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The first thing that struck me as I walked into Tabula Rasa Essentials for my first day at my first summer job was what a strange name that was for a gift shop that sells absolutely nothing essential. Our inventory consisted mostly of pretty candles and coffee table books, attracting a customer base of bored housewives and sun burnt tourists. In the summer months when I worked, I spent my hours on the job restocking shelves and perfecting my gift-wrapping skills, or chatting with hip moms about where to find the best organic vegan bar soap. For the most part, working at Tabula Rasa Essentials was pleasant and uneventful.

That all changed the morning of July 21st. I had finally worked at the store long enough to be trusted with opening on Sunday morning, and was looking forward to a quiet morning sipping coffee and catching up with my coworker, who usually ran about five minutes late. I reached for the doorknob and hesitated as it turned in my hand. I assumed the door was unlocked because my coworker had already arrived and opened the store. When she was nowhere to be found, I guessed that the owner had been in earlier that day and forgotten to lock up again. Then, the quiet, slow beeping I had heard when I walked in got faster and louder. Within seconds, a blaring siren ripped through the store and red lights flashed all around me. I dropped the stack of books I was arranging and spun awkwardly in circles, having absolutely no idea what to do or how to stop the incessant ringing in my ears.

I finally ran outside, shutting the door again behind me. Groups of tourists enjoying their morning beach walks stared judgmentally at me, and I could see the accusation in their eyes.

“I work here!” I tried to tell them as they passed me, glaring. The siren continued, only slightly muffled by the closed door behind me. Finally, my coworker arrived, quickly dialing in the code to shut off the security alarm. Before she could ask what happened, a police officer walked into the store, asking if there had been a robbery. After explaining the situation, I collapsed onto a stool behind the counter, my ears still ringing and my face bright red.

I continued my job at Tabula Rasa for the rest of the summer, and had a wonderful experience. Needless to say though, I was never asked to open up the store in the mornings ever again.

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