My Name is Kerith. I am an Intern.
Humanity is united by a single, universal trait - the ineptitude of interns. From New York to New Delhi and Zurich to Zimbabwe, only an intern can stare catastrophe in the eye and always do the wrong thing. Whether it’s winemaking or medicine, plumbing or finance, interns are awkward, green, and utterly inefficient. I’ve been an intern, twice. “Juice pan! Juuuuuice paaaan, Keeeeeriiiiiiith!”
“Huh?” I looked up from the sorting table before I felt it. Thick, gooey grape juice was seeping through the mesh uppers of my running shoes. Everyone else felt it too. We were wading in a tacky puddle of grape slop, because of me. And it was barely 9:00 am.
“Oh….sorry,” I added lamely.
I had been sorting grapes so ferociously that I’d failed to heed the exasperated yelps flung in my direction. I dumbly flipped the lever on the air pump, about 5 minutes too late. Demoted, I spent the next 45 minutes shoveling up the grape stems from 9 tons worth of fruit.
Out of the way, behind the destemmer-crusher, I was less of a liability. But I still had a mess to contain. Determined to prove my worth, I waged battle with a nozzle fitted with a quick snap adaptor. I could not understand why I just couldn’t screw the darned thing into the hose. After a good, long belly laugh, the cellar master finally took pity, depressed the neck of the hose, and snapped the nozzle in place. “Oh…sorry,” I replied lamely. Finally armed with a functioning hose, I aimed the nozzle backwards, stared down its barrel, and doused myself with cold water. Another intern, perched above me on the white wine crusher, laughed so hard he almost catapulted off of the catwalk. Twenty minutes later, I drenched myself again. Not once an idiot, but twice. And wouldn’t you know the nozzle is emblazoned with a thick black arrow pointing to the exit valve. You cannot tell me that some intern jihadist never loaded a bazooka backwards…Duh.
I’d like to call myself a winemaker, but the truth is that I am clumsy and artless. Everything takes me twice as long to complete. Halting and cautious, I check and recheck my work, obsessively recounting the hash marks on the hydrometer (or thermometer or refractometer). “I gotta read the brix just right,” I mutter aloud. By now, my colleagues have learned to ignore my audible droning, “four point one, four point two, mmmm point three?” After all, I’d already been hazed pretty hard for misreading a temperature once, nearly frying a bucket of yeast in a cauldron fully 10 degrees too hot. Luckily everyday got a little bit better. Slowly I found my own rhythm, jumping on jobs I could complete with confidence. Tasks akin to baking felt best. I could weigh materials, mix concoctions, and bang out the lab work in a flash. Uncommonly accident prone, I chickened out of scaling barrel racks stacked four high to retrieve daily samples. That’s a job for the kid interns.
About a week into it, there was a break through. A tasting room attendant from the front of the house was touring a pack of visitors through the winery in back. I was sweating over a punch down. Dangling from a ladder propped against a giant plastic bin, I methodically hand-churned grape pulp and juice with a massive, conical funnel. With each swoosh of my device, the heady smell of fermenting wine exploded into the air, intoxicating my ad hoc audience. The tour group was mesmerized, peppering me with questions. One girl even whipped out her cell phone to snap a picture. And for just a minute, I let them mistake me for a winemaker.