Imagining the Information Age: Stories/Visions

The Thrifty down the street closed. Every few days they would scrawl a larger discount on the sign in front: 10%, 20%, 50%. The afternoon they scrawled "50%", the 5 overlapping the old 2, no one noticed at first, and the store was not crowded. I brought my Ikea bag and browsed for cheap grape juice, cat litter, more than I could carry, really, but I was only a block away. By the time I left a line was forming, and the next morning an anthill of Mission districters drained into the store, foraging, carrying everything out in a steady stream. More of them yet when the scrawl changed to "75%". I never thought there was that much stuff in a Thrifty. There weren't near enough shopping carts and baskets, so we filled plastic laundry bins and brought them to the register. Shoppers were tense, absorbed; shoulder to shoulder we didn't notice each other. A young boy tried to calculate the discounted price of some piece of flotsam--merchandise was piling in undifferentiated stuff-drifts all over the store--and slipped a digit. "You idiot," his mother said. "You stupid little asshole, it's $2.50 on sale, not $1.50." She wasn't joking. I stood in line behind an old woman who grinned without teeth as she paid for the last 75%-off jug of wine in the store, then dragged my big Ikea bag the block home. At the corner, waiting for a light, was another mother and her four-year-old daughter. The mother held her daughter's hand and sang a song with her. Her voice was awful. They sang very loudly and grinned at each other's company. My bag of grape juice and cat litter was lighter the last half block.

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