Where once I loved the excitement of the old-fashioned cinema, today’s modern, overcrowded, noisy mega-complexes have lost their appeal. Movie night for me now means sprawling on the couch in the comfort of my home with snacks and beverages close at hand. Judging by the end-of-the-week crowds at my local Blockbuster, I am not alone.
But a visit to the video store is not without its own set of challenges: bright lights, overwhelming choices, long lines and often, clueless clerks to name a few. Enter, Rick. I have recently discovered my Blockbuster hero.
As I enter the store on my way home from work, numb from a fast-paced week, starving, and desperately craving a drink, Rick, from behind his post at the counter, greets me with his silken “Helloooooo”. I sneak a glance at the bulky profile and lengthy ponytail hanging down his back. He turns slightly and like the star of a passing float, gives me a high-five wave. I smile wanly and follow the well-worn path to the ‘A’ section of the new releases. A quick scan from A to M leaves me empty-handed. When I get to the ‘W’ section, I suddenly remember the new release that’s just come out this week. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I see in front of me 50 cardboard replicas of the title I’m seeking, but not one with the actual DVD. Overwhelmed with disappointment, I start back at the ‘A’s and wander once, twice, and three times around, still uninspired.
Out of nowhere, he appears. “Hey. Can I help you find something?” Rick asks.
It’s difficult to believe that this 20-something movie geek will understand my 50-something, well-developed movie taste. But Rick surprises me. After disappearing momentarily, he is back with a couple of films that actually grab my attention. But, they just don’t fit my mood. How personal should I get with him? I decide to confide in Rick and tell him that I was really in the mood for the new release that I couldn’t find earlier.
“Hold on,” he says, and disappears once again. He returns, and without a trace of smugness, holds it up. Although Rick and I are not on a first-name basis, I’m tempted now to use his. After all, revealing my personal movie tastes puts us on a level beyond customer and clerk – somehow I feel he has a window into my soul. I decide to keep it professional. I offer a big smile and thank him. Without the hint of a smile in return, Rick looks me in the eye. “You’re welcome”. And before I know it, he’s helping someone else.
Pleased with my find, I approach the cash register – the line-up is almost enough to make me put my movie back. After several minutes, it is my turn and I am greeted by Kelly, with a full-toothed smile.
“Did you find everything you were looking for?” she asks brightly.
“Thanks to Rick, yes.”
“Do you have your Blockbuster card?” Damn. Foolishly, while passing time in line I hadn’t thought to pull out my card. I open my bag, ready to dig for it, the fatigue of the week hitting me hard now.
Suddenly, I hear Rick’s voice. “Let me take this one,” he tells Kelly. He keys in my info, which he has apparently memorized. No card necessary. As a bonus, he throws in a coupon for me and takes a couple of bucks off my total.
“Just two nights, right?” he asks. “You’re usually pretty good at returning them.” I flush, embarrassed that my efficiency is being recognized by a Blockbuster employee.
As Rick raises his hand to wave good-bye, I finally see the tiniest of smiles brighten his face. I walk with a new energy to my car, eagerly anticipating my night on the couch, and grateful that Rick, my Blockbuster hero, has once again saved the day.
Nancy de Guerre lives in Burlington and is Mom to two teens. In addition to her recently rekindled passion for writing, she enjoys yoga, hiking, reading and watching movies from her local Blockbuster.*
For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.
Photo: Humphrey Bogart as Rick and Ingrid Bergman as Lisa in Casablanca. If you didn't recgnize this shot, go and rent Casablanca right now; it's one of the best movies of all time.