Posted tagged ‘retail’

Notes From the Road: Sympathy for George (HW) Bush edition.

June 22, 2008

Remember that moment in the campaign sixteen years ago when Bush the father was confronted by a barcode reader in a supermarket and wondered what it was?

He was widely ridiculed, by me too, for what was seen as upper-class cluelessness. Mere retail, it seemed, was for hoi polloi, not for those blessed by generations of privilege.

Well, I find myself a little more empathetic for the old spook now. On the first leg of my current vacation, I had occasion to visit a vast Target store on the edge of the San Francisco bay. Part of my reaction was like that of an Eastern European venturing west in the first weeks after the Wall came down. So much stuff they have in one place, comrade!

But what made me feel truly like a peasant from the hills was my first sight of what I understand to be commonplace: an escalator for shopping carts running between those moving stairs for people. According to this Youtube, I’m at least a year behind the times in being gobsmacked by this next step in massive retail.

Two things occur to me coming from this little excursion in technoshock. The first is that there is at least a bit of asynchrony going on in the experience of all kinds of new goodies across our country, much more around the world. My current home, the Boston area, does not have the concentrated techno-retail experience available in the land of my birth, paradise, AKA, the Bay Area. What is mundane here is astonishing to someone just arrived from there…

Which leads to my very brief flash of a sense of kinship with Bush senior. This stuff can sneak up on you. It remains kind of bizarre that he had somehow missed the bar code reader. But I can see how a President would never actually come that close to a cash register for much or all of his term — and a lot can change in four years.

What this means today: well the tech-positive candidate is clearly Obama. McCain — he’s the one who  doesn’t use a computer. I don’t think this will be determinative, but the election could be moved at least a bit by the relative proportions of those in the electorate for whom shopping cart escalators are strange and those for whom they are part of the furniture. My guess is that the balance has tipped towards those for whom tech, and more importantly tech-change is the norm. But my guess and a buck seventy five gets you on the subway, so take that for what it’s actually worth.

Consider this an example of a vacation-level post.

Image: Eniac Computer, Philadelphia. Image taken between 1947 and 1955. US Army photo. Source: Wikimedia Commons.