I try to avoid bringing it up in conversation. In fact, the only people I’ve told about it at all up to this point have been very close friends, the kind who are already too deep into our friendship to bail after learning such an embarrassing fact about me.
I’ve been going for more than a year now. It’s a place in West L.A. called Cinefile, and it’s one of the last video rental stores in the country. It costs me 30 bucks a month, and for that price I get to check out 4 movies at a time, no monthly limit, and no late fees.
The first question is usually, “Why?”
Well, it’s complicated.
Am I a hopeless hipster asshole determined to participate in dated and outmoded activities? Yeah, probably. But I promise that’s not why I do it, at least not anymore.
And it’s not about the quality of the videos, either. I could maybe make that argument if I had a Blu-ray player, but I don’t.
So what is it? What’s the special sauce that makes me add 45 minutes to my commute just to rent movies I could very easily steal on the internet?
I go there for conversation, for a chance to be a movie geek in peace. And I see it in the other customers, too. Practically everyone who walks through the door is a regular, and as soon as you walk in, someone is already deeeep into a talk with whoever’s behind the counter, telling the clerk a behind-the-scenes story the clerk has probably already heard. And I do it, too. I don’t leave until I’ve gotten the chance to do a lightning-round of reviews for every movie I watched over the past week. This is a store where the mentally unstable come sometimes, not homeless exactly, but definitely not all there. They come here because this is a store where the staff will actually talk to you, even if you’re clinically insane, because that’s what they’re really selling: the talk, the interaction.
There are weeks when the guys at the video store are the only human beings I talk to out in the real world. And even if they’re stoned (which is often), their eyes will still light up when you get it right, when you mention a movie few have ever heard of and it just to happens to be one they love, one that they don’t even recommend to other people because it’s a private thing, this movie, something to be kept to yourself. And finding someone else who’s seen it is a joy. And when this happens, when I manage to impress them, it’s more satisfying than it was when I graduated from college. It’s like finding another member of a secret club, a club with nice people who call AAA for you when the starter goes out again.
I keep going because it’s fantastic to have little moments of human connection, even cheap connections based on the liking of a thing. It’s an EXIT door from myself, out to a world where other people know their shit better than I do.