Like many college students I have to earn my keep by working a part-time job. I travel 10 minutes to Streets at Southpoint Mall from my dorm on South campus four school days a week plus weekends.

I will fight with other people for a parking spot near the mall entrance by the Barnes & Noble only to discover I’ve parked in the valet section.

My day rarely changes; I walk past children playing in the fountain across from Bose, and will not care when I use the handicapped door to get past dawdling couples—I only have three minutes to clock in before the snarl of my boss reminds me that I am once again in break violation.

As soon as the beep of the time decoding machine ripples through the atmosphere, manager number two slinks toward me, and in an insincere, condescending voice will give me my one minute about how to make them more money through my devilish charm and impressive skills at getting reward cards. I will grunt ‘ahuhs and right’ a few times before she catches on that I either don’t care or don’t like her, which is both.

I will sneak past people hoping no one will call upon me for assistance. I will stare straight ahead, forcing myself to believe it will all be over in six hours and walk toward my sanctuary — the fitting room, where I can fold clothes, hum to myself out of tune and occasionally open doors for disinterested customers for whom some will glare, and throw unwanted clothes in my direction. I will demand they have a great day with a sweet smile, and remind myself that paychecks come that day.

Time will pass slowly, co-workers will walk in late and others will leave early never to return to Dante’s third circle.

I will get a break 30 minutes before I leave and in a haze will walk to the E-bar at Nordstrom for my usual iced chai latte with skim milk. My feet will crack with reluctance as I enter through the side door of our store. One of my managers will playfully try to trip me and welcome me back. Seal and Madonna will wail from speakers and syncronizers from one hit wonders unleash ‘80s dance moves from customers and associates alike. One of my co-workers will play air guitar, inviting me to join and for the first time that day I will smile.

By Karen Kleimann