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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Why I Joined Netflix (aka, Alyson joins the 21st Century)

I'm a strange person when it comes to certain things like where I get my coffee, where I buy my groceries, and especially where I rent my movies: I'm loyal to the point of zealousness. 

Historically, I've always loved going into a video store and browsing, reminiscing about movies I've seen and loved, as well as chiding movies I've hated.  When James and I moved to Waltham, one of the first things we did was find a local video store and gain membership.  We chose the rather commercial Hollywood Video, because it was right down the street, and it wasn't Blockbuster (I hate Blockbuster for no real reason).  This video store was special.  Its employees were one of a kind, and we often surmised about what their real lives were like, when they weren't watching The Goonies, or talking to us about their opinions on recent releases. 

One employee in particular, let's call him Mark, was our favorite.  He was a middle-aged man, whom we were convinced still lived with his mother and did not have his drivers' license (because he was probably forbidden from ever operating heavy machinery).  Have you ever seen the episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine goes to the movie store and feels like she's completely in-sync with Vincent's Picks?  That's like Mark, except he never sent us the play button on his VCR, and he certainly wasn't 15 years old. We got a thrill out of impressing him with our movie choices ranging from Vincent Price classics, to sleeper-hit Indies, so much so, that it became a game in the back of my mind.  Will this impress him enough, or will it be too predictable?

About a month ago, we had been on a brief hiatus from video rentals, since there was a healthy line-up of network television shows to keep us occupied during the week, and our schedules didn't really permit for a leisurely evening of movie-watching, so it had been months since we last rented.  One night, we decided to go browsing, with no particular movie in mind.  We pulled into the parking lot to find it completely deserted.  As I tried to peer through the opaque, soap-stained windows, I caught glimpses of a barren wasteland of rows and rows of empty movie racks.  As I turned back towards the car, wiping a single tear rolling down my cheek, I swore I saw the ghost of Mark crying in the corner.  The realization of what had happened hit me like a ton of bricks: Netflix had put my beloved video-store out of business.  What would Mark do?  Who (in their right mind) would employ him now?  If we had only known that the last time we had been there would indeed be our last time, I certainly wouldn't have rented Labor Pains with Lindsay Lohan, (just kidding, it was actually A Haunting in Connecticut, which wasn't much better) and I probably would have made my last interaction with Mark way more meaningful than, "Wow, I can't wait to see Sunshine Cleaning."

After boycotting Netflix for an entire month, and searching desperately (and unsuccessfully) for another video store (our local Blockbuster went out of business too!), I finally caved and signed up for a free one-month trial.  I mean, it was free after all, and it wasn't like I was entirely committed to anything yet.  As soon as I set up my queue, I started to marvel at their selection of movies for which I've been searching a long time (A Man for All Seasons, King of Hearts, The Road to Wellville).  Netflix even lets me rate my favorite (and not-so-favorite) movies and recommends movies I might like based on my ratings, so a multitude of titles have just opened up before my greedy little eyes.  My one-month free trial is coming to an end, and I hate to admit it, but I think I'm going to stick with it, because so far, I really like it.  And maybe I just lost a piece of myself by admitting that, and maybe somewhere out there, Mark just died a little bit more on the inside, but thus is the ever evolving state of things.  Sorry Mark, blame it on Netflix.  I do.

the end.
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