When we were very little, my sisters and I walked to the movie store with my mom. It was just down the street from our house. As we were leaving out the door, a man flashed us. I didn’t see anything, but I remember my mom was PISSED. Flashing her three little girls? Oh h to the no.

That has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, except that it happened in a movie rental place. I think it was Eastman Video.It shut down a few years later.

I’ve always loved renting movies. I remember going with my parents, and we’d get a kids one, and they would get a grown up one, or we’d get like two or three that we could all watch together. My sisters and I would run around the store, bringing them different options.Trying to talk them into getting the microwave popcorn, soda, and a candy bar deal.

In high school, one of the things I remember most about hanging out with friends, or boys, or boyfriends, was renting movies. It was a huge ordeal. At least, it was for me. I am a pretty decisive person, but I love, LOVE movies, and I love wandering the aisles of a movie rental place, for even an hour, trying to figure out what movie I am most in the mood to see. Sneaking up on each other. Daring each other to run into the Adult section really quick at the old Virginia Hills movie store.

My best friends and I went on this kick where we tried to watch the “Top 10” of lots of different kids of movies. She had a guest house with a big tv that some famous artist’s son had committed suicide in the room, and it was the perfect place to scare ourselves silly watching “The Shining” and “Psycho” and all that good nonsense for the first time. Remember that, Ali? :)

Now with Netflix and Redbox, On Demand and fancy movie channels, all the rental spots are shutting down. Yes, they were expensive and had unrealistic expectations about my ability to return a film in two days. But they were such fun places…you would always run into someone you knew from school on a Friday night…me and Danny would wander into the kid movie section and point out all our old favorites that we used to have on Beta tape, movies we knew every line and song to. He was a film major for a while and I learned so much from him and all the obscure action and indie and foreign movies I watched with him and other movie buff bfs that followed.

Netflix and those similar services,  particularly On Demand, are killing the radio star. I think they might just feed our short attention spans and lust for immediate gratification. We don’t even want to get in a car, go to a store specifically designed to hold lots of shelves with movies and be staffed by acne-prone teenage boys who just want to get their shift done and be back on their xBox, and pick out an actual physical DVD or videotape. We just want to push buttons on our remotes. All these supposed “conveniences” in our lives kinda take the fun out of it, when you think about it.

Tonight I had a little party with my volleyball team, we made ponytails with matching ribbons, ate pizza and tons of cookies, made up cheers, and painted pictures frames and got in a bit of a paint war. By the time it was over, I had spent 12 straight hours with junior highers.

Driving home, I saw the Blockbuster sign and compulsively pulled in to the drive and decided to find something to watch. I had “Singing in the Rain” in mind, but wandered around for twenty minutes, realized I still had paint on my face, which the teenagers working the floor had been too kind to tell me. So we got to have a little conversation about that. It took me twenty more minutes to pick out what I came home with, “The Girl who Played with Fire,” I didn’t even remember I had originally gone in to find “Singing in the Rain” until just now when I started typing about it. Anyway. It was like 9:30 on a Friday night, and ten years ago, any movie place would have been packed. Tonight, there was only me and one other guy browsing the racks. It was so sad. I felt a little sad for having no other plans for the night, and I felt sad that this is just another part of my childhood, a really cool part I think, that is slowly disappearing.

Will my kids even know what it means to “rent a movie?” Will we be able to have that lovely, agonizing, family experience of picking out something we all want to watch? Or will they just ask mom and dad “hey, can we download a movie to watch tonight on our iphones? we can all sit next to each other in the living room and stuff, but i want to watch my own thing, so….im bringing my headphones. k. cool.”

My front seat:

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