Internships are a rite of passage in virtually every profession. Unlike other industries, Information Technology interns aren’t required to do terribly degrading tasks, such as grabbing coffee for the boss, or acting as his human ottoman. Well, unless you intern at my company. Speaking of which… Intern Eric: you’re off ottoman duty; go grab me a triple venti mocha backflip latte!

Many companies offer some sort of intern training program. And for good reason: interns are so excited to gain actual experience in their industry that they’ll work an unheard amount of hours for a mere pittance. At least, that’s the theory. It didn’t quite work out that way for Chris Tribbeck’s interns.

“In my former company, I took on an Intern Trainee every year, whose training period lasted 8 weeks. I had had a really good one, followed by one who didn't know where the exclamation mark was on the keyboard (and called me during an important customer meeting to ask), and my final one, to whom this story relates.

“I cannot for the life of me remember his real name. Only his nickname, which was Mop-Head. Partially because of his dreads, but mostly because of the IQ comparison.

“Mop-Head was someone who had no sense of… well, anything really. No common sense, no dress-sense, no sense of timing, he couldn't sense when he was bothering you, and he had absolutely no intelligence. For instance, he had arrived two weeks late into his training, because he had broken his arm playing football. Not real football, table football.

“Mop-Head was also a smoker, who repeatedly smoked in my office, which was also the IT server room, despite the no-smoking signs, me telling him not to do so, and the recently-installed fire alarm.

“One day, in the last week of his training course, I was in a meeting with my boss, and I had left Mop Head to write a report in my office. All of a sudden, we heard this strange alarm blare over the loudspeakers. There was only one new alarm in the building, so we rushed to my office, to find my chair, my desk, my computer, the network rack, the telephone rack, the cupboards and, in the middle of it all, Mop-Head, covered with anti-fire foam.

“He swore that he hadn't been smoking. We couldn't smell smoke, but with the smell of the foam, I don't think we could have. Only the servers weren't (fortunately) covered with foam, because they were under my desk. Bizarrely, there was also a step-ladder (which normally I don't have in my office) covered with foam.

“However, during the three-day clean-up, I found a small, half-burnt piece of paper on the floor. I turned to Mop Head, and he admitted to what had REALLY happened.

“During my meeting, he was thinking about when he smoked in the office, and wondered why the alarm never went off. Could it detect the difference between fire smoke and cigarette smoke? Or was it simply broken?

“Mop-Head decided to test the alarm by lighting a piece of paper, and, using the step-ladder, putting it close to the detector. The rest you can probably deduce.

“The next day, which also happened to be the end of his training course, he asked if he could return to catch up on the first two weeks he'd missed. The two-letter reply probably disappointed him, but I wouldn't dare let him use my new equipment in my new office.

“He was the last Intern Trainee I ever took.

Maybe Mop-Head will have better luck finding a job as human ottoman.

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