To my incredible surprise, I’ve been chosen for an internship at the country’s biggest newspaper, which has been around and thriving for 165 years (!). It doesn’t win any great awards, perhaps because Singapore itself places stupendously low on the free press rankings, but it’s a cool place to work at, according to a family friend who worked there. Today was the first day on the job. It’s not as if I’ve never entered the corporate universe before, but in Singapore, it seems especially significant (we’re not counting my slave-job at a certain arts academy whose teachers are excellent but whose management needs to be lined up and shot).
What The Clothes Maketh
The first thing I was perplexed about was what constituted office clothing. The guidelines pretty much eliminated anything I currently owned as office-worthy (no jeans, flip-flops, t-shirts… I mean, I’m an engineering college student) so I dragged my mum around Jurong tersely looking for blouses and slacks. To my surprise I made quite a killing, so I smugly strolled out into the hall to get my father’s appraisal the next day. He took one look at the black slacks, grey blouse (with a collar! and a shirt front type thing!) and said, “Eh? No, that’s not office wear, is it?” Apparently his stuffy office (but he’s a banking person) wear shirt-blouses and pants. But as it turns out, my workplace is pretty okay with anything that looks like a blouse and office pants, so I’m good to go. Now there’s just the niggling feeling that I’m playing dress-up a little.
Like A Salmon
My dad dropped me off at Raffles Place MRT, which is slap opposite where he works, so I could take the train to Braddell. I totally love trains and Singapore public transport in general, so travelling has never been a problem. But today, the underpass to the train station was positively terrifying.
Raffles is in the middle of the CBD, the central business distract, so at 9 am, predictably, the place is overrun with people in various definitions of office wear, click-clacking across concrete and marble and generally exuding a Monday morning miasma of dread. Except when I was on my way into Raffles, they were all emerging from it. With the net effect that I felt like a sole salmon, swimming its way up against a huge torrent of zombie-eyed people who all seemed to universally detest me as I fought against the tide.
Along the way, these swanky officegoers would deftly reach out and grab a Today paper from the stack teetering at the side of the underpass and scurry away. I thought it was super cool and office-like, so I did exactly the same, before remembering that I already had a copy of Today delivered to my doorstep every morning. Oh well, free stuff. By the way, the faintly spicy scent of a freshly printed newspaper is pretty amazing in the morning if you’re not fully awake. Or even if you are, really.
The Path To Zen Is Not Through The Lotus
Just when I thought I’d ditched Lotus behind me like a demanding hitchhiker who offers to give you directions but only get them right half the time, guess what I saw today.
Apparently any “enterprise corporation” falls under the sway of Lotus, whose functions more closely resemble octopus tentacles engaged in a tap-dance rather than a thousand neatly arrayed petals (or whatever a lotus is meant to have). The icons are so minuscule you need to squint like a sodabuddi* wearing massive-nerd. There are about three thousand components in the main window, so that you can barely read the top message. There are some neat functions but they’re jumbled up amongst a humongous set of highly random other things no office person who is worth their salary would ever think of exploring. And today I had to learn some of them all over again.
The really cool bit was looking at the Newsroom software, which literally lays a template out for you and you can type in the neat little columns, giving yourself a byline (NAME IN PRINT, YO) and a summary and a cheesy headline. I sincerely hope most of tomorrow is going to be dedicated to using more of this stuff, rather than things like search archives and … more search archives.
Oh, except there was an awesome Stylebook application in Lotus that talks about what the difference is between mediator and arbitrator and media/medium/mediums and stuff. English nerd nirvana. By the way, it appears I am wrong to use “wracked with pain” – it should be “racked”, because the former is outdated and not for this sort of use. WOE.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until yesterday that there might be other interns starting the same time I did. Some were actually full-time kids, who’d started even before their commencement ceremony (here, you wait about three months before the university deigns to recognize you as a graduated human being, whereas in the US, they are frantically trying to get rid of these students as fast as humanly possible).
So I sat with four others at a lunch table with my food – a huge plate of rice and vegetables of dubious origin (I found a prawn – or perhaps a shrimp – some small crustacean, anyway – lurking at the corner and removed it with some trepidation). All of them – and I mean all – were from NTU, which is where Ams goes, and one of them knows Ams from a project group! Hah, small world! She was the absolute least talkative person I’d met in my life, or at least in that place until then. I tried to keep my hand in the conversation as unobtrusively as possible, but these other three were a) NTU mass comm kids or something, and b) had already worked there before. Two of them were pleasantly at ease with me and the place, the third spent most of her time making supercilious remarks about nearly everyone and everything. She seemed completely indifferent that NTU-Ams-person and I were clearly out of the loop, and employed her excellent English as a subtly sarcastic weapon. I think she’d appointed herself as the leader of the group (she actually reminds me of someone I know, but far less immediately charming), except that her other two friends seemed much too cheerfully self-confident to worry about her.
But perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions. I think she was simply the person whose personality was the most out of whack of those around her – in a negative way.
I honestly can’t wait for Wednesday to come, because tomorrow the training begins again. 9-10 with the Information Resource Center** and from 10-5.30 with more IT tools for writing articles. GAH. I already know what I’m going to be working on and what I need to research and just give me the assignment already for the love of god.
My main challenges, I think, will be to leave the thesaurus at home, come up with original ideas, and make sure I stay within the column space. The second will hopefully not be too hard: I met up with my supervising writer (senior correspondent) and suggested a few angles for the feature, and she seemed rather pleased. Now I just have to maintain all that and not make stupid mistakes for the next seven weeks, and I’m good to go.
Onward and upward!
*Tamil colloquial term for coke bottle glasses
**The day Singapore stops using three letter acronyms for things that don’t need it (IRC = great big whacking library) will be the day it gets bombed into oblivion. I promise.