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There’s nothing like being a teenager working at the local grocery store and only getting a 15-minute break on their 3-7 shift which was scheduled right at dinner time. Rowan wasn’t sure if this was done on purpose or if that’s just how her breaks ended up being scheduled — every time.
“Rowan, go on break,” her assistant manager said at 5:45 pm. Rowan shut the light off on her register and locked the screen before taking off to the chip aisle to grab a small bag of cheddar popcorn that she’s been dreaming about since she came in. On the way back to the register, she grabs a bottle of cola and waits in line at the express.
On a typical break, it takes on average 5 minutes to grab your snack and run to the back of the store to the break room. Sometimes you end up stuck in line or chatting with your coworker — and that ends up leaving you with eight more minutes on your break.
Rowan decided she’d pick the line of the person she didn’t know the most to be able to get through as quick as possible.
“Hey,” the cashier said.
“Going on break?” He asked as he scanned the popcorn and the cola. Rowan nodded. He pressed a few buttons and Rowan paid for her snack.
“See ya.” Rowan said as she sprinted towards the break room.
The break room was a dimly lit room lined with lockers and a few long tables for the workers to use to eat their lunches. It’s barely cleaned, with traces of previous lunches left behind. Other workers may be in the room, stuffing their faces with the food they brought or bought.
There’s a timed lunch, and break, and if you return a minute later than your allotted time, you cause your coworker to be late on their break — which causes a domino effect for the rest of the night. Rowan didn’t like the way they scheduled the breaks like that, but she was only sixteen years old and what did she know?
She sat down at the end of the table and looked at the time. She’s got eight minutes to eat. Opening the bag of popcorn she started shoveling the pieces into her mouth. She wanted to scroll through her social media apps, but there really wasn’t enough time.
She wouldn’t be home until 7:30 pm and she wondered if there would be any dinner left for her. Her mom tried her best to keep some food to the side but her hungry, growing twin brothers tend to find it.
Rowan placed the bag up to her mouth and tipped it up so the crumbs could fall into her mouth. She opened her cola and started downing it as fast as she could withstand the burning sensation from the carbonation on her throat.
Three more minutes left of her break.
“Hey Ro- when do you get off?” Max walked into the break room to drop off his bag into the locker. Max was Rowan’s best work friend. She always liked having him around while she worked, it helped make the time go by faster.
“I’m done at 7.” She said with a frown. “I didn’t know you were working today.”
“Yeah, 6 to close… well at least we get to see each other for an hour. What number are you on?”
“I’m at 4. Please request to go on 4. I got left alone to bag.” Rowan pleaded with her eyes. Max chuckled and said he would do his best, but since the assistant managers have caught on to their friendship, they hardly put them two together.
“See ya in a few.”
Rowan finished her cola and held in a burp as she tossed the trash into the bin. She didn’t want Max seeing that gross part of her just yet.
“I gotta head back out there anyway,” she smiled.
They both walked to the front of the store, talking about the day at school. They don’t attend the same high school and Rowan was fascinated by the stories about Max’s all-boys academy. They quickly split when they were close to the registers to make it look less obvious they wanted to be paired.
Rowan signed back in from break as her assistant manager looked at his watch.
“Right on time.”
Rowan put on a fake smile and continued to her register. She turned on the light and waited for either Max to join her or a customer to show up. Unfortunately, the assistant manager sent Max to bag at another register so that the kid could take his break. She sighed, only one more hour to go.
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