This summer, I’m no longer the “cool” Lifeguard Mallory whom children (and parents) of all ages come flocking to. Instead, I’m the lowly newbie referred to electronically as Golski, Mallory (Intern) whom long-time employees look at with a glance that says, “Wait… Am I supposed to know who you are?”
It’s truly the end of an era.
I knew before the start of my internship that I should brace myself for life at the bottom of the totem pole, but what I didn’t prepare for, however, were the myriad of differences between pool life and corporate life… Which is why I showed up on the first day sporting a red lifeguard suit and goggles.
You mean regular people don’t have to wear sunscreen when they go to work?!
As it turns out, the subtle differences between bathing suits and the kinds of suits described in the company dress code aren’t the only variations between my internship and the years of life guarding that have occupied my time in previous summers.
Here are ten notable differences:
I don’t have to worry about my coworkers stealing my seat.
During my first day on the job, I moved into my very own cubicle, complete with a computer, desk and yes, a spinny chair. It’s pretty legit, albeit a far cry from the mismatched collection of lawn and desk chairs that cluttered the guard room. I was initially thrilled that I didn’t have to worry about getting my butt wet upon sitting on a seat that had been previously occupied by a wet swimmer, but I’m more impressed by the fact that I don’t have to battle with my coworkers for the chance to sit on the comfy(ish) chair.
Nobody has forced me to jump into a pool.
For the first time in my nearly twenty years of life, I can honestly say I cannot recall the last time I was instructed to jump into a body of water—for leisure, exercise or otherwise. It doesn’t quite feel like summer since I’m not polluting the air with a chlorinated aroma, but if I stand at the sink a little bit longer when I wash my hands, I can alllllllllmost feel like I’m back in the water. Almost.
I haven’t been instructed to clean the bathrooms.
As I resist the urge to fully submerge myself in the sink water to emulate the experience of swimming, I often look around the bathroom and remind myself how fortunate I am to work in an office where it’s someone else’s job to clean the bathrooms. It’s relieving to know that if, for whatever reason, someone were to walk in and leave their kid’s poopy swim diaper sitting on the counter, I can walk away guilt-free, knowing confidently that the mess is not my doody—err, duty to clean up.
There are no free slushies.
The indescribable wave of disappointment that struck me as I walked into the break room and discovered that it was not home to a slushie machine can only be compared to the feeling of dread one experiences upon realizing that he or she ran out of toilet paper. How do people survive the workday without a blue raspberry midafternoon pick-me-up?
Oh, right. Coffee.
There are no screaming children.
Oddly enough, my coworkers don’t break down into a fit of exhausted hysteria when five o’clock rolls around and it’s time to go home for the day. I was totally ready to approach them at their cubicles and kindly remind them that they can always come back to work when the office opens up again in the morning, but I guess they’re old enough to not express their disappointment by throwing temper tantrums.
I don’t have to blow my whistle to get people’s attention.
The one perk of working in an environment that isn’t overrun by screaming children (aside from the fact that I don’t have to worry about going deaf) is the fact that I don’t have to repeatedly shout or blow a whistle just to get someone’s attention. I learned that when I was told to “Please stop yelling” because “this is a professional environment” and “the CEO doesn’t need to hear that you still can’t figure out how to work your phone.”
I don’t have to stare at people and hope they don’t drown.
During my first few days on the job, I would periodically peer over my cubicle wall and sigh with relief when I realized that the people around me didn’t drown while I wasn’t watching them. Then they told me that I needed to “stop doing that” because “it’s creepy” and I “need to get back to work.” Fortunately they know better than to run across the office— I think shouting “WALK!” at my superiors might fall under the “please stop yelling” ultimatum.
I don’t have a circular tan line on my back.
It was admittedly strange sitting in a windowless cubicle after spending my only other summer job standing in the sun for hours on end, especially when I realized that the light from the fluorescent bulbs overhead isn’t quite conducive for giving me a tan. I guess I should be thankful because I’ll save money on sunblock AND avoid sporting a weird lifeguard tan line (or, in this case, a weird cardigan tan line). Ha! You won’t get me this time, skin cancer!
I have yet to say the phrase “Big arms! Fast feet!”
After repeating “Big arms! Fast feet!” nearly 600 times a day, five days a week, for four straight summers, I was initially stoked to remove such repetitive, singsong-y phrases from my vocabulary. Unfortunately, this also meant that I no longer knew how to acceptably greet people as we cross paths in the hallway—“Don’t drown!” and “Can you rub sunscreen on my back?” aren’t really appropriate workplace topics of conversation. I’ve resorted to shouting things like, “Coffee!” and “Email!” and “Acquisitions!” throughout the day, which seem to resonate fairly well with the corporate crowd.
The office doesn’t close when it thunders.
One afternoon, I was feeling especially exhausted after staring at my computer all day. As I counted down the minutes until 5 o’clock, I had a brilliant idea for how I could get the office to close early: I began flickering the lights and screaming, “BOOM!” in hopes of convincing my superiors that a dangerous thunderstorm was raging outside. That’s the day I learned that normal work hours aren’t dictated by the weather, and thunderstorms—no matter how severe—are not justification for sending everyone home early.
They were not amused.
While it did take me a solid two weeks to learn how to work my phone, I promise I’m not as inept at being an adult as you might imagine. I mean, hey! Knowing not to wear a bathing suit into a corporate office is a resume builder in and of itself, right?