I walked twenty-two blocks to find a can of Fix-A-Flat in Brooklyn. Anywhere else in North America, the stuff is kept several cans deep on the store shelves, but not in New York City. At last, in a narrow-aisled bodega, I found a single can, hidden behind a basket of paraffin-coated yucca roots. There were three red price stickers on the cap, stacked carefully so that only the top price could be seen.
I got "on line" behind a white-haired woman in a black tunic. There was Latin music playing from a radio. The woman bent over at the counter, scratching at something, then straightened and began to scream in short bursts,...