Leaves of Grasp Why our nation's greenery doesn't seem to go as far as it used to.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – I hear America spending! Broad-shouldered, straining at the harness, leaning forward into the wind, fighting for the first place on the checkout line--America, I sing the awesome power of your bottomless desire!

And you're standing between me and my Color Game Boy.

Surely you've seen one. It's tiny and neat and made of clear plastic, and it plays Bomberman and Zelda, and the screen--the screen, ladies and gentlemen--the screen is in color! We have to have it. We can't live without it. It goes for around $80, and CompUSA advertises it for 64 bucks. Sixty-four bucks! What a deal! Okay, $64 used to be a lot of money, but now I guess it's not! Or perhaps it is, but I hear America spending! And I am part of it!

So here I am on a Sunday morning, very, very early. Sixty seconds from now, the CompUSA will open, and I have my advertising circular in my hand, and I am perched on the brink of triumph! I'm here first! I'm going to get what I want at a very good price!

But wait. What's going on here? The bird has barely downed its first worm, and there are dozens of us! We stand here, eyeing each other with hostility. Die, fellow customers! Out of my way! The doors open. We run. Egad! Can it be possible? On the first day of the fabulous sale, there are no Color Game Boys? What do you mean you've been selling them at this price for three days?! You stink! No! I don't want a #*$!& rain check! I want a Color Game Boy, damn you!

What the hell. While I'm here, I guess I'll pick up a new 56K modem, a copy of Microsoft Publisher, and a couple of cartridges for my color printer. That'll show you!

I hear America spending! Forget Color Game Boy. I'm gonna get Zelda: The Ocarina of Time for N64--the greatest game ever! The reviews say so, and I believe them, and it's out this week, after months of anticipation. It's early yet. Off to FuncoLand! They're sure to have it! But look, there in the parking lot! Cars! More cars! It's not even open yet, and look at all of them! And families, waiting for the glass doors to part and allow them to gain access to FuncoLand! Little tots with their noses pressed up against the glass look inside at the darkened store, which is just waking up. They want Zelda too! And there in the window--what's that? A sign that says sorry, WE'RE OUT OF ZELDA BECAUSE NINTENDO DIDN'T SEND US ENOUGH! O cruel world! O foul supplier!

I wanted to purchase. I did not purchase. And that infuriates me! Because I hear America spending! And I must spend with her!

I drive. I go. I will not be denied again! So off--to Costco, to the Price Club. Recession? Soft retail market? Where? I get out of my car and look about. Acres and acres and acres of rolling, shining automobiles. Many look new. A huge percentage are sport-utility vehicles, which start at more than 20 grand. A lot of vans, too, gleaming in the cold, pure sunshine of a bright and spendy Sunday. These are not rich people rolling their gigantic carts into the radiant heart of this enormous marketplace. These are just the working people of America, and I hear them rustling their rolling waves of green from sea to shining sea!

I don't know what I want! Calm down. Get focused. They don't have a Color Game Boy here, and there's no Zelda either, but...but look at the price on that AT&T 900-MHz cellular phone. Wow. Thirty bucks less than at the retail store. And while I am here, how can I disregard that 30-pound bag of frozen shrimp and the professional collection of screwdrivers and hammers, and the 18-pack of cool, multicolored magic markers, and the Panasonic shaver you can use in the shower, and the great deal on garden hoses, and the digital watch, and the APS camera, and the 20-inch Hitachi television set for the basement! Yes!

And the ten lines to get to the cashiers are 12 deep with people just like me, our carts piled to groaning, and while we wait we grab a hot dog at the food stand, and it's one of those big ones that's a foot long, and I hear America buying and eating and slurping and smacking and swiping its credit card through the convenient gizmo and marveling at the excellent prices and gulping down its Diet Coke! And I am with you, O nation of mine!

And in the city there is a food store that sells nothing but the most tender meats and fishes and cheeses and crackers and pates, and knives from France and olives from Spain and tea balls from England, and if you go there, plan to spend at least two hours because you can't move inside this store it's so crowded, and people fight over which salami they will snare, and the crowd is massing at the cash registers in jeans and workshirts, and I've got to get out of here! It's intolerable!

And at the restaurant the room is jammed to bursting with clutches of people clinging to the door and thronging at the bar and clogging the coat check, and you can't get by them! There are so many of them! I hear America spending and making reservations and having a quick bite on the way to shopping at the mall, where you can't get to the merchandise because everybody is fighting for their Furbys and Game Boys and Zeldas and gigantic bags of potato chips and Barcaloungers and Lincoln Navigators and shoes on sale for $350 and computers so cheap you can have one in every room!

And every day on the floor of the stock exchange a roiling swarm of traders and brokers and messengers pound back and forth, their fists jammed with orders to buy and sell and spend and spend, and that is you, America, spending, and bravo! Huzzah! Keep it up!

And finally, on the corner of 40th and Seventh Avenue, I look inside the camera store, and behind the counter, there it is, my Color Game Boy, and it's not the purple plastic one, it's the transparent kind, the exact type we want, and I go inside, and because I'm paying in cash they let me have it for only 90 bucks! Ninety bucks! This is my lucky day! Do you know how rare these are at this point? You can't find 'em for love or money!

Yes, I hear America spending, and I will spend with her until the money's all gone or the products can no longer be found, whatever comes first! Come on down! Accept no substitutes! Call now! Here's how! Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noel! Happy New Year! Get out of the way, world! We are the biggest and best and coolest and hottest and fattest and sexiest and neediest and greediest nation in world history! We are America!

Hear us spend!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.