remaining time at the magazine.