A Day in the Life of a Legislative Assistant

Fighting Facebook wars, managing interns, flirting with the enemy, and more

In The Loop

6:03 AM. Alarm goes off. Hit snooze button.

6:23 AM. Alarm goes off again. Rip alarm clock cord out of wall.

7:05 AM. Jump out of bed because you are now running late. Turn on shower and dance around the freezing cold apartment while waiting for the water to heat up.

7:06–7:35 AM. Shower, brush teeth. Debate washing hair before deciding you can hold off for one more day because it’s not that gross.

7:36–7:50 AM. Wrestle with pantyhose. Put pantyhose on backward. Attempt to fix pantyhose without ripping it.

7:50–7:52 AM. Frantically rush around apartment because holy shit are you late and thank the gods that your apartment is only four blocks away from the Capitol.

7:52–7:59 AM. Walk-run to work. Arrive one minute before your office opens, covered in sweat and breathing hard because hurrying in heels is horrible.

8:00 AM. Sit down at your desk, thankful to be on time.

8:01 AM. BossLady calls the office and demands an update on a project she insists that she assigned you the day before. Frantically scroll through emails and shared calendars before determining that said project was actually assigned to Coworker A.

8:07 AM. Get off the phone with BossLady after assuring her repeatedly that you will follow up with Coworker A to find out what is happening with aforementioned project. Write a note to yourself on a Post-it and promptly forget about it.

8:09 AM. “You have 27 new messages.” Again curse your rule about not having interns come in before 9:00 AM. Start transcribing messages.

8:52 AM. Finish transcribing. E-mail all staffers their specific notes and delete all voice mails. Glance at clock and wonder if your interns are going to show up on time today because you really need to run to Starbucks and there isn’t anyone else in the office yet.

8:57 AM. Receive e-mail from intern stating that they have an exam to study for and can’t make it in today.

9:01 AM. Chief of Staff arrives, fresh from his morning meeting. Run out the door before he is done taking his coat off, pausing only long enough to ask him if he wants anything from the coffee shop.

9:03 AM. Order delicious Salted-Caramel Frappuchino™. Get slightly embarrassed when the barista knows your name and asks how you enjoyed the concert you went to last Friday. Ponder the significance of drinking a milkshake for breakfast.

9:07 AM. Return to your desk and the 65 new messages in your inbox.

9:15 AM. Scan BossLady’s calendar. She is out of state for the rest of the week, so the only thing you really have to worry about is preparing three speeches for her appearances this coming weekend.

9:25 AM. Call contact for Speech #1 because the notes you have give no indication as to what the speech is supposed to be about.

9:26–9:35 AM. Frantically scribble notes based on vague ideas that the contact is giving you, underlining the words inspiring and hopeful.

9:35-9:50 AM. Type up a to-do list for the afternoon interns. List includes follow up calls to constituents you forgot about the day before, researching obscure legislation for a policy briefing, and reading, logging all of today’s incoming mail.

9:50-10:15 AM. Morning mail arrives. Sort through the haul. Open and sort all constituent letters into piles based on policy issue, inquiries, and general complaints. Open all invitations and pass along to the scheduler. Dump everything else in Chief of Staff’s inbox.

10:15 AM. Ignore water cooler to refill your mug in the hallway water fountain so you can conveniently walk by your crush’s open door. Lament the fact that you can never be together because you belong to opposing political parties.

10:17 AM. On your way back to the office, trip over the Caution Wet Floor sign because you’re too busy staring at your crush to pay attention to the giant neon sign.

10:18-11:32 AM. Work diligently on crafting a speech for BossLady’s commencement address at a local high school. Attempt to write something original and heartfelt. Quote Spiderman.

11:32 AM. Pick up the phone to hear your increasingly frantic scheduler on the line. She’s on the road so she needs you to go into BossLady’s calendar and change every single appointment time to reflect the fact that she is in a different time zone and her Blackberry is auto-adjusting for the difference.

11:32-11:42 AM. Scour BossLady’s calendar and change every single item for the next three days. Periodically glance at the clock and wonder if you can get away for an early lunch. Call scheduler back to let her know calendar has been updated.

11:43 AM. Start to pack up for lunch. Phone rings. Glance at the caller ID and recognize the name of a man who doesn’t live in your district, but proceeds to call your office thrice weekly to complain about the governor. Sigh. Pick up the phone.

12:37 PM. FINALLY manage to hang up the phone. Grab your purse and run out the door before the phone can ring again. Queue up at the food cart and debate whether or not you can eat tacos while waiting in line at the bank and checking your post office box. Proceed to run to bank and post office while trying not to spill lunch all over yourself.

1:01 PM. Arrive back in your office to see that your afternoon intern has arrived. Try to refrain from giving the intern a hug and telling her how much you missed her. Check voicemails from BossLady asking why her entire calendar is screwed up and scheduler stating that you must’ve not changed the calendar.

1:02-1:13 PM. Change every single item on calendar back to the way it was.

1:14 PM. Receive text message from BossLady thanking you for finally updating her calendar. Fight urge to roll your eyes.

In the Loop

1:15-1:45 PM. Sit down with Chief of Staff to talk about upcoming committee meetings and how BossLady will vote so you can prepare a statement for when constituents call to complain about the way BossLady voted.

1:46 PM. Phone rings. Recognize the number of a “media” outlet that typically sways towards the opposing party’s beliefs. Consider the ramifications of ignoring them. Answer phone.

1:47-1:52PM. Listen to “reporter” read quotes you are fairly sure BossLady would never say. Ask his source is and hear, “Her Facebook page.” Inform him that you will have to verify his claims and get back to him.

1:53 PM. Check BossLady’s Facebook page.

1:54 PM. Bang head against desk and wonder how long it would take BossLady to notice if you changed all of her social media passwords.

1:55-2:10 PM. Sit down with Chief of Staff and ask how on Earth you are going to defend BossLady’s call for a boycott of a local company. Mutually decide to blame it on the legislator from whose page she shared the post.

2:11 PM. Inform intern that you are putting in your earbuds to ignore the rest of the world because you still have a ton of work to do. Pull up Pandora and turn on Broadway show-tunes station as loud as you can stand it.

2:12-3:47 PM. Meticulously comb through your constituent database to see which issues still need to be resolved and which still need to be followed up on. Forward relevant information on to applicable state agencies and send vaguely threatening emails to Legislative Liaisons who promised that they would get back to you and still have not done so. Send out notices of resolved casework and finally mark those pages Closed.

3:48 PM. Jump through the roof when disturbed from your whistling rendition of Cabaret by intern tapping you gently on the shoulder to tell you she finished the work you gave her and what else should she do?

3:49-3:54 PM. Putter around the office looking for an assignment for your intern. Finally decide to let her decorate the office for the upcoming holidays in case any constituents stop by the office and are wondering why you aren’t celebrating <insert religious holiday here>.

3:54-4:01 PM. Go through BossLady’s calendar again and try to engage your psychic abilities to foresee every way the rest of the week can go wrong.

4:02 PM. Look for your wallet to give intern enough money to make a Starbucks run. Order four shots in your mocha and try to remember the amount of caffeine that is considered lethal.

4:03 PM. Call opposition leadership’s office to ask about a committee item you had already asked about several previous times in the vain hope that this time they might actually give you an answer. Promptly get put on hold.

4:04-4:11 PM. Try to organize the top of your desk while listening to the increasingly maddening sounds of 80’s smooth jazz. Try to refrain from jumping for joy when intern returns with life-saving (lethal?) caffeine.

4:12 PM. Remember that opposition leadership’s office has five phone lines and can keep you on hold indefinitely. Have intern call their offices from both of your cell phones to tie up their other lines while keeping yours clear. Successfully wrangle Chief of Staff into your juvenile plan, to much eye-rolling on his part. Figure that you now have four of their phone lines tied up, surely they will get back on the line and give you an answer.

4:13-4:15 PM. Opposition leadership’s much-harried junior aide gets on the line to assure you that yes, you were right about the phrasing of the bill that is on its way to committee, they are so sorry it took so long to get back to you. Fist-bump intern.

4:17-4:28 PM. Call Metropolitan Board that BossLady sits on to verify all of the logistics for an educational outreach event that your office is co-hosting with a local environmental board. Scribble notes on your pad of Postits and realize that you never followed up with Coworker A about the project you promised BossLady you would address earlier that morning.

4:29 PM. Try to track down Coworker A wherever she is in the district. Pull up her calendar and realize that she’s presenting at a community forum.

4:30 PM. Text, email, Facebook chat, and set calendar reminders for Coworker A to call you back.

4:31 PM. Realize that you realllllly need to use the bathroom, but figure you can probably wait until the office closes in case you are needed.

4:32-4:35 PM. Scan the afternoon news aggregate and notice that Highly Respected Local Community Organization sent out a press release congratulating BossLady for her hard-won battles on behalf of the constituency. Grin stupidly because hell yeah, you helped do that!

4:36 PM. Pull up constituent database to ensure that much beloved intern hasn’t forgotten to bring new casework to your attention. Realize that not only has beloved intern stayed on top of things, she even went ahead and cleaned up and imported BossLady’s Blackberry contacts to Outlook.

4:37 PM. Try to express your undying love and eternal gratitude to beloved intern without sounding like a complete creep. Fail miserably.

4:38-4:42 PM. Check Google alerts for BossLady’s name. Try not to groan too loudly when you see that Technically Non-Partisan But Let’s All Just Really Admit That They Endorse Our Opposition Newspaper picked up on BossLady’s social media faux pas from earlier that day.

4:43 PM. Realize again just how much you need to use the bathroom, but remember you dismissed beloved intern early as a reward for being amazing and thus have no one else to cover the phones.

4:44-4:51 PM. Send off final emails to fellow staffers regarding issues that BossLady should really talk directly to their bosses about.

4:52 PM. Send eye-daggers to the clock for not moving nearly as fast as you need it to. Cross legs.

4:53-4:56 PM. Pack up bag with all of the files you will be taking home to review and try to wrangle all speech-writing Post-its onto one page. Lament the fact that you have a job that requires you to work weird hours for very little respect and/or salary.

4:57 PM. Stand at the door, ready and waiting to sprint out as soon as the clock hits 5:00 PM.

4:58 PM. BossLady calls. She needs you to make a dinner reservation and confirm with the guests who will be attending and call her back right away.

4:59 PM. Dial BossLady’s favorite restaurant. Hop around while listening to Overpriced Restaurant with Mediocre Food that Everyone Goes to Just So They Can Say They’ve Been’s hold music. Confirm with maître d’ that yes, BossLady will be in attendance and yes, she will most likely order the same thing she had last time.

5:00-5:12 PM. Dial up all of BossLady’s invited guests. Fail to get in touch with at least two of them. Look up alternate numbers and dial fervently.

5:13 PM. Confirm all dinner guests. Text BossLady to inform her that she is all set to go. Grab keys and run out the door.

5:18 PM. Return to office to grab your bag and lock up. Head straight to the bar across the street.

5:19 PM. Sit down next to Best Friend Who Works For The Opposition But Is Still A Really Cool Person and ask why he doesn’t have a whiskey waiting for you. To make it up to you, the first round is on him.

5:20-7:30 PM. Sip whiskey and laugh about crazy constituent calls and annoying Boss items. Lament the fact that you chose to go into politics and could easily be making twice the money doing a far less complicated job. Laugh when you both realize that there is no other possible business you could be in.

7:31-7:40 PM. Head home to start on the pile of paperwork still sitting in your bag.

7:41 PM. Arrive home and promptly change into pajamas. Debate shredding your pantyhose with a kitchen knife.

7:42 PM. Fire up your laptop and start working on the last speech BossLady needs this week.

7:43-9:21 PM. Outline BossLady’s keynote address for upcoming national event. Laugh to yourself about how many stupid puns you can make about the subject matter.

9:22 PM. Get distracted by Netflix.

2:31 AM. Jolt awake and realize that you fell asleep on top of your computer. Fumble for the light switch and turn it off. Close your laptop and try to prevent it from falling off the bed. Roll over and go back to sleep because you know you have another long day in front of you. Before drifting off to sleep, briefly entertain the thought of joining the private sector. Admit to yourself that you are going to wake up angry every day anyways so at least this way you’re doing something about it. Hum the theme to “Newsies” as you close your eyes.

Kimberly Wilke is a political operative who is currently living in Denver, at least through Election Day. Her English and Theatre degrees from the University of Wisconsin serve as excellent coasters. Her favorite thing about her current job is her officemate’s new puppy.

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