Growing up, my mom and I would often hit the local Blockbuster after school. I’ve got this clear picture of the event: me in my school uniform, rain dripping down on our green van. It’s probably a Thursday afternoon. Thursday afternoons are the best time for Blockbuster. It gives you weekend movies and Friday-flourescent-light-daydreams of vegging out.
We didn’t just go when a new movie was out on DVD or (gasp) video, either. We went when we were in a mood that needed to find resonance at a cinematic level.
It’s the same mood you have when you venture into the library or into a bookstore. You don’t know where you are about to go, but you know there is some kind of journey ahead. It’s a journey that involves walking down aisles that are stocked with possibility, each containing a world all it’s own.
Then, gradually, then quickly, life changed. We became the instant age.
Remember when Netflix first arrived and you just put a whole bunch of things in your online cue, but you didn’t know what they might send you? It was a new surprise each time, and it was the hippest Russian Roulette to date. Then came the days when you could watch Netflix from your laptop (if you were really cool).
Today, pretty much everyone has Netflix available right on their TV screen (and by that, we mean what used to be known as “instant watch”). It’s nice, I mean, it’s convenient and yes—it’s perfect for chilling. Heck, there’s a whole layer of Millenials (not my layer, but the younger ones) who base their social lives around the phrase, “Netflix and chill.” (Yes, I know, that’s not actually what that means…and this post is just gonna dodge that bullet.)
I’m not saying Netflix is bad, not at all. I love my Netflix, especially now that they are coming out with these amazing original series (Daredevil, anyone?). All I’m saying is that now, Blockbusters are no more. One day, I will have to explain to my children and grandchildren that – back when I was a kid – we used to have to go to a store and pay to borrow a movie that we wanted to watch. It probably will sound terrible to them, maybe their little eyes will widen in horror. Is this the future equivalent to walking “six miles in the snow?”
But I don’t know if there will be a way to explain it. The process of taking time, the physical act of pacing, picking choices up, putting them down. What mood are you in? What kind of weekend will it be?
I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell them how such a simple act had the ability to slow down dull, rainy Thursday afternoons, how it provided the therapeutic ability to process, analyze and make mood-oriented cinematic choices.
But there it is, the long-lost beauty of Blockbuster.