Diary of an Intern: Power-hour shopping

Clock out, buy stuff, back in time to file

Is there anything better than shopping on your lunch break? Well, probably. Drinking on your lunch break would be better. Ooh, or how about drinking AND shopping! I think there are some stores that allow you to do that. (Boy, I'm starting to sound like a cosmo-guzzling Carrie Bradshaw! And if there is one thing The Eagle doesn't need, it's another columnist who's trying to sound like Carrie Bradshaw.)

Anyway, I suppose the one thing better than shopping during your lunch break would to not be confined by a lunch break whatsoever. Unfortunately, as struggling interns (there's a certain romantic ring to that, like "struggling artist" or "model/waitress"), we don't have much of a choice.

You know, I'm not even that big a fan of shopping. I can't really afford to shop at the nice stores like Hecht's or Stein Mart, so I'm limited to such d?class? outlets as TJ Maxx and Filene's Basement. Though let me tell you: If you're decorating your apartment or dorm room on an intern's budget (i.e. the spare change you find left among paperclips and chewed-up pens in your cubicle), then TJ Maxx is the way to go. My roommates and I love that store so much that our apartment looks as if it's about to go on clearance.

Another negative to shopping on your lunch break: How do you explain the piles of shopping bags to your co-workers when you return to the office? Of course, it's your prerogative to spend your lunch break as you wish, but if you had the time to try on the latest fashions at Club Monaco, then you probably should have gone back to work and done something productive. There just seems to be something wrong with returning to the office with shopping bags. It would be like surfing eBay on the office computer, winning a bid, and then having the goods shipped to the office.

And could you imagine the day when that package arrives? You'd have to admit to the entire office that you shop for Spice Girls memorabilia on eBay. It's the same thing with shopping bags. By entering the workplace with shopping bags, you run the risk of everyone in the office asking what you got. This is why I don't recommend using your lunch break to make a pit stop at Pleasure Palace.

Once I made the mistake of picking up a bottle of vodka at a liquor store on my way back to the office. (I was just combining steps! I used to be a waiter, remember?) There is just no way to not look suspicious when you walk into the office with a black opaque plastic bag. My boss peered inside and half-joked that I was "thirsty." Oh, like you've no idea.

But shopping for alcohol while on the clock is commonplace for my friend who interns at an embassy. Apparently there is this duty-free store in the basement where bottles of Jack are sold for $6. And did I mention that my friend is 19 years old? That's right, my friends. The embassy is technically on foreign soil, so the drinking age is 18. Yet another incentive to apply for a knock-out internship at an embassy!

Of course, this entire column means nothing to you if you work on Capitol Hill. There's not a department store in sight. I guess you could bone up on office supplies at the mini-Staples near the food court. And I think the rotunda has a gift shop. If I were you, I'd spend my lunch break visiting a museum and learning something about our country. Though when I worked on the Hill, all I remember about my lunch break is sitting in the cafeteria alone, reading a magazine and wishing they'd build a Gap down the hall.


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