Sunday, August 17, 2008
Once In A Lifetime
I keep wondering what will happen to the old shell of a building that used to house our neighborhood Blockbuster video store. It once stood as a proud beacon of newly revived commerce. Now it sits empty, behind a chain link fence, periodically the target of misplaced youthful angst. Or maybe not that misplaced.I continue to blame Blockbuster for bringing an end to my career as a video store manager. This is somewhat sad and ironic, since the the last days of that chapter of my life were spent in the service of a franchise outfit. I worked at National Video after our pleasant little local store was bought out by a guy who was intent on leaving the legal profession and supporting his family by owning and operating a string of video rental stores along Colorado's Front Range. We were selected to be the second jewel in his video crown. Even though we had done business in the same location for several years before he opened his first little store gave us, as a staff, quite a bit of leverage. If a group of twenty-somethings working to make rent and get a little extra beer money can have "leverage."It helped that we were movie snobs. We knew what we were talking about, and in the days when you needed a membership to rent videotapes, that was good enough for all of us to keep our jobs. It was even good enough to get our new owner to finance the production of three commercials for our newly launched enterprise to be shown on the local cable system. I took the job very seriously, and carefully scripted and storyboarded all three, with a special eye to my magnum opus that was set to the tune of the Talking Heads' song "Once In A Lifetime." I remember staying up late to catch a showing of my commercial on some channel at the top of the dial. And I remember seeing the beginning of the end.We all assumed that this guy knew what he was doing. Wouldn't earning a law degree afford one a certain amount of business sense? That was our assumption. It turned out to be false. He had no idea what he was doing. He was a big guy, and he often took it upon himself to order us all food when he came down to visit the store. When he discovered that we had worked, over the years, a deal with the pizza place up the sidewalk from us in exchange for slices, he wasn't upset. He wondered what they would have to get for a whole pie.The little store closed first, and we tried to keep it lively and fresh. We still gave sound advice on film and ate very well. Our fearless leader let his franchise lapse, and we experienced our third name change in as many years, only this time there was no commercial shoot. We started to sell off our inventory to tape traders. Our pride and joy, our extensive library, began to shrink right along with our profits. The number of tapes on the shelves continued to shrink until one day we locked the doors and sold off our inventory to some clown who wanted to open up his own video store. In another place. At another time.