Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reasons to love 21st-century America

It's pure William Gibson sometimes. Today at Market and Seventh, a dude with a huge gray beard was trying to sell a robot to a lady shopper on the street.

He had a thing in a flattish box maybe eighteen inches square, labeled iRobot. I looked it up and that's the company that makes the Roomba. He was explaining that, yes, it really was a vacuum cleaner...

A few yards down the pavement, some sketchy-looking younger guys were trying to sell three bottles labeled as Absolut flavored vodkas. Beyond them, toward Eighth, a denser group of the regular street sellers had home telephones, a suitcase-full of clothing and racy magazines... I forget what else they had today. Usually it's video game cartridges and awful self-help books.

All of it in violation of Municipal Police Code 869, selling items without a permit. Yes, and so was the lady selling churros yesterday on the Embarcadero outside the shell of a formerly pretty good restaurant that had to close last year. Seems like people are caring less and less about the legalities of street selling.

Isaac Asimov would plotz. So would the author of that "alabaster cities gleam" verse in "America the Beautiful."

Dunno. It's great to imagine the old dude combing out his long beard up in a rez-hotel room someplace, then stepping out to sell his robot on the street.

In this America we've got, we're losing our First World exceptionalism. We could grow up to be a real live country yet.

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