Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Video Rental Store - A Thing of the Past

The video rental store. When we all have kids, and I guess some of you reading this may have already had some and in response to that, sorry that the condom broke, I find it interesting that a lot of things that we found standard will go the way of the dinosaur. Places like Blockbuster will be one of them. It seems so odd that we will not be able to tell our kids, "Do you remember a time when movies weren't directly installed into your brain? Also, do you remember when ants weren't the size of cars and we didn't need to fight them to survive? Good times. Good times. ANTS!"Anyway, I digress. Back to the subject of the video rental store, I've had a history with such stores. Before Blockbuster, I used to go to Erol's. Now if you all remember Erol's it was pretty much like Blockbuster, except sort of disorganized and instead of holding the movies on shelves, had all the VHS tapes on metal holders or something. Maybe this was just my Erol's but it was strange.

My parents would take me to Erol's about once a week and let me pick out one movie, that is until they started renting video games. I cannot tell you how it blew my mind to be holding a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project for the 8-bit Nintendo in my grubby little hands and realizing that I could play it for 5 days for free. I was flipping the fuck out. This was bad in the respect that renting out old Nintendo games didn't exactly work on the same level as renting out the cd and dvd games of today, oh no. Mostly because they were always in worse condition overall.

I clearly have a memory in my head of being 6 or 7 years old and flipping my shit when I saw that they had a "Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers" game for the old NES. I got the game, put it into the Nintendo, and the traditional red screen came up. I blew on the cartridge, put it back in, and again it didn't work but was coming through a little bit clearer. I remember that this was one of the first times in my life that not only did I swear, but I swore like a fucking sailor who just got crabs by the dock while on shore leave. My sister was sitting there waiting to play as Dale and asking,

"Why won't it work?"
To which I responded, "This fucking piece of shit! GOD DAMN IT! STUPID MOTHER FUCKING" for literally 10 minutes, swearing in between each time I would blow in the cartridge and slam the game back into the open slot. Eventually, I got the game to work and I played as Chip, because Dale had down syndrome, and threw apples at mechanical dogs. Fun was had by all. But the fact that the game didn't work right away had a small contribution to my constant swearing and bitter outlook on life, so thank you for that video rental store.

My first job ever was at a Mom and Pop Video rental store near my family's house on the mean streets of McLean VA (where the only way you could survive was by having six cars.) I was a sophomore in high school and worked about 30 hours every week over the summer, wearing a goofy white shirt and working behind the counter. The job was atrocious, sure we didn't get to watch movies on the screens while working like I had originally thought we would but we did get to take out movies for free once we signed them out as a consolation prize.

My boss was, how do I put this, a scum sucking asshole. He treated his employees like shit, paid them under the table so as to avoid paying taxes, and was very mean spirited all around. But Evan, you might ask, how can you prove this? Well good question. One day, I was working beside him at the counter, which I always dreaded, and he proceeded to get into a screaming match with a customer who had a late fee that the guy refused to pay that was like 4 dollars. My boss REFUSED to let this go and went so far as to follow the man outside and berate the man while he tried to get into his car. My boss tried to stop the man from leaving, while the man was driving, so in response, the guy slammed on his gas and barreled my boss through the window of the store.

Swear to God. He then proceeded to use that story to his advantage, talking about it constantly, almost posting a sign that said, "Hey I got hit through a window, rent my tapes!" Ok maybe not the latter but he might as well have.

Aside from my boss, the constant barrage of pissed off people helped in crushing my soul. I remember one guy came in piss ass drunk and once it was discovered that he had a huge overdue fee on Charlie's Angels, proceeded to berate me verbally and rip up his membership card, yelling, "I AIN'T NO FUCKING FAGGOT!".....Yeah. I will also always remember the case of a family that walked in with their two children.

One of the kids was a ten year old boy and the other was a six year old girl. The two parents wanted their kids to be able to write their address down on their own, so they used the video store and the membership applications as their "venue" for this "event". What followed had to be the weirdest fucking thing ever. First, the six year old girl wrote out her address in like a minute and proceeded to say, "All done!", meanwhile the ten year old boy was having some problems. The funny part was the kid was completely normal, there didn't seem to be any problems with him mentally from what I could tell which made this all the weirder. The ten year old proceeded to try to cheat off his six year old sister, to which his parents stopped him and said, "We aren't leaving until you write it."

This caused the boy to LOSE. HIS. SHIT. He ripped the paper apart and literally had a screaming temper tantrum in the middle of the store. I remember looking at this kid as he began chucking video tapes across the store and saying to the parents, "You know, he doesn't really need to fill out the membership application or anything."

This went on for twenty more solid minutes.....TWENTY. MINUTES. David, the apocalyptic boy who couldn't write his own address at the age of ten, made me just a little more bitter that day.

Another horrific story was when I had taken out a free video, as we were allowed to do, in Varsity Blues. I hadn't seen it before so I rented it out, and watched it. Late on Saturday night, I got a call from my boss who was losing his shit because I had a copy of Varsity Blues out, "ITS THE STORE'S NUMBER ONE MOVIE!", and he demanded that I return it immediately or I would be fired. I rolled my eyes, got into my car from whatever I was doing, and returned the video. Arg the horror.

So anyway, I've had a love/hate relationship with the video store during my life. I feel that when Netflix came along, and we didn't have to put up with Blockbuster's crap on a regular basis, the store was doomed. I found it hillarious when Blockbuster created Blockbuster online to try and compete with Netflix. Their pitch might as well have been, "Hey, we're Blockbuster. If you don't rent from us, you ain't shit. Its just like Netflix but twice as expensive and much slower. But again, we're Blockbuster. The fuck you gonna do?"

It was even funnier when they put together their fail safe plan of "No Late Fees......kind of?" where you would rent out a video and get it for two weeks, BUT if you forgot to bring it back after those two weeks, you would have to pay the price of the video. Fucking brilliant Blockbuster. Bravo. Granted you could bring back the video and pay a "re-stocking fee" but again, that IS a late fee, so the whole concept is retarded.

So, while we may always remember Blockbuster, I'll glady take Netflix and Gamefly any day of the week. Also, I'll be ready for those damn ants.

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