Ryan was motionless as he sat on one of the retail store’s customer benches. It had been a stroke of luck that he had been able to make the appointment at all; the traffic had been a nightmare all day, and the near-constant rain had done nothing to help matters on the road. There were no free parking spots on the side of the mall that he needed to get in at, and a wrong turn had him back-tracking for several uneasy minutes.
All in all, it was lucky, Ryan thought, that his interviewer was so late. Coming on thirteen minutes to be specific. The young man usually liked being places early, and he had arrived just two minutes before his scheduled interview, but there was something calming about having some time to collect himself. Some time.
The voice of a loud child turned Ryan’s head up to look at the family that just strode in. The boy, thirteen or fourteen by the looks of him, was complaining loudly about the price limit his parents set for a new pair of shoes. Ryan watched as the teen went up to the shelves and started taking boxes down—all of which name-brand with a hefty price-tag—before stacking several up and taking them to another bench.
Ryan checked his watch. The little hands read 12:46.
Another group stepped inside the shop, this time a mother and a young girl. The girl, no more than nine or ten, seemed to be looking for socks. It did not take long for her to find the most flashy, hot-pink socks in the store. Ryan could hardly suppress a laugh as the mother shook her head and followed her daughter back to look for a more suitable option. The boy, for his part, did not disappoint—another near-shouting match erupted as his parents tried to explain to him that no pair of shoes is worth three hundred dollars.
Ryan had a difficult time suppressing his smile. It was always entertaining to watch spoiled children get shut down, even if he knew the parents would most likely bend. And, indeed, as time passed by and more and more people began to give the family withering, even dirty looks, the trio left the store three hundred dollars poorer.
Ryan checked his watch. The little hands read 12:49.
He was beginning to get worried now. When he had initially walked in, he had seen the manager walk out with another young man roughly Ryan’s own age. Maybe he had mistaken the date? The time of the appointment? He flicked through his phone and found that it was indeed today. Maybe the manager had mistaken the appointments, accidently taking the other applicant first?
Ryan debated sending a text to his father, asking for advice. How long should you reasonably wait for an interview when the manager was late? He knew he should just stick it out, sitting alone in this store filled with people. Ryan typed the message out, but was interrupted by one of the sales associates.
“Yes, is it time?”
Ryan felt rushed in his speech, as though adrenaline had shot it from his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” the employee said, “Carol will be back in a few minutes.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s fine!” Ryan did not mind the wait, now that he knew that the store was aware of his existence.
The sales associate turned from him and walked off to ring some customers up. Ryan watched absently, then deleted the message on his phone. He could wait a few more minutes—better he wait on them than they wait on him—but after checking his watch again and seeing that another fifteen minutes had passed him by, he was starting to worry again.
Ryan’s stomach rumbled. He had planned on eating after the interview, and had skipped breakfast in his haste to have everything ready on time. He would probably just grab some sushi from the Food Court when everything was said and done. The sales associate once again insisted that “Carol will be back in a couple of minutes,” but Ryan was beginning to feel uneasy, despite his cheerful thanks. He went over what he had to say in his head once again, and wondered if the interview would ever happen.
More families came and went, bringing with them their distinctive personalities. A small boy wanted some sneakers, a group of teenagers came in, laughing and swearing, before leaving once again with nothing to show for their visit, and an elderly man looking to replace some work shoes that he had worn out years ago. These were the people that he would have to work with, Ryan thought, that he would deal with every moment of his working hours.
It did not seem to bad, to be fair. There would be difficult customers, certainly, but nothing patience could not handle. He needed the money, he needed the experience, and no position would be perfect. It was both a relief and a disappointment when the young lady named Carol returned to the store, looking for Ryan with a clipboard in her hand.
“If you’d follow me, we’re going to head out to those chairs over there.”
Together they left the store, Ryan’s heart pounding in his ears. He was nervous, and he hoped he would do well. Behind him more people entered and left the little shop, which may one day be Ryan’s first job.