I know I have been dreaming when, like a curtain being raised gradually, the smooth grains on the wooden table on which I had been lying face down, come into focus.
My boss is sitting there opposite me with a high-profile client.
They do not pay any attention to me, but I continue to look at them – frozen with fear like a deer caught in the headlights of a car.
I had been barely 18 years old and a week-old intern in a small auditing firm, when my employer walked into her room with a client, to find me sleeping, like a toddler. They both hadn’t woken me up at all, for some reason. They had probably seen me drool too, now to think of it.
As you can imagine, I had been thoroughly ashamed and was close to tears when I explained to her that I had fallen asleep while going through a new project. It had completely gone over my head and being all alone in office (it was an apartment converted into an office and the whole building was always deathly silent); naturally, I had found the warm wooden desk inviting.
She had just shrugged the whole thing off. Nevertheless, it was a ‘medium to strong cringe-inducing moment’ in my work life.
Being an intern, wasn’t half bad. Sure, I had to work long hours for a ‘barely there’ stipend, but my responsibility was close to zero. My boss always took the axe whenever I messed up. Though she used to tell me off, she never held grudges and never was the blaming type.
My internship was where I came to learn about people and their eccentricities. There were clients who offered me coffee over the telephone (because they felt bad to leave me out, they said), paranoiac ones, who asked me the same question like 200 times in all means of communication (phone call, email, text messages, via post(?)), irate ones who took it all on you because they had a bad day (or a bad spouse) and the ones who called you at 5.29 PM when you were all set to start home at 5.30 (My work hours: 10 to 5.30. Envious, huh?).
I came to learn my latent bizarre traits too. Like my mad urge to burst into ‘My name is Sheila’ whenever I spoke to a client over phone; that I couldn’t submit a spreadsheet to a client until I have formatted every heading and put them into neat little boxes. My boss used to tease me that I work like the Tamil actor Jyothika (who supposedly acts for more than she is paid for).
My internship made me realize that an office is never – just a workplace. You learn to read people, what drives them and it helps you grow. Be it your colleagues, your boss or the chai akka (the VVIP of our office), they almost always have something important to tell you. Just listen to them.
Thank you for the lovely entries. Read the selected ones here. Winners will be announced on Jan 12.
Stay tuned for more contests and writing prompts.