Bryan and I went to Sears at 10 a.m. on Sunday to buy a dishwasher, but we were the only customers in sight. It was so silent I could hear the escalators humming and the air conditioning blowing. To distract themselves from the emptiness, the salesclerks busied themselves folding golf shirts. I thought about how the department store was once the embodiment of the American Dream — a cornucopia of home appliances, necklaces with heart pendants and infant onesies. Was it that nobody was interested in this 1950s version of domestic bliss anymore? Was it the recession? Was it that most people could purchase these American standards more cheaply elsewhere? We left Sears empty-handed. The space under our kitchen counter was too small for most dishwashers for sale. It made me think we were looking for a more modest version of the American Dream than Sears had to offer.