Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear memories of a doomed juggernaut: Stuff that I recall from my days as a video jockey

Now that Blockbuster has decided to abandon its place in the physical world and exist solely in some sort of Internet-based, digital ether-land or whatever it is that company thinks it’s doing, (you’re dead guys, get used to it) it’s time for some reminiscing.
                I’ve already mentioned that I worked for Blockbuster for about a year back during mycollege days. Hell, those sweaters that college kids always wear tied around their necks in movies don’t pay for themselves after all
                During my time there, I experienced many things, some good, some bad and some that I just can’t chase out of my brain for whatever reason.
                Here are some of my most memorable memories from my days wearing the Blockbuster navy blue and yellow.
  • First time I ever had the police called on me. I could spend paragraphs detailing why Blockbuster’s no-late fees policy was a giant scam that did the unthinkable and managed to piss off customers even more than their original, yes-late fees policy. The long and short of it is that the company didn’t do a very good job of explaining to customers that if movies were late, they would be charged on their credit card for the full market price of the disc, usually $30 for movie and $100 for a TV show. One lady did not take kindly to Blockbuster’s attempt to destroy her credit score and after yelling at me for 20 minutes or so, she walked out of the store and called the cops. I could see the pain in the poor suburban cop’s eyes as she explained the situation to him in the parking lot. He was living the boring nightmare that his city cops friends always made fun of him for. He came back inside and I explained the policy to him, he nodded solemnly and walked back outside, to presumably tell the lady to f off and rethink his life choices.

  • Made my boss cry. I like to think I’m mostly a good person. Not a really good person, but I hope that most days I have more redeeming qualities than knocks against. But not this day. A friend and I closed the store on a Saturday night and somehow we managed to make a giant mess in the break room. Just destroyed it and for whatever reason – we were having fun acting like dicks, I guess – we didn’t clean it up. The next morning we had a regularly scheduled store meeting with the entire team. During the meeting at the front of our store, the store manager started to cry. She mentioned no names, but she did mention the mess in the break room and how she knew we could all do better. That stung. I’ve never liked a boss as much as I liked her and I hated that I took advantage of her. I stayed around after the meeting that day and re-organized the entire drama section off-the-clock because I’m a robot and that was the best way I could think of saying “I’m sorry for being a dick,” without actually, you know, saying it.
  • Made my girlfriend cry. It’s easy to see why I didn’t make it passed the year mark at Blockbuster, since I kept making everyone cry. This one went like this: One of the managers locked her keys in the break room, which also housed the safe, meaning we couldn’t close the store down until another manager drove all the way over and let us in. So, I decided to go into the bathroom, which was next to the office, go through the drop ceiling, over the wall and then drop into the break room and let everyone in, effectively saving the day. This sounds easy, but I’m not the most coordinated person, so it took a lot longer than it should have. While I was busy playing hero, I forgot I’d made plans to meet up with my new girlfriend after work. I ended up missing a bunch of her calls, sending her into a panic thinking I was either dead or standing her up. When I finally arrived to pick her up, somehow not noticing the calls, I went from riding high on my successful trip through the ceiling to once again being a massive douche. I can’t remember how I made it up to her, but I’m sure it was the boyfriend equivalent of reorganizing the drama section. Somehow, she’s still with me so I got and continue to be lucky.
  • Destroying VHS tapes. I came to Blockbuster right as the very last VHS tapes were still winding their way out of circulation. It was a weird and archaic time. HD-DVD was also still a thing that existed. Even an epic and desperate weeks-long firesale wasn’t enough to rid our store of its tape infestation. Eventually, the powers above decided they’d wrung every last cent they could out of the format and assigned us, the lowly store clerks to drag it out behind the woodshed and put a bullet in it. Or more accurately: Destroy all of the remaining tapes with extreme prejudice. The higher ups weren’t specific on how we should go about destroying said tapes, which was a mistake. Their lack of details gave rise to a level of malicious creativity that rivaled anything seen in the “Saw” movies. Tapes were smashed to bits, stabbed, sent airborne and even melted, filling the store with what were almost certainly highly-toxic chemicals. In short, good times.      
  • Zebra Jorge. Some poor child left their stuffed zebra toy behind at our store, and so we did what any sane and rational group of young adults would do: We gave it an official Blockbuster name tag and made it our store mascot. We also made Zebra Jorge a car and a guitar, both out of cardboard boxes, because you know, a zebra needs those things. Sane and rational. One day, our district manager caught sight of Zebra Jorge(we kept him behind the counter, not in plain sight, but not exactly hidden, either – the zebra not the manager) and demanded he be thrown out. We did the only thing we could do, we hid that zebra in the ceiling, and bought him down only when we were sure the district manager wouldn’t be around. As far as I know, that zebra is still there, unless the Pets Plus that moved in once the Blockbuster shut down decided to re-do the ceiling. But it would be appropriate if Zebra Jorge, the very creature Blockbuster tried so hard to kill, outlived that damnable company.
  • My grand exit. On my last night, I decided to go out with a bang. So I mustered all of my knowledge from my nearly one year at the store and planned the perfect crime. I was going to steal a DVD. No, two DVDs! I picked my targets, Leo DiCaprio’s “Blood Diamond” and the Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet-narrated “Deep Seas Imax” movie. That was a movie about fish that I really wanted to complete my Johnny Depp collection. I took the two movies to the one place behind the counter that I knew the cameras couldn’t see, I peeled the labels off and put them in my bag. Then, after I closed the store that night, I walked out the door, thumbing my nose at the establishment that had given me a paycheck for nearly a year … like a total badass. Less bad ass? Me driving back to the store like 45 minutes in a panic to return the movies because I felt like a total dick and more importantly, I didn’t want to go to prison for a Johnny Depp movie about fish. Johnny Depp not worth prison. Who knew?

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