Fall is here – at least in spirit. The official change of seasons is still a few days away, but nevertheless, the leaves are already starting to fall in some places, kids are going back to school, and Starbucks is selling their Pumpkin Spice lattes. By next week, I’ll likely be breaking out my Uggs and heading to the Halloween superstore to find a skimpy, sexy outfit before they sell out of my size. Ahh, yes. My favorite time of year.

For the Buena Beach Parks & Beaches Division, fall also is the time when a half-dozen or so fresh-faced interns begin gracing our halls to learn how the grown-up world works. Unlike some folks around here, I’m not a big fan of our internship program. We tend to attract the mediocre, barely making it, C- students for which the unpaid City government position presented the only option for fulfilling their required hours. And in many cases, I’m left to baby sit, teaching them how to send a fax or make double-sided copies.

I wouldn’t mind working with them if they officially reported to me, but they don’t. Despite not having the time, my boss Danny oversees the bunch, once in awhile handing one off to a program coordinator. Me? I’m left with all the grunt work – making them sign their volunteer paperwork, getting their identification cards…all that stuff nobody else wants to do. The least Danny could do is let me provide their orientation, schooling them right off the get-go so that we avoid issues down the road. Just in case I get my chance this year, I’ve prepared some guidelines for them to follow that would make my time at work (and, therefore, their time) much better.

Diane’s Rules for the Office

#1 No fish in the microwave. This is Buena Beach – it’s already fishy and foul when I leave work and head outside to my car. When someone warms up their seafood in the microwave, that odor just hangs out a good three, four hours, slowly making its way down the hall and into every crevice and space in the building. The same goes for any broccoli dish. Just eat it cold or keep it at home.

#2 Don’t talk to me when I’m in a stall. When people are working hard, concentrating on a quarterly report or a grant proposal or a budget modification, I don’t bother them because I know they are in the “zone” – concentrating and working things out. Well, the same goes for me. When I’m in the ladies room, I’m taking care of business. It’s not a time to ask me if we can order some more whiteout or if mileage checks are coming in. I’ve been tempted to keep a pair of restroom shoes under my desk, so that none of those needy women with their “urgent” requests and questions won’t recognize my shoes when they look under the stall doors. That would teach ‘em.

#3 I don’t care if you screw around, just don’t get caught! About a year ago, one of my colleagues took a two and a half hour lunch, and didn’t even try to sneak back in. She walked right passed Danny’s open door with her purse in one hand and her boxed leftovers in the other. So the next day, we get an email stating that from then on, everyone had sign in and out for lunch. She screwed it up for all of us. And I’m not faulting her for her lengthy lunch – I’ve had a few of them myself. I just had the good sense to come in the back door and leave my purse in the car, so it would appear that I’d just had an extended trip to the bathroom. Take home message – when you’re gonna slack off or do dirt, be careful with yours.

#4 Leave your plants at home. It’s not your house – it’s a cubicle. Plants aren’t going to be happy in a cubicle, forced to thrive on the overhead fluorescent lighting. Either they’re going to die or attract gnats. Sometimes both. So I’m begging you all, keep the plants in the garden.

#5 You get one purchase from me per year. I’m not trying to hate on parents’ fundraising activities, but I can’t save the world. One week, little Billy’s soccer team is selling candy bars to go to the state championship game. A few weeks later, his mother’s asking me to buy Christmas paper, the proceeds from which will help Billy’s school fund a part-time instructional aide. And then, Billy’s mama really catches me off guard, sending little Billy in himself to ask if I’d like to buy a bucket of pretzels from him because his school can’t afford to pay for a bus to take his class on its scheduled field trip. She knows I probably would have sent that ridiculous catalog, filled with overpriced/not very tasty carbohydrates, right to the circular file if she’d have given it to me herself. I think I spent more on little Billy last year than his own father. So please – whether it’s a dollar candy bar or a $20 magazine subscription – you get one purchase from Diane and that’s it.

There are more rules, but these are the ones that can make or break a relationship with me. Actually, more than the interns, it’s the rest of the st