Dante could have made this another part of Hell: the photo lab of the Fairfax Costco on a typical Saturday in August.

The crowd in line is hot, tired, restless, waiting impatiently for already-late, done-in-one-hour photos. Children hang off their parents' legs, arms and strollers, screaming for pretzels or ice cream or just to go home. The parents, many of them women who look in dire need of a third arm, beg and cajole the kids to calm down. We're almost to the head of the line.

My friend Jason and I wait on them -- and suffer their wrath. I can't just quit this job; it pays my rent and college. But I want to. Think, I tell Jason, how great it would be to work in an air-conditioned basement somewhere, alone, without having to deal with people face to face. We imagine it and call for the next in line.

Fast-forward two Augusts. I'm now working for an elected official at the state level. I look out the window and see the squirrels sweating in the shade while I wear a jacket in a chilly office. A visitor is rare. The telephone is my main link to a breathing soul -- and many calls are wrong numbers. I'm cold and sick of talking to myself. Daily, I think about what Jason and I used to imagine and wish I could take it back.

Tim Johnson, Chantilly

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