The Time I Pretended to Faint in Front of a Congressional Committee

It is a refrigerator like most office refrigerators: full of rotting, musty, toxic sludge that results from weeks of unsuccessful attempts to bring healthy food to work.

Blueberries that can substitute for maracas.

“Orange” juice is no longer an accurate descriptor.

A fuzzy mixture of semi-solid grapes and their excreted juices … at least I think they are grapes.

Unfortunately, failing dieters routinely forgo their attempts to eat healthy, which means the office clerk has to pull out yellow rubber gloves and bleach about once per month. Otherwise the sludge will probably start spawning.

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At each monthly staff meeting, she shows us the hardened maraca blueberries. She swirls the no-longer-orange orange juice.

Please stop the sludge, she says.

Don’t Bribe Me with Sour Patch Kids:

The first attempt to bribe me simply plays to my ego: You’ll be good at it. It will be fun. You are a fun person.

Of course, I am opposed to the idea. Dressing up as a hazmat worker to prove a point? It will be funny, sure, but will it be effective? I have no problem making a fool of myself for positive change, but foolery for foolery’s sake … I’ll pass.

But after it becomes clear no intern wants to martyr themselves for the good of the office-kind, a second attempt arrives.

All the other interns have said “No.”

Be the mature intern and just do this. It will be great. Legendary, even.

I’ll give you a giant bag of Sour Patch Kids if you do this.

Wow … you have no idea how to bribe me.

Still, this is an opportunity. Perhaps instead of Sour Patch Kids, I can nab a sack of apples. Or better: avocados!

Nope. Avocados are a deal breaker.

We agree on a sack of apples. Good enough. After all, I am a lowly intern with little bargaining power.

We form a plan: 10 minutes into the meeting, I will hear the clerk call for a hazmat team. Dressed in an orange trash bag and carrying a box labeled “Nuclear Waste,” I will enter.

People will look stunned. People will then laugh. The point will be made, and maybe — just maybe — the rotting grapes will stop.

Forget Hazmatting. Let’s Go All the Way.

One of the worst words in our lexicon is “mediocrity.”

I become bored with the idea of a hazmat worker. I need to make an impression.

A few minutes of strategizing later, I have a plan: After walking through the door, I will pretend to pass out. The clerk can then make a comment about how “even the hazmat team couldn’t handle the radioactive waste this month.”

It will be bold.

It will be memorable.

I need to practice.

After confirming the plan with the clerk, I repeatedly practice falling to the ground. Luckily, I have a conference room all to myself so no one can hear me bruising my hips out of dedication to the performance.


Nine minutes after the staff meeting begins, I traipse down the hallway to listen in. The phrase “I called in a hazmat team” is my cue to enter, stage right.

I think confronting a lion releases less adrenaline.

Heart pumping, I do my best to focus on the clerk’s voice through the doorway. This is it. Is this what Broadway feels like? Lightheaded. Adrenaline should be illegal.

“… Hazmat team.”

Shaking from the norepinephrine high, I knock on the door.

It opens. The clerk — joined by 60 other sets of eyes — is staring at me, blankly. I’m impressed with her poker face.

I relax my leg muscles, relying on all eight minutes of training just for this moment.

The world tilts. The helmet flies off my head. The box bounces to the floor. The 61 sets of eyes fade from view as I begin to imagine the audience at the next Academy Awards.

This is some serious Meryl Streeping.

“And even the hazmat team couldn’t handle the mess.”

That’s it. Show’s over. Th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks.

As I get up, I can’t help but beam at my success. I have put in the work. I have made the time. Eight minutes of worry and practice all for this glorious moment. The curtain drawn, it’s now time for the encore!

Ready to deliver my acceptance speech, I look into the doorway.

I’m Not Going to Hollywood.


No smiles.

No clapping.

Not even smirking.

Panicking, I realize my rookie mistake: I have not thought about my audience! These are not helicopter high school moms jumping at the chance to offer their offspring encouragement for forming a sentence. These are Hill staffers — renown for their toughness. Their hard negotiation tactics. Their inability to be swayed by external interests.

The clerk isn’t the only one with a good poker face; in fact, they all wear the same blank stare.

Oh well, I think, defeated. What can one do? I pretend bow, which generates some half-hearted applause.

Not the ovation I am looking for, but, hey: I can now say that my work has been applauded by a Congressional Committee.

Worth It? Totally.

Later, I get one piece of solace from the clerk: The staff director, who brags about how rarely he smiles, who embodies the word “serious,” exhaled one, tiny giggle.

I want to thank my parents, my friends, my …

Tweet this post! The Time I Pretended to Faint in Front of a Congressional Committee: via @JosephHavey

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