Escape to the sanctuary of the absurd.

Day three in the same warm-up suit (2009)

Jim passes me in the kitchen, avoiding the stink of unemployment that embodies me.

“How’s the job search going?” he asks.

“Slow. It’s a recession. But, I’d take a job at Kohl’s if it ever came down to that.”

“It’s come down to that!” he tells me, then leaves, along with my thoughts that find temporary asylum in the sanctuary of the absurd.

What about my cash register phobia? I ask the voices in my head. I can barely use a calculator. It prevents me from saying, “Have a nice day!” an essential phrase for every cashier.

In department store circles. I’d be known as “that incompetent saleswoman” customers complain about.

CUSTOMER: I’m looking for gold earrings.

ME: For your ears or nose?

Customer stares with maniacal intent.

ME: Okay. Let’s see what we’ve got. The earrings are so shiny!

I spin the rack round-and-round, transfixed.

CUSTOMER: Hello! Hello!

ME: Hello againIs there an ear hanging you had in mind?

CUSTOMER: Yours!

Besides lacking patience in dealing with PQ Public’s shopping follies, working with money traumatizes me. At the register, I’d speak in ADD tongues.

ME: Oh! Right!— #*!#*%@#!!! — I remember you. Do you need help?

CUSTOMER: I’ve been waiting 20 minutes for you to process my credit card.

ME: The sleek, shiny plastic thingy, right?

Customer impatiently taps foot.

ME: All set!

CUSTOMER: Now, put the clothes in the bag.

METhey’ll suffocate.

CUSTOMER: It’s just a pair of shorts and a bathing suit. Don’t you keep your clothes in drawers at home?

ME: I leave the drawers cracked open so the clothes can breathe.

CUSTOMER: If you put the clothes in the bag, I’ll poke holes in it.

ME: God bless you.

I hand her the bag and credit card.

In fact, I never told Jim I had applied for several retail jobs online. — I’m still traumatized by the experience.

“Save your work after every step!” the job site warned.

They weren’t kidding.

Halfway through the application, I clicked save and the site deleted my work.

Is this a psych test, too? I wondered, as I yelled and shook my computer. If it is, I probably didn’t pass.

What to do? What to do?

Don’t obsess on it! A voice in my head warned. Try another task you know you can ace — Lunch at 10 in the morning.

Great idea!

Eat, pray, drink coffee then…

Back in the chair for more job site abuse.

This time, I complete the application and move onto the Q&A portion of the program — answering silly hypothetical questions.

Please answer the following to the best of your ability:

After returning home from a store, you discover the clerk undercharged you by a dollar, would you…

A. Go back to the store to return the dollar?

B. Keep the dollar?

C. Invest the dollar in penny stocks?

D. Use the same incompetent clerk next time?

I answered “B.” What idiot would waste a tank of gas returning a dollar to a store?

Not this idiot.

The store never called for an interview.

Who’s the idiot now?

Instead of dwelling on the past, I shifted tactics and headed to the shower before Jim called the EPA to quarantine the house.

Is there an EPA study on the detrimental effects of prolonged use of wearing a warm-up suit? If so, I would surely qualify.

Or, perhaps there’s a Guinness World Record to be broken for days spent in the same warm-up suit.

Google would know and provide another way out of this dystopian reality — that the job market sucks and is dragging me down into a sinkhole with it.

I was terrified when Jim told me, “It’s come down to that” — the financial entrapment of intractable debt. We could lose the house!

I had once received a mini Miranda call from the bank telling me that we were late on a payment. “Pay the mortgage, or else!”

I didn’t like the tone of his voice and hung up on him in a daydream.

Chasing fantastical whims was easier than facing the truth of financial and personal ruin.

But from the truth, there is no escape. Only deeper holes to climb out of while weighted down by the burden of crippling debt and insecurity.

We must choose a moment to make a stand before the moment chooses us.

This was my moment — to take another break and think about it.

Visit Lauren at ThinkSpin.com.