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I followed him into the cosmetic section, and picked up my acne cream.

"So, Dad,"


"Haven't you noticed what goes on here? All of these people here, they slave away for six days a week, fourteen hours a day for a bit of money. Then they take that money right down to the outlet and buy crap they want, but don't need."

He got defensive on me.

"No, they use it to buy stuff that makes life a little bit easier."

"Hold on a second, dad. Say you have a lot of stuff lying around your house, and you buy these shelves," I pointed the shelves out, "and you take them home, set them up and put your crap on them. Do you get the feeling that life got easier?

"I mean, let's put it this way: life is getting harder all the time. When I buy - hell, even make shelves, I don't feel like anything's gotten easy."

He remained silent.

I followed him as he wandered around the store, placing purchases in his cart. There was an older woman, probably rich at one point, because the child sitting in her cart was robotic. One of the older models, too. The panel over its left cheek was ripped away and I could see the status of the machine. The child glared at me, never blinking. I took a quick glance up at the mother. Human, definitely. Long facial lines, tattered powersuit. Probably a forewoman in one of the factories.

Dad walked back to the cosmetics section, and I followed. Very crowded. People shuffling their feet, as always, bumping into each other at low speeds. No one looked up, everyone's eyes were fixated upon the contents of their own cart. He threw some combs into his cart, and stalked off toward the register.

"So here's a question for you, dad: why was the cosmetics section the most crowded part of the store?"

"Because it's cheap."

"No, you're not getting it. There's lots of sections in that store, food, clothing, garden, outdoors, sporting goods. These people barely have enough money to stay alive. Why the hell are they buying makeup?"

He remained silent.

"Your brain is turned off, dad. You walk into a place and instantly tune everything out. You're no better than the robots."

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