It's my fault that Toys R Us went out of business. Not me alone, of course, but once Amazon started selling toys, shipping them to my home at a discount, it was a fait accompli. Sure, I continued to make my visits with my son and whomever I could drag along. I would make a few impulses, now and then, but my go-to source for toys was no longer the big concrete bunker full of amusing plastic playthings. I could get what I needed on Al Gore's Internet.
Shame on me.
It is, of course, ridiculously ironic for me to be pining for that warehouse full of fun that once upon put all the local mom and pop toy stores out of business. Maybe I should explain.
My wife has been out of town.
I have been watching TV without supervision.
I finally watched most of You've Got Mail. That little bit of romantic comedy fluff from the late 1990's with America's collective sweethearts Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. She runs a little bookstore and he runs a great big bookstore and he puts her out of business but they fall in love because they send pithy emails back and forth without knowing that one is trying to put the other out of business. Sorry for that spoiler, but two decades is just about long enough to be public domain. Especially since it was a remake of a 1940's film called The Shop On The Corner that starred America's period sweethearts James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. And that was, in turn, a film adaptation of a Hungarian play called something in Hungarian starred Hungary's theater sweethearts.
Crawling back up this ladder of distraction, it bothered me then and now that the connection Meg and Tom made was made on America Online. Hence the title. That proud and loud announcement that there was something in your electronic mailbox was a momentary pronouncement that has fallen by the wayside. Most of us would run screaming from the room if they were reminded by that voice every time someone from Nigeria wanted to propose a deal to unlock his inheritance with your help. But oddly enough, there is a place you can go to get just that for your Gmail account.
Pardon that digression, please.
At the time, Time Warner owned America Online, and this rom-com redux was foisted on the public by Warner Brothers. It was all one big ad for their Internet outlet. And since the whole story revolves around how corporations engulf and devour little businesses, it seemed just a tad ingenuous. So I made a choice not to go see the movie, in spite of all that meant-for-each-other cuteness exuded by Tom and Meg.
Now AOL is going the way of the mom and pop bookstore. Toystore. Warehouse. My mother bailed on her account, which means that there are probably about six more people still connected to the vestiges of the Internet's first McDonald's. I have heard that some people are connecting to Al Gore's Internet using their own wires and cables they found laying around the garage. My mother has been engulfed and devoured by a beast much larger and perhaps more insidious than Time Warner. Google has her now, god help her, since there is no turning back from that vortex.
Or is there?
I watched that movie, after all those years. It didn't put anyone out of business. As far as I know. My mom can now check her email without being yelled at. But I still miss the toy stores. I hope my wife comes home soon.