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I’m walking through the corridors of a major market news station in the heart of downtown Toronto. It’s 2010 and the mayoral election is on the horizon. As a second-year broadcast student, wrangling candidates through busy halls that are lined with producers furiously preparing for live television builds my excitement. Currently, candidate hopefuls are in their green rooms, getting groomed by their parties behind closed doors. Our future mayor is in the washroom.
We’re approximately 15 minutes to air before the final mayoral debate. As I watch the studio put finishing touches on cameras and lighting, I’m interrupted.
“Caryn, we need you please,” one of the producers says. “Mr. Ford isn’t feeling very well. Can you go across the street and buy him Pepto-Bismol?”
Let me preface this by saying that yes, I’ve had to do bitch work as an intern. I’ve taken lunch orders, washed dishes, and found myself in questionable sanitation while cleaning mouldy fridges. I’ve worried about getting latte orders right, and not getting shit on my shoes while taking out the trash.
But you know what, I’ve been paid in learning experiences that are unprecedented. Attending bigwig meetings that served ice cream sundaes have just been the cherry on top.
This isn’t going to be some whiny rant about having to pay dues.
If Rob Ford needs Pepto-Bismol, who else will go get it, if not the unpaid student? I’ve been willing to do sillier things in the name of being an intern.
It’s sometime during July of last year, and I’m enjoying a relaxing Sunday outside before Monday morning creeps up. I get a text from a producer I’ve worked with in the past.
“Hi Caryn, would you like to be on TV this week?” it reads. My heart is pounding.
“Yes, why do you ask?” I reply.
“We need you to fill in for one of our segments. We film tomorrow. You’d be saving our show! No pressure.”
“Absolutely, I’ll do it. But what exactly will I be doing?”
I was going to be a contestant on the dating show Text or Next, a Bachelor of sorts for preteens. I’d have to compete for a boy’s heart on national TV.
“Do I actually have to be single?” I ask.
“No, haha. We’ll make sure you don’t get chosen for a date.”
Great. Not only did I have to play coy with a male model prettier than me, but now I’d be forced to flirt to no avail, knowing my boyfriend’s recording the segment at home for his family.
It’s the day of, and the other girls and I are running through a dress rehearsal to help alleviate the nerves. We’ll have to describe ourselves briefly to this underwear-model bachelor at the start of the show. “Try to tease him” is our only instruction.
The other girls come up with cute things like “I’ll make you smile,” and “I’m the girl next door.” As someone who hasn’t been on a first date in a long while, I’m stumped. This G-rated game is making me want to puke.
Minutes before we’re live, I’ve still got nothing to say. The producers suggest I talk about food.
“You’re Italian, right?” That works.
I’m looking directly into the eyes of the camera, clenching my sweating hands together. With the best grin I’ve got, I blurt, “Hi. I’m Caryn, and I’ll do anything for a slice of pizza.”
I don’t even like pizza.
The days I’ve spent interning have been interesting, to say the least. I’ve arranged, rearranged, even (tried to) determine the direction of feng shui in green rooms for the likes of Lady Gaga; danced in elevators with LMFAO; and, in one highly embarrassing instance, got stopped on the streets of Montreal because I was recognized by locals as that girl who desperately wanted a slice of pizza.
I feel as though I’ve done enough extensive research on Taylor Swift’s love life to write a dissertation. I’ve been filmed in the shower shaving my legs to fill footage.
When Sean Desman approached me while I was working my retail job at Yorkdale, because he recognized me as his wrangler — “Hey, you’re that girl who has to follow me to the washroom,” was kind of how it went — I didn’t know whether I should be concerned for my future, or just help him find a damn sweater for his wife.
I’ve come to appreciate the absurd quirks of everyday life that come with working for entertainment media. Transcribing seven-hours-worth of f-bombs for Video on Trial is a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
I’m running through the halls of 299 Queen St. W. I’ve got less than a few seconds to get Marilyn Denis her tea before the commercial break is over. As I make my way through the narrow corridors, I pass by the washroom outside the CP24 studios.
Rob Ford exits the men’s room to a mob of anxious producers and concerned party members.
“Are you feeling any better mayor?”
I take a moment to chuckle to myself. Hope they have some Pepto.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 20, 2013.