Harder to kill than cockroaches, more irksome than rats, faster-spreading than ringworm and deadlier to mental health than mad cow disease. Interns! Or, more accurately, eager and pushy young people wanting to be interns. Or – even more accurately – eager and pushy parents wanting their kids to be offered places as interns.
Doris Pang, the Rosa Kleb of human resources, strolls into the gwailo’s lair this morning and delivers a sackful of missives from keen high-schoolers and aggressive mothers and fathers begging the Big Boss of S-Meg Holdings for an unpaid position for a month or two over summer. She has little time for these transitory mendicant quasi-employees. They are the most junior people in the organization and yet you can’t punish them, because they don’t do anything.
Ironically, there are certain brats out there whom our visionary Chairman would be delighted to take on, all the better to ingratiate himself with their fathers, who are bigger, better and more powerful tycoons. But such a kid, assuming he is not spending his vacation doing baby-step deals for Daddy, will be an understudy report-writer at Morgan Stanley or a supposed assistant-to-CEO at a local blue-chip.
Our applicants are from second-tier families on the make, the sort of people who own a plastics-extrusion factory in Dongguan and have attained the Hong Kong dream of three apartments, a shiny SUV, two maids and the most expensive brand of golf accessories. And extremely high-achieving kids.
Ms Pang places the stack of envelopes on my desk. “If you think you can use any of these people let me know,” she sneers, “but they are wasting our time.” She strolls off to write some warning letters to make herself feel better.
I pluck one out at random. ‘Curriculum Vitae’ it says at the top. Can a 17-year-old have a resume? Angela has one. The mother has pestered the Big Boss before, demanding – as a niece of one of our board members – endorsement of an application for much-craved membership of a pretentious club. Angela came into this world at almost exactly the time Chris Patten arrived in Hong Kong. She attends one of the Big Lychee’s famed ‘elite’ colleges, the sort with a patch of green grass down one side, alumni running a dozen government departments and a school song written in the 1930s by the nun whose bust graces an alcove in the floor-polish-scented foyer.
She gets top grades in virtually everything. Edited the class year book, helped produce a string of student performances and ran the debating team, which won top prize in some international contest. Ballet, the piano, reading, swimming, photography. Also calligraphy and Chinese poetry – interesting how Oriental hobbies have become de rigeur over the years. French, Mandarin and ‘some’ Japanese. Did eight-week internship last year, probably spent fetching noodles, which has inflated itself into a concentrated bout of project coordination and business development research at uncle’s company. Played major role in feeding, educating and re-housing an entire village destroyed by the Sichuan earthquake, and teaches English and Cantonese to immigrant kids in Tin Shui Wai. Finds the idea of sex filthy and revolting. (Maybe. Wants to be an accountant, anyway.)
The reference letters qualify her for beatification. The photo shows a standard-issue, plain, hyperopic, side-parted Hong Kong rich kid reared to study and achieve at any cost. My instinct tells me: Not today, thank you.
Hong Kong celebrates Good Friday tomorrow…
…Easter on Sunday. Ching Ming on Monday/Tuesday. Angela will be busy ushering the congregation at church and cleaning up granddad’s grave. The other pests barely out of their highly selective kindergartens pleading to work for free can wait until next week. What wouldn’t I give to spray their parents with Baygon?
Meanwhile, I am delighted – indeed, intensely thrilled, given that this is a Thursday – to declare this weekend open.