Forget constituent mail. Stop filing General Accounting Office reports. As you slave away over the copying machine, some of your counterparts are having the summer of their lives.

It’s a little hard to find internships in Washington that aren’t boring beyond belief, but here are 10 jobs guaranteed to keep you awake without the aid of wretched office coffee.

1. The Ritz-Carlton

No, you won’t be making beds and cleaning toilets, but you will need to know the difference between crème fraîche and Cool Whip. The Ritz’s kitchen interns help prepare fancy dinners (there’s no other kind at the Ritz) with Chef Hibe Yamamoto. And of course they eat well: Andrew Hartman, a 29-year-old culinary student from New York, works in the garde manger (that’s the cold kitchen to you and me) and recently prepared lobster with pickled Japanese radishes. “We work with lobster and shrimp all the time,” he says, while fellow students at less glamorous jobs—Hartman mentions “a steakhouse in Daytona”—”are working with, like, tuna fish.”

2. The National

Zoological Park

What could be less stressful than the zoo? “It was 9 to 5, but they were really flexible with the hours,” says Anisa Penrose, 27, who interned in the zoo’s press office last summer. She ferried film crews and TV reporters around the animals and also helped run the zoo tent for the Smithsonian’s enormous 150th-anniversary party on the Mall. She also met the Surgeon General and attended lots of free events held for the Smithsonian interns. Her hard days involved updating brochures, not cleaning up after the elephants.

3. WHFS

(99.1 FM)

Hang out with rock stars. Go to rock shows. Give away free stuff to adoring listeners. Washington City Paper’s own Tina Plottel, 25, spent a year interning for the station’s programming and promotions departments. She worked a fair amount—backstage at the HFStival, at on-site promos, etc.—but there are lasting benefits: Afternoon DJ Johnny Riggs still uses her “grunt” on his program, and apparently the distinctive sound has made it to other radio stations across the country. Plus, Plottel got to meet Evan Dando, Dave Pirner, and others. “I noticed that his hair smelled really bad,” she recalls of Pirner, “but he was really cool.”

4. The National Gallery

Current intern Brannen McDonald hails from Lyons, Ga., pop. 3,500, so just being in Washington is “an experience,” she says. But she also happens to work among some of the most beautiful objects in the world every day, and she’s getting hands-on experience that will help when she leaves for art history graduate school next year. She was able to meet the Chinese ambassador during the gallery’s Chinese exhibition party (which also featured Chinese food, McDonald notes carefully). “For me, it’s an environment you’re not normally in,” she says.

5. The Marijuana

Policy Project

Today, the project—which advocates softening laws against marijuana growth and use—is located next door to the conservative Heritage Foundation. But when Marc Brandl interned there last year, the three full-time staff members worked out of their homes. All the better for those “coffee” breaks, right? “No, actually, that was sort of the weird part,” says Brandl, a 21-year-old American University student. “Everyone there is sort of strait-laced….Honestly, they’re the hardest-working people I’ve ever seen.” Brandl set his own hours and spent much of his internship in the library researching contaminants in marijuana currently sold on the street (one batch had been laced with feces). The best part? Brandl got credit for his internship at school. (Please, no jokes about higher education.)

6. Allied Advertising

Allied works for many of the biggest Hollywood film studios, so interning there means seeing lots of movies before any of your friends. For free. “We’d set up all the screenings, work on any promotions, deal with a lot of PR,” says Aashish Parekh, 24, who interned there for about a year. He attended lots of bashes at Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood (which sounds annoying, but remember—it was free) and met the Hughes brothers when they came to town to open Dead Presidents. He even got paid. “I had a great time,” he says.

7. The Kennedy Center

The hardest part of working at the Ken Cen for Nicole Lewis was making sure that news photographers knew which big stars were sailing through the “Kennedy Center Honors.” “Not everyone knows Michelle Lee on site,” says Lewis, 27, in a gross understatement. (I looked her up: Lee played Karen Fairgate MacKenzie on Knots Landing.) But most days aren’t so burdensome, and interns get to see many of the shows and concerts at the center and meet many of the artists. “That was pretty cool, meeting all these hugely interesting stars,” Lewis gushes.

8. Sony Records

It’s more a job than an internship, but if you’re a local college student you should try to become one of the record companies’ college marketing representatives. You’ll help promote new artists by setting up displays, devising contests, and “anything else to get people’s interest,” says Oren Tishman, 27, who worked for Sony for two years while a student at Maryland. He also got to meet bands, which was a mixed blessing: The Spin Doctors stole all the Pearl Jam T-shirts from his car when they were in town, he says. “It’s a very unconventional business,” he adds. But it paid off—Tishman now works for the company in New York.

9. Children’s Express News Service

It doesn’t pay, but interning at Children’s Express will earn you respected journalism experience. Current intern Georgette Rucker, who’s only 16, is writing stories about discrimination against girls in classrooms and teenagers with AIDS. She also covered the presidential campaign and the inauguration, including the Arkansas ball. She’s even learning to be a talking head: Rucker traveled to Texas this spring for a conference on young people. But she’s not bound for The McLaughlin Group. “I want to major in business administration and eventually own my own restaurant,” she says. Smart kid.

10. A presidential

campaign

There’s nothing that will make Washington feel more urgent than working on a big campaign. Late hours, caffeine rushes, high stakes—if you don’t have a premature heart attack, you’ll have the time of your life. Jason Fetter worked for the short-lived campaign of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) in 1995-96. The work itself was rather prosaic—helping with newsletters, working the phones—but he felt as though he could change the country. “The whole aura was of excitement,” he says. “Everyone was happy. Everyone had all the hope in the world.” Plus, all the workers had their share of tedious assignments: “Some of the grunt work I had to do I didn’t feel bad about doing, because top-level management was doing it right next to me,” he says, recalling one grueling Saturday-morning phone bank. Today, the senator—who lost miserably in the primaries—still remembers Fetter.CP