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Microchips are so small, that ants confuse them for food and try to eat them. That’s what’s going on here, right?

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Today I was walking around a bit, stretching my legs and dreading that school had started once again. School had made my steps lumpy and my face dreary. I made my way past a robust building clad in glass frames with the “Planet Fitness” logo staring at my stride. And, might I say that I felt as if the very building was mocking me in my simplicity, as inside half of the floor was organized with people on treadmills and bicycle machines.

They bounced in place on the mock pavement speeding below them and they gasped and groaned on the highest settings of the bicycle machines. Above their heads, countless television sets infrequently met their eyes, and air conditioners blasted sweetly brisk air at their faces. Most of them had armbands to hold their MP3 players plugged in so they could  find a total recluse from the outside world. And what have you, the ones that didn’t sure weren’t doing too bad a job. They would share their blank stares among the tvs and the brick walled deli grocery outside, in front of them.

Once in a while they stared at me, my awkward face pressed against the thick glass, as I stopped and looked in awe of what I was seeing. On the street corner, peering down Lydig Avenue I could see the park, and in the corner of my eye, the sweaty people begging for the artificially cool air of a machine glued to a wall.

I didn’t get it, and I can’t say I do still. Have we become so reliant on technology that we replace it with even the simplest of things we can so easily find otherwise? Why weren’t the dozens of runners and bikers going through a shaded park; a park with natural cool breezes and a beautiful scenery and scent. Surely that can’t be matched by a soulless commercial building shaded instead by a rusted train track and the height of a residential building with a corner store in its lobby.

I feel that we should not become so sheepishly reliant on technology so as to use it for such unnecessary and debatable conveniences. We allow technology to dictate our lives and to seclude us from interactions with others. God help one of those runners in that building if they go run in a park instead and someone wants to have a conversation.

This doesn’t just happen in one place; in all technologically advanced nations people are jumping on treadmills when governments invest millions on park spaces. It has become an odd international phenomenon showcasing the collective absurdity of human nature.

It seems that this culture of becoming engulfed by technology on all sides and embracing it so much so that we let it make us look foolish! Go out and run or bike out in a park, not in a gym; you aren’t making sense. And to those people that visit the gym to walk on one of those treadmills, you have a twisted soul for mushing up my brain in confusion.

At least those people are exercising, though. This can’t be said for nearly enough Americans nowadays.

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In my walks through Bronx streets, stretched with the hot noise of train tracks and street vendors, I have been keen to witness the fall of the small business. Nowhere has this been more clear to me than in streets with my local shops.

A locally owned flower shop and 99-cent store wrecked in a train fire were no longer rebuilt, despite any clear insurance claims. Instead, on the property was opened a Planet Fitness. A woman’s clothing store was closed to make way for a Verizon store, and a dress shop had to be sold to make way for a new Sprint store. Much earlier, a local book store was closed and rebuilt into a Pay/Half, another small-clothing store was turned into a Children’s Place and a sporting-goods/men’s apparel store made way for a 7 Eleven. The most recent store to close was a local ice-cream store that was turned into a Subway.

This has all occurred with a single strip of stores on a couple of blocks; local and small businesses have been slowly replaced by large, national, chain stores. This is arguably because it is no longer friendly to compete as a small business in such an expansive world. Who wants to visit a small clothing store when a short drive can take you to a Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart or a Khol’s.

Considering there are about two deli groceries on the same block as the newly built 7 Eleven, who’s to say they will even last another year in business competing with the resources and abilities of a national chain? The sheer resources these big businesses have amounted are on such a scale that they can offer lowered prices and a dexterity that is impossible to imagine. For example, a 7 Eleven can afford to sell coffee at 50 cents a cup for its first month in business, but the deli it was built a store away from may not be able to.

I was shocked to see that the men’s wear store had closed after so long, but I was more shocked to see a 7 Eleven built and fully functioning within a week and a half of the permits being issued to the company. The efficiency these companies proceed with is impeccable. In contrast, a locally owned Chinese restaurant that opened a bit closer in proximity to my house took about 5 months to get built and become functioning.

Another interesting observation I have made is that large, competing businesses purposely seem to cluster near each other. On the street that new Sprint and Verizon stores were built, a T-Mobile store had been in business for years. This business of big chain stores out-crowding a block for competition is quite frequent. It is the equivalent of two gas stations opening across the street from one-another, and how often does one see that?

I do not disagree with free competition and big businesses. These are the companies that hire the majority of U.S. workers and compose a large part of the retail economy. However, I am sad to see the almost constant loss that a small business in America feels, and the effects of an economy based on a select group of powerful chain-stores  has become evident now, even at the local level. To some extent, we cannot blame anyone, because everyone is in it for the money and some win and others fail.

Yet, there has to be some sort of a relief (tax, fee, or regulation-wise) established to help the small businessman be able to breathe and potentially expand or hire more, rather than be replaced by a big company that has a team of legal professionals that can take care of  tax and regulation loopholes to be able to do the same thing.