Feb 12, 3:00 PM: The Boss calls you in. "Ted, I've got some great news. You strike me as a real team player. Your work is outstanding, and you're always on task. I've decided to give you a 25% raise."

Feb 13, 5:23 PM: The mail arrives. The Visa bill came. Balance: $3.00. A little note enclosed - credit limit's been raised by 5,000 bucks.

Feb 14, 11:13 AM: Those 10,000 shares in that new internet startup are at 120 since opening today at 3. On the phone to the broker: "Sell, sell, sell!"

Feb 16, 10:05 (Saturday): Your eyelids slowly flutter open to the sound of your alarm radio. The forecast calls for a partly cloudy sky, high of 75. The radio commercial beckons to you, softly and sweetly, like the siren's song. No two syllables ever carried so much power: "Sale! Sale!"

It hits you like a freight train. Your American existence is about to be truly realized. All the events of the past week have been leading up to one thing, and one thing only. As you walk down the driveway through the balmy air towards your car, there is but one thought on your mind.

As you approach the gargantuan monument, a serene calm takes over your body. The raise, the credit limit, the tons of money in the bank - they were all destined to happen, to put you in this enlightened state of consumer ecstasy. You pull open the glass door and feel the blast of cold AC caress your face in a seductive welcome gesture.

You step over the threshold and enter The Mall.

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