Video store, I miss you.
I really, really miss you. Blockbuster. Movie Gallery. Hollywood Video, ye old titans of VHS rentals, I miss you all. I even miss the musty basements in grocery stores that used to double as video rental centers, even if they never got a current release and most of the customers were creepy renters of skin flicks and Freddy Krueger tapes.
I loved you all.
I miss the smell of video stores; that gym socks and popcorn smell. I miss the candy counter at the checkout line. I miss my rental card, which at 16 was as coveted as my learner’s permit.
I miss the physical act of walking through the heavy doors and wandering aimlessly in the comedy section for something starring Pauly Shore.
Pauly Shore, I do not miss you.
I miss thumbing through the drama section for movies that would make me feel less idiotic for watching Happy Gilmore.
I miss the conversations with fellow movie-renters. I miss the exchange of what sucked and what didn’t. I miss the snarky Meg Ryan banter.
“Trust me girl, you don’t want to rent Addicted to Love.”
I miss turning over the back of a rental and reading the poorly written plot summaries on the back. I miss making a judgement call on a Friday night, while standing idly next to indecisive strangers, staring with my hands in my pocket at the new release wall.
Oh, how the times have changed.
Now we have Redbox.
I have twice patronized this machine. Each time the experience has been odd. I feel like I’m standing in line to buy a Diet Coke, which I suppose is what movie-renting has come down to these days. You slip $1.50 into a machine and wait for artificial sweetener to pop out.
In my neighborhood, the Redbox is located at the front of Walgreens, which puts the movie-rental line in the same vicinity as the store’s automatic doors. As you’re waiting to rent (or return) your DVD, the automatic doors open and close, open and close. Hot air in. Cold air out.
Some people are painfully slow at selecting a flick. These people are used to the old movie renting model — the peruse model. You scan your options until something good pops up and then after 10 minutes of internal debate, you ask the person next to you if it’s a wise choice. This is how I roll.
Unfortunately, you can’t operate this way anymore. You need an in-and-out plan: know what you want before you approach the faulty touchscreen, then proceed swiftly to the credit card swipe.
Loiter for too long and you piss off the chick behind you who just needs to return the lousy Reese Witherspoon movie she forced her boyfriend to watch last night.
Oh, and be prepared to rent only a new release. Dreadbox doesn’t offer oldies.
It’s stressful — not that renting at Blockbuster was without its foibles. (Remember forgetting your card? Being too young to rent an R-rated movie? Being chastised for not rewinding a tape?)
But here’s the thing: fancy DVD machine or not, we’re still humans with the same basic instincts. In my two experiences in the Redbox line, I’ve noticed that people — the gregarious ones anyway — chat about movies much like they used to when they visited a store.
The difference is: instead of standing bewildered in the horror aisle debating the merits of Scream, we’re in a single-file line at Walgreens, setting off the store’s automatic doors, waiting like cattle to get our paws on a computer that might or might not dispense the film we want to see.
Then, the kicker: after heeding the advice of our Redbox compatriots, we search the machine’s database for the agreed upon blockbuster only to discover Redbox doesn’t carry it.
So what do we do?