“I’ll tell ya where it will take you, to another internship,” Lesa explained. “I just finished a graduate assistantship and took this job, as a sports information assistant. All the same work as an assistant director, minus health insurance, paid leave and money. That sounds a lot like an internship, doesn’t it?”
Rhett stood in the dark hallway of the lobby and raised her voice for the new employees to join her on a tour, which was fairly quick. Each office door looked the same and with all of them closed, there were no visible windows. The ticket office was buzzing, but not because of customers. They had a window for walk-up customers who came inside to make purchases and a window for those who bought tickets outside. In July, a handful of fans might buy season tickets but the ticket office was seemingly active because there were people there, at work. And they do work sales, so they were outgoing, full of smiles and welcomed everyone to their new job.
At the end of the final hallway of closed doors was an open door to a large room with yellow walls and three make-shift cubicles. A balding man sat at the lone cubicle, reading the news on the Internet. “This is the sports information office,” explained Rhett. “Lesa, welcome home.”
The man stopped reading, stood and greeted everyone, introducing himself as Mark Anderson, Director.
“Mark is going to take you across campus for your ID badges and show you where parking services is located. He will be happy to answer any questions about the university, right Mark?”
The fact that Mark needed to be nudged to answer questions left Lesa wondering if her decision to work in the Sunshine State would outweigh his initial weirdness. This was her first time meeting him, being hired by one of the assistant directors at a conference earlier in the summer, and all she could think was, what will I learn from this guy?
“Thanks, Rhett. Yes, I’m happy to answer any questions. We’ll take my car but if there is anything you want to leave here, my staff should be in the office soon and we can lock up your belongings until they arrive.”
It was 10:30 a.m. and his staff wasn’t at work. Coaches weren’t at work. Just the ticket office and a couple of admins had their doors open for business. DJ was also hired in an odd manner, over the phone without an in-person interview. She asked, “Where are the basketball offices?”
Doug chimed in, since the door was opened for questions, “Where are the football offices?”
Mark appeared confused, licked his lips three times, dropped his head and began with answers. “The basketball arena is across campus, about three quarters of a mile away. The coaches offices are located in that building, where both games and practices are held. The football offices are in the adjoining building. We can swing by there on the way to my car.”
Rhett thanked Mark for his willingness to assist with the orientation. She anticipated an abundance of damage control would be required after an hour and half with Mark, so she provided reassurance in the form of a plan. “You should be done and back here around noon, when we will stop for lunch. Once you’ve returned from lunch your orientation here will be complete and you can take the mandatory compliance and ethics courses provided by the university.”
The group of four exited the dirty front doors and walked under the awning to the connected building, known as the football offices. There was a lobby, a square hallway with closed office doors and a large conference room where the sports information office was in the adjoining building. The biggest difference was the dark, and dinginess, of everything. The carpet was dirty, the walls were a brownish yellow with black trim, the front doors were tinted like a drug dealer’s car. Or most of the cars in the parking lot, illegally parked in the staff lot near the football building.
“Hey, Mark,” Lesa said with a hint of curiosity and hope of getting him to raise his head and acknowledge others were with him. “Why are all the office doors closed around here? Is there a big meeting everyone is attending?”
“Oh, well, in our building, the coaches come in around 11. The executive administrators are here now, but most of them are attending meetings across or off campus. Their secretaries, or admins, are in the office and will leave messages if needed. They typically check-in around 4, when the admins leave.”
“Got it. And the football coaches?”
“They are here. Some of them shut their office door to watch film but most of them are in the gym working out or overseeing workouts in the morning. They will stop to eat lunch, have a few meetings and then take off. When the student-athletes return they will adjust their schedule with afternoon meetings and then hit the practice field. It’s all very routine.”
Lesa watched DJ to see her reaction, confirming that what she was witnessing was as weird as it seemed. DJ had worked at a major university before coming here, not that Lesa knew it, but it was clear she was older and likely had coaching experience. If she thought a place of employment without employees in their offices was odd, which she did based on how high her eyebrows raised during Mark’s causal response, then it made sense for Doug and Lesa to think the same thing. Not that Doug did, he was simply bummed that he didn’t have a chance to meet any real coaches during his orientation.
After visiting the football offices, Mark went to the ticket office and grabbed keys to a run down golf cart to take everyone around campus. A point guard shy of a basketball team, with a center and power forward able to scrunch in the front seats, the golf cart went a solid 4 miles per hour on the seemingly melting asphalt. After getting ID badges and learning that a parking permit cost $90 for a lot that was usually full, everyone returned to the main building and freshened up.
Doug asked DJ and Lesa if they wanted to find a place to grab lunch together and asked Rhett, who was chewing her sticky peanut butter sandwich like it wouldn’t drop from the roof of her mouth, where to go for a bite to eat quickly.
“There’s a great Mexican restaurant just north of campus. They are quick and inexpensive, especially if you load up on chips and salsa.”
Doug thanked Rhett with extreme enthusiasm and offered to drive, which everyone accepted in order to avoid finding a parking spot when returning.
La Casita was on the corner in a shopping center and in the bar area was a dream come true scenario for DJ: booths with back walls. Not just a booth, comfy for those of average size, but a booth with a wall that went higher than her head. She could eat comfortably because no one, except her server and those at her table, could see her height.
“I may never eat anywhere else in Florida,” DJ mumbled quietly.
“What’s that,” Lesa asked.
“Oh nothing. Let’s sit in the bar.”
With a basket full of salty tortilla chips and three individual salsas, drinks came quickly and orders were placed, so Lesa blurted out, “Is it just me, or has everything I’ve seen today been whacko?”
Doug, who had purposely ordered water just to be able to prove he was from Philadelphia and hoping someone would ask, didn’t understand the question. DJ responded accordingly.
“I think. Well, I think it is a bit strange that we haven’t seen a coach yet and that no administrators are in their offices. But maybe people work late, so they come in late? July is the month of recruiting for basketball. I imagine I’ll be on the road this week, maybe even as early as tomorrow. I don’t know about the other sports though, when they recruit.”
“So you are a basketball coach?”
“Assistant coach, yes. Coming from Texas. And this is salsa from a jar.”