I came into my summer internship with high expectations of the incredible educational experience it would be. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about writing press releases, working with clients, meeting deadlines and deciphering copyeditors’ handwriting. What I didn’t expect, however, was a crash course in how to survive in an office environment. Under Red Square’s elegant veneer of mood lighting and exposed brick walls lurks complex labyrinth of unspoken rules and rituals. On my last day, with nothing left to lose (except, maybe, the collection of stolen office supplies in my purse), I’m ready to reveal them.
Rule #1. Every lamp for himself. Red Square is like no work environment I’ve ever been in. For one thing, it is a lot darker than most work environments. It’s actually darker than a lot of underground caverns and black light dance raves, come to think of it. My first couple days on the job I was relegated to a dark corner desk with a single, flickering light bulb. I spent the bulk of my first week trying to figure out when the waterboarding would begin. Like a nocturnal animal, I’ve developed a couple of tricks to adapt to the dark environment. Namely, writing press releases by the glow of my flashlight app.
Rule #2. Survival of the fittest. The people here at Red Square seem so docile until cupcakes are involved. They abandon whatever task is at hand in order to stampede to the break room every time an office memo goes out with mention of “banana muffins.” The effect recalls the buffalo scene in the Lion King, but with more casualties. In my first couple of days at the office, I would wait a respectful amount of time before daintily making my way to the kitchen. By that time, however, all that was left was a couple of crinkled wrappers and a tupperware container that showed signs of having been licked clean. I learned my lesson. These days, you can find me sprinting down the hall the moment I hear the email notification, deploying strategic elbow jabs at anyone who obstructs my path to banana split cupcakes.
Rule #3. Keep Red Square weird. A fun game they liked to play on me when I first arrived here was moving my desk overnight and then forgetting where they put it. I once spent over an hours trying to hunt down my belongings only to find them in an unmarked box in the dark corner of a back hallway (I realize that this is not especially specific because all of the hallways are dark. See Rule #1). Since then, I’ve been keeping a more minimalist approach, knowing that at any moment my belongings could be tossed curbside. This has resulted in a constant jealousy over my office mates’ desk decor. The rule here seems to be: the weirder the decoration, the better. This principle includes, but is not limited to: moustache corkboards, posters demanding that onlookers “TWEET THAT SH!T,” phallic Golden Girls coffee mugs, life sized print-outs of the company’s beloved founder wearing a sombrero, and origami self-portraits.
The inner workings of this office continue to confound me, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. At the end of my two months here, I can confidently say that I have learned more than I ever expected to. While my potential employers may marvel at the invaluable professional experience I gained from my summer at Red Square, my future colleagues will gawk at the practiced ease with which I clothesline passersby on my way to the catered lunch. And—for that—I can’t thank them enough.