So a bunch of us were sitting in a pub in Dublin, chatting one another up over pints of Guinness the other day — or maybe we were in a hotel lobby having Diet Cokes — the days run together — and talk turned to experiences — recent experiences — that are now lost in time. I’m speaking of things that used to be a part of our daily lives that our children’s children will never know anything about.
Like video stores.
Raise your hand if you still own a VCR. I didn’t think so. But they were a big deal when they first came out. I still won’t tell my lovely wife, Lisa, how much I paid for the first one we had, but she won’t tell me how much she paid for our first Amana Radar Range microwave oven, so I guess we are even. Both the VCR and the Radar Range were roughly the size of a bank vault, though.
I had that first VCR for 15 years, and it was still blinking 12:00 the day I got rid of it. That means that I never was able to master the art of the timed recording. But I sure could watch movies on that sucker. Which brings me back to the corner video store.
It took a while for the video store concept to catch up with consumer habits. At first, you’ll remember, they only had one of each movie — at least at the store on our corner. They would advertise those movies, you’ll remember, by putting the boxes for the movie out on a shelf. You’d browse the shelf and pick out just the right movie to fit your mood for the evening and take the box up to the counter. Then the person at the counter would check all the movies and, nine times out of 10, shake his head and say, “That one’s out.”
It would take a minimum of five trips between the shelf and the counter to find a movie that was actually in, and then it was one that had already been showing on television for a couple of months, but you had to rent it anyway because it was movie night and you had a VCR for which you had paid a fortune that you didn’t know how to program.
Eventually the guy at our corner video store got smart and started putting little tags on hooks under the boxes on the shelves. Now you no longer had to take the boxes up to the counter to be disappointed. You could just look at the empty hook under the box and the shelf and be disappointed. If the tag was on the hook, the movie was there — supposedly. It was a better system, but it didn’t guarantee that the selection would be any better.
And then came Blockbuster! Holy bananas, Batman! A giant warehouse full of movies. Shelf after shelf of all the hits. First release movies always in stock. Twenty, 30, 40 copies of the top hits. It was heaven! And if you kept the movie a day or two too long, you were only fined about three times the original rental rate!
Remember the signs? “Be kind. Rewind!” I think you might have gotten fined a buck for forgetting to do that, too. Of course the mom-and-pop corner video store was soon out of business, but what’s that if you could rent “Top Gun” whenever you wanted to watch it?
I’m thinking Blockbuster might have still been in operation when VCRs started going the way of the dinosaur and DVDs began making their way onto the market. Then the DVRs gave way to BluRay discs, and the next thing you knew, you could just watch movies right out of the air on the television set and you didn’t even have to know how to program a machine and the Blockbuster stores went the way of the mom-and-pop video stores they put out of business.
Somewhere in the middle we received DVDs in the mail for a month or two, but not much longer than that. I can’t seem to remember the timetable. It’s kind of fuzzy. Ain’t it funny how time slips away?
Know what else we realized we don’t have around anymore? Cobblers. If you can take your shoes to get half-soled or have the heels replaced, I don’t know where to do so. But that’s another story for another day.
Meanwhile. Be kind, whether you rewind or not.