Three Chocolate Day

(Image Source: I Love NY)

The summer after my freshman year of college, I interned for a New York State Senator from Brooklyn, New York.  A family friend helped me get the job – in the Senator’s Albany, New York legislative office (not the much bigger, busier district office in Brooklyn).  Our office in Albany was all women – the Senator herself, who split her time between Albany and New York City; Susie, the Chief of Staff; Kelly, the legislative aide; and me.

My responsibilities as the office intern were light, even by internship standards.  I spent most of my time making media packets for the Senator – which in the low-tech days of 2000 meant reading multiple newspapers, clipping articles that were relevant to either Brooklyn or one of the Senator’s policy interests, and then photocopying the articles onto 8×11 paper and stapling them into neat bundles.  When I wasn’t making media packets, I was on the Senate floor, sitting with the other Dem staffers on the benches that lined the walls, always poised to leap up and rush off to the Members’ lounge to summon my boss for votes.

That summer was twenty years ago now (hard to believe!) and most of my memories are fuzzy.  I remember one of the pages having a crush on Kelly; she was kind and patient, but it was never going to happen – she was married and expecting a baby.  (Related: I remember delighting with her in her pregnancy, and laughing with her and with Susie, at her weirdly specific cravings – Whopper Jr., anyone?)  I remember snacking on candy that one of the Democrat Senators used to pass out to the staffers on our bench during the long waits between votes.  I remember walking what must have been miles and miles – over the course of the summer – in the underground concourse.

And one thing that stuck with me long after I left the Senator’s office and went back to campus for my sophomore year: Three Chocolate Days.  The Chief of Staff used to keep a box of fancy chocolate truffles in the supply closet (because where else?) and we would drift over for an afternoon pick-me-up.  We had a sophisticated system for rating the days: One Chocolate (regular); Two Chocolate (a little stressful) and Three Chocolate (OMG get us out of here) Days.  If Kelly was overwhelmed with legislative tasks, or Susie was slammed with constituent issues, or I… had a newsprint papercut?… Susie would announce: “It’s a Three Chocolate Day.”  And the three of us would get up from our desks, make our way to the supply closet, and carefully count out three chocolates apiece.

There weren’t many Three Chocolate Days that summer – at least, not for me.  My memories of those days are hazy, but good.  Reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on breaks.  An elderly security guard outside the Senate Chamber who told me that I looked like Veronica Lake (I had to search online to find out who he was talking about; that summer I had long bangs that swept to one side and flopped into my eye – the guard called me “Veronica” all summer).  The excitement that only an eighteen-year-old political junkie can feel when she’s sitting on the Dem staffer bench as the Hate Crimes Act of 2000 is passed.  I don’t remember it ever raining, although it must have occasionally.

I was stressed out the other day.  (And every day, thanks ‘Rona.)  As I stood at the pantry, carefully counting out three chocolate-covered Chukar Cherries, summer 2000 came floating back into view – hazy and warm – with all the vague connections that were part of my days.  Susie and Kelly and the page who loved Kelly and Veronica Lake Security Guard and the staffers sitting shoulder to shoulder on the benches and the mysterious, mesmerizing Senators, and my mom idling in the car outside the Legislative Office Building as I ran down the steps every afternoon.

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