I didn’t realize Blockbuster Video was still around until I read a story about its demise. Well, it’s final demise. Because rental videos died a long time ago. So did video tape. Remember VHS? That ancient device called a VCR? It had wires and you jammed clunky plastic things inside it. What was that all about?
There’s been much written about Blockbuster going the way of the dinoVCR. CNN posted a story on 10 things they wouldn’t miss about the stores. Others said “good riddance” and “that’s what you get for late fees!”
But the video store’s closing has actually made me quite sad. For me, Blockbuster is more than just an obsolete video store. It was once part of a Friday night experience. A cultural event.
When I think about Blockbuster, I think about weekends with my dad. My parents were divorced, and no Friday night at his place could begin without a trip to the blue and yellow video store. My brother and I frantically searched the stacks in hopes that the latest release of this or that was still clinging to the wall.
Fat chance. Blockbusters on a Friday night were like a grocery store before a hurricane. Shelves picked clean. Mad scrambles for second tier selections. Blood-curdling screams from disappointed families: “We’re doomed! ‘The Goonies’ are all checked out!”
That always started a stampede for the exit.
We combed the store in search of something worthwhile … and preferably with mild nudity! A couple movies, a dump truck of junk food, and the weekend was on. My mother wondered about our glossy eyes and how we gained 15 pounds.
“Is your father feeding you drugs?” she would ask.
“No,” I would answer. “Just Blockbuster and Skittles.”
Or in college: the date night in. A chance to snuggle on the couch. Yippee! Wanting something horrific or action-packed or … mild nudity! And instead getting romance films or worse: an international flick with subtitles. Why did college always = intellectual?
My daughter knows nothing of this. She lives in a streaming, on-demand world. Digital room service. You want it, you got it. Anywhere. Anytime. Just press “Menu” or type “Youtube.”
She will never know an entire wall of newly released films where every single one is already checked out.
Although, let me take that back. She also checks out movies at the library all the time, carefully studying walls of DVDs. She takes her little library card and slides her stack of films across the counter to the librarian. There’s something special about having to lift more than a finger for what you really want. About actual human contact. About that excited, agonizing wait to get home. The realization that the world isn’t on-demand all the time.
Maybe that was the lesson of poor Blockbuster: That we actually enjoy and savor things when it’s more than just a remote click away.