The intern curse |

The intern curse

Alison Osius
Staff Photo |

Eleven p.m.: “Are you on the ground?” I write my traveling son via Facebook. “I don’t think I can sleep until I know.”

Midnight: “Darn,” I write. “Wish I was hearing from you.”

1 a.m.: “Guess I should go to bed, but worried not to know you are there.”

I knew exactly when my son, 21, was supposed to arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam, for an internship. But I do not hear from him for hours after he lands, not until he walks in the door at the home of my brother, a diplomat, who with his spouse has generously welcomed my son for the summer.

“Here safe and sound!” the son texts me at 1:02 a.m. my time. “House is awesome.”

“Oh, so happy to here [sic] this!!” I text back, misspelling in my haste. “I can breathe again.”

“Chill out in the first place,” my cheeky son writes.

A moment later, my phone pings anew. “Just saw all your freaky Facebook messages,” he writes resignedly.

“You try being a parent,” I reply, adding, “Actually, don’t.”

It’s summer. And you know what season that is? Internship season, across the land and around the world. I run an internship program myself, and summer of course is in highest demand to students. Rock and Ice, the magazine where I work, usually has four interns a year, as does our companion publication, Trail Runner. I pick each summer intern by January.

We are practically tripping over interns at the moment. Two in editorial, two alternating in the art department. At last week’s photo camp, during which adult photographers sign up for instruction, we somehow picked up a spare intern, a loaner, as it were, who is around to work for a former staffer. We had so many photo-camp interns, in fact, that they lost their names and became known as Intern Number 1, Intern 2, Intern 3 and Intern 4.

Last Sunday I was supposed to climb with Intern 2, aka Liz, but in line with an unfortunate recent string of events, Liz “took a digger” while running.

Awaiting X-rays (which would fortunately show no fracture), she texted a cancellation as my friend Andrea and I convened in a parking lot. We were leaving when a tall young man approached: Liz had invited along someone I can only dub Intern 5, and that was Chris. Liz herself had gotten confused, previously mentioning him as interning for nearby Backbone Media, but he turned out to be my autumn appointee, here early.

Intern Number 1 is camped in a tent. A predecessor, Zeno, lived in his truck all rainy spring.

Somewhere out there parents must be worrying about their camping, climbing, running, falling interns here.

I write my own faraway child, How are things?

“Great, very busy,” he answers.

He outlines his internship, in finance.

“How do you get to work?” I wonder.

“I take a taxi because it is like 30 minutes away. … Only other option is to get a motorbike!”

“Oh no you don’t.”

“Just FYI you saying oh no you don’t makes me much more likely to.”

“You might remember that my dad was a urologist and in the ER dealt with something called straddle injuries that you don’t even want to think about.”

“Don’t challenge my liberty.”

My brother posts a pic of my son riding a bike in a demonstration to save the rhino; I hear from the son about embassy events, meeting Bill Clinton, analyzing market reports, and my smiley baby niece. I’d love to have him here, but it’s pretty great he’s there.

Meanwhile, two X-rays adorn our office wall. An intern who last year broke his ankle on an icy trail left them with a note saying, “THIS IS WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO.” The Intern Curse, we call it.

In the past two years, one intern did break her foot, and another sprained an ankle. I picked one up at the hospital, took soup to the other at home on her crutches. Zeno remained unharmed here, but arrived with a dislocated thumb (from skiing); come to think of it, Soren has appeared with a stress fracture (running, soccer) and Alee, a broken wrist (climbing). It’s hard to worry much about a kid on the other side of the world; I have my hands full right here.

“Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at

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