I haven’t set foot in a Blockbuster Video in at least six years. Yet when news broke this week that the final stores were closing, I felt a little bit sad. The experience of going to the video store was so much more than just clicking a button on a remote, and it made me realize how many great memories I have thanks to Blockbuster.
When I think of Blockbuster, my first thought is the store I used to visit in Brighton, MA. I was working for Borders, and my schedule was always way off from my friends, so I would rent DVDs on my days off to entertain myself. My favorite memory, by far, was Christmas Day my last winter with Borders. Everyone I knew in Boston was out of town, and I had worked almost every day for a month, so after spending the morning doing laundry, I sat down with a few rented movies and a big bag of crappy Chinese food. I can’t even tell you what movies I watched, just that I distinctly remember cracking open the Blockbuster DVD cases and feeling more relaxed than I had in months. The closest was probably earlier that week when I had managed to plan ahead and stop at Blockbuster to pick up those movies for my glorious day of not having to hand a single person a book.
Really, it was the ritual of going to the store, picking out a movie, watching it, and then rushing to avoid late fees that makes Blockbuster feel special in hindsight. It’s not that there’s not that closeness with Netflix or Amazon, but it just doesn’t have the same drawn-out quality. I remember being home from college on breaks, and having a routine with my grandmother-we’d go to the diner for lunch, and then we’d stop by Blockbuster and rent a movie to watch together in the evening. Intellectually, I know that if Blockbuster hadn’t existed, I’d have the same warm fuzzies about watching a movie on a Roku with my grandmother, but Blockbuster is like a physical touchstone to those memories.
Finally, in a “this is slightly embarrassing but also funny sort of way”, Blockbuster’s demise eliminates the cause of one of the most awkward family conversations ever. See, I had rented the indie film “But I’m a Cheerleader”, which is a brightly colored, surreal satire of the ex-gay movement. If the ex-gay movement were obsessed with manners, bright pink and blue outfits, and were run by an out of drag RuPaul. Anyway, I had rented it and was excited to watch it, but my grandmother asked what I had rented and wanted to watch with me. Not knowing how Grandma would react, I explained it wasn’t really a movie she’d enjoy…which caused the rest of my family to see the title and my concern that Grandma wouldn’t enjoy it, and assumed it was some sort of adult film. Yea, that was awkward to unwind. But now, twelve years later, it’s easy to chuckle about it.
I can’t feel THAT sad about Blockbuster, since as I said it’s been years since I visited one. But thinking back on it brings back some really great memories, and the stories and experiences that orbited around the trip the video store were mostly good ones…as long as I don’t think too hard about all those late fees I paid over the years!