Vanessa is up. She hops in the shower, washing away the haze of deep slumber. Down the hall, her son sleeps, exhausted from surgery the night before.
Miles away, Oniaja succumbs to the warmth of her covers. She struggles to find inspiration in the snow-crusted roadways and 7-degree temperatures. Her phone rings. She smiles. It is her husband. Every morning he calls, giving her impetus to rise and face the chill. They talk as she gets ready. These are precious moments as they rarely see one another; he is a truck driver, on the road most of the year.
Vanessa helps pull her son’s little arms through his sleeves. He is excited for another day of Kindergarten but is even more excited for dinner; he has requested his favorite Sesame Chicken and scallops as a post-surgery reward. They walk to the bus stop. He rides off and looks forward to breakfast at school. She gets dressed, grabs coffee, and takes the express heading towards Sutherland. It’s been four years since she last clocked in at McDonald’s and even more since she graduated with a criminal justice degree. For now, Sutherland is her second home.
Oniaja braves the cold with a brisk walk with Charlie and Chica. Charlie is a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Chihuahua; Chica is a mix of pug and Chihuahua. They are her babies. She makes a quick phone call to confirm her ride to Sutherland. She’s an ACE Specialist, working to appease disgruntled clients. The morning chill starts to thaw as she thinks about her coworkers and friends.
Vanessa and Oniaja break for lunch and pay the local food stall a visit. As a floor manager, Vanessa inevitably takes on the additional roles of counselor and therapist. But she loves it. “It’s about the relationships,” she says adamantly. “People stay because of the people – of the relationships they’ve built with others here.” Oniaja agrees. As a new hire two years ago, the naturally quiet woman found herself disengaged from everyone else. But as people opened up and reached out, she started forming connections. Now, she makes a conscious effort to approach new hires in welcoming them into the Sutherland family.
Vanessa returns to the floor and checks in to make sure everyone has clocked in successfully post-lunch. Her boisterous personality gives way to a spring in her step. Team members look up from their desks and smile; Vanessa is a dependable source of encouragement, always open to giving advice on the handling of inter-office relationships. She is also a stickler for fairness and honesty. Her attentive nature keeps others from rolling off-task.
For Oniaja, some more sitting in on calls to monitor and give helpful pointers, a pep talk to encourage a disheartened consultant after a particular abrasive encounter with a client, a positive follow up with a dissatisfied customer who initially left a negative review, and it is 5:30 p.m.
Both women clock out for the day. Vanessa swings by Chef’s King on Dewey Avenue for Sesame Chicken and scallops, and Onaija goes home to spend time with her friend’s one-year-old son.
For Vanessa, the evening concludes with helping her budding novelist hone his writing skills. Oniaja breaks from her more reserved self and lets loose with Call of Duty.
Vanessa retreats into her room – to music and late night TV – after setting her son’s clothes out for the next day. Oniaja indulges in re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy before snuggling into blissful retreat, unbothered by the impending morning just 360 minutes away.