A great deal of retail is what you make it--looking at the bright side, and so on; it's no secret that if you think something will be (or is) awful, it will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, not all retail jobs were created equal, and it greatly helps survival prospects if you can find one of the better ones.
Caevat emptor: this is based upon my own experience on one very good job that I have had for the majority of my time in high school, and therefore any comparisons to other jobs are not my own experience, but based upon anecdotes from various sources. For reference, it's a small, tourist-oriented operation.
There are three major factors that will affect the quality of your job, independent of your actual duties. (If you're in a small location, you may expect to do a fair amount of everything, from the most awful janitorial work to sales.) These are the customers, co-workers, and your boss. Uncontrolable? Perhaps. But there are ways of dealing with them and picking.
Customers are the bane of retail. Many of them are curt, even rude, and the vast majority really couldn't care whether you exist or not. Which is fine, if they're leaving you alone, then at least they're not being extremely upsetting, and have a chance of buying something, though you won't be able to daydream with complete abandon. Every so often, of course, there will be a fantastically and utterly rude person, who feels that you owe them something, or that your lack of their shoe size is a personal insult. There is only one way to deal with these people: be as pleasant and efficient as possible, for this will both get them out of the store faster and, with any luck, put them off. The second best sort of customer is the one who comes in, picks out something expensive, and pays for it, all within 5 minutes--a very rare breed. The very best sort of customer is not quite so rare, which is indeed a blessing. They are patient, plesant, and occasionally take an interest in what you're doing. If you should end up helping such a person, then by all means take advantage of the situation. Ask them where they're from, what they're doing in town and all that--that is, make small talk, if you can, for as long as possible. (I grant that this becomes easier as the store becomes smaller and caters more toward less practical items.) If they're not native english (or whatever the local language is) speakers, and you happen to be even moderately competent in their native tounge, it's not amiss to try and use it--it will likely brighten their day, serve for good practice, and, depending on skill levels, aid in communication. This will give interest to your day, help pass time, and I find (to paraphrase Andy Rooney, I think) that making someone else's day is usually enough to make mine.
Co-workers are the second most important factor--customers come and go, but you're stuck with your coworkers for 8 hours at a time. To deal with them, the best way I have yet found is to try and see all the good that someone has, and try to take an interest them. Likely as not, they'll have interesting stories, or something to say. Even if they're not the brightest or most well-spoken, they probably have something that's worth listening to, on slow days when no-one comes in. Mind, almost anything's welcome relief when the monotony becomes palpable. Of course, one may always have a truly awful, shallow, complaining coworker, who, despite all efforts, really doesn't have anything worthwhile to say--I can only say that this is when monotonous tasks become a godsend. The best case scenario is, naturally, that all the employees should be intelegent and well-read; this is most likely the case when the major source of employees are high-school and college students, since it is not as likely, though not unheard of, for long-term retail workers.
A good relationship with your boss (especially if that boss is the owner, or a reasonably powerful manager)can make or break a job. They are the ones who will O.K. your requests for time off and similar, and so it is natural to want a good report. However, if the boss is someone you can talk to, and debate with, and who takes an interest, then the job becomes vastly better, simply because it takes away some of the pressure, among other things. I often found that, with my boss, most, if not all, of the employees developed a strong loyalty to Mr. Baker, simply because he was understanding and took the time to listen.
The question now becomes one of finding such a job, if the prospects of dealing with people have been overcome by the need for money. Go small and personal if you can, but not excessively so; it's nice to have other employees to talk to. If you're in high school or college, ask graduating seniors, older neighbors, etc where they would recomend working, since their departure should free up whatever spot they're occupying, and with any luck they'll have valuable experience you can use. Also, a store that has been around a long time will likely have developed a reputation in the community, especially in small communities. Pay attention to such things. And remember: book stores count as retail, too.