Last night I missed the video store. The kids were away and my husband and I had just finished eating dinner out, when I got an urge to physically rent a movie.
Considering how much I resent the grocery store, I didn’t expect to miss a place that was just another place I had to go to that wasn’t home.
There is no nuance in my sentimentality. The various articles lamenting the death of video storefronts passed by years ago, preceded by the articles on the death of all the fading cultures before them.
My first job was at my godparents video rental shop. Empty VHS jackets on the walls for browsing customers, the tapes safely enclosed in hard plastics shells, catalogued behind the counter.
In my depressive twenties, I measured my mental health by my ability to get myself out of the house and to the video store so I could crawl back onto the couch. A trip to rent a movie was an outing in disguise. If I could manage it, everything was fine. My neighborhood rental shops were my favorites, but to rent there I had to be feeling confident and put together. I had to be ready to watch an avant-garde documentary with subtitles. The clerks and the clientele of those shops were paying attention and some of them were cute. I could not go in wearing sweatpants and in need of a feel-good movie or seven. I best haul that mess off to Blockbuster.
Renting a movie for the first time with a new love interest was to publicly declare a burgeoning relationship. Shuffling the perimeter of the new releases side by side, it was saying to the other patrons that we’d already gone out together several times with success. We’d made it all the way to Stay In and Watch A Movie. We were practically a couple now.
I’d split off from my practically boyfriend to scout for films and bound nervously back to offer a suggestion. DVD case presented to him, my heart on pause, awaiting judgement. Those were such exciting moments, divulging my tastes and interests. Flirting and teasing and trying to agree was always in stock at the video store, even when there wasn’t anything decent available to watch. Even after the relationship wasn’t new.
My husband and I could try to recreate the video store experience by sitting side by side on separate laptops scrolling Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime to choose a movie. It might work.
Does this mark a coming of age? Each passing generation reminisces. We wonder if the ever emerging technology that slightly alters the way we receive our entertainment is such an improvement.
While missing the sound of a rewinding tape, I consider whether humanity’s current struggles are more intense now than they have been in the past or if everyone feels this way when they are old enough to pay attention. Is this just what we do when we have collected enough memory to compare then to now?
When I was at work renting videos at fifteen, Dan Rather was droning on about things that didn’t touch me. This morning I scroll a dozen news outlets and try to convince myself that the suffering of people in the world and the suffering of the world itself isn’t all one tremendous, paralyzing thing. I wonder, not for the first time, if poor mental health is a by-product of living aware. I crave a feel-good movie and don’t care how it’s delivered. I’d belly right up to the counter at the indie video rental and ask for a romantic comedy, in my sweats. At least that has come with age.