Woe to the Netflix Mistress | AspenTimes.com
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Woe to the Netflix Mistress

Barry Smith
Aspen, CO Colorado

I didn’t want to go in, but I know it’s unavoidable.

Before leaving the house I considered a disguise, but the standard fake-beard-and-glasses doesn’t work so well for someone who has a beard and wears glasses. Shaving and going in drag seemed to be an act of someone far more desperate than I ” which is to say that I considered it, then realized it would just be too much work.

OK. Let’s just get this over with. I take a deep breath, kick the snow off my shoes, open the door and march straight to the counter.

“Hi,” I mumble, looking at the floor.

“Oh hi, Barry,” he replies.

Dammit! He remembers me. I’d hoped that the time that’s elapsed would have reduced me to a generic face, but no. He remembers. Which means … he knows.

“Uh…” I reply. “Do you have ‘Lost,’ season 3, disc 3?”

“Yeah, I think so. Hang on.”

He’s being awfully friendly. But why? Could it be that he thinks I’ve just been too busy to rent movies for the past two years? Could it be that he thinks I’ve gone on a reading binge, sworn off visual entertainment? Could it be that … he doesn’t know?

“Here it is,” he says, handing the DVD across the counter to me. “Couldn’t get this one on Netflix, huh?”

HE KNOWS!

“Uh, Netflix…?” I stammer. “Well, ha ha, I, uh, ummm, well, you see I, ha ha…”

And on and on that goes for the next few minutes while he rings me up.

There was no accusation in his voice when he said the N-word; it was all very matter-of-fact. He clearly knows I’ve taken a video rental mistress, and if he’s slighted or threatened by this, there’s no trace of it that I can detect.

But that doesn’t stop my own guilt from gnawing at me.

The truth is, no, I couldn’t get it on Netflix. At least not fast enough for my needs, which are greedy and immediate and all-consuming like those of a hungry infant. The Netflix queue said that there’d be a “short wait” for that particular disc.

“Short wait?”

Oh, I think not. “Short wait,” despite my having just written it three times in a row, is NOT in my vocabulary.

So I had to come crawling back to my video store, battered and ashamed.

This video store is local, noncorporate, independently owned by someone who’s actually part of my community. In other words, it’s really cool. Netflix (along with other mega-corporate video rental stores) has put places like this on the endangered species list, and I, by Netflicking, am guilty of being part of the demise of something that I actually cherish.

Yet I can’t seem to stop myself.

Netflix is the DVD rental equivalent of Wal-Mart for me ” cheap, convenient and faceless. Yet, like Wal-Mart, I shop there anyway. Except in the case of Wal-Mart, there’s not always a blatant alternative. I mean, there’s no locally owned place right around the corner from my local Wally World where I can get cheap plastic crap that I previously never knew existed but suddenly can’t live without.

Well, not any more, there isn’t.

But there IS an alternative to Netflix ” an actual video store where I can stroll in, say hello, ask opinions about certain films, make suggestions, get suggestions, maybe even see a few people I know as they come in to choose or drop off a movie. Local. Community. Grassroots. Down-home. I’m all for these things. Right? RIGHT!?

Yeah, but when my first wad of beckoning, firetruck-red Netflix envelopes arrived in my mailbox, nearly two years ago, well … that was that. My video store visits came to a grinding halt. I sold out my principles so fast I didn’t even have time to get a receipt. My flimsy community-minded stance was soon muffled beneath the pile of unwatched Netflix DVDs.

“Nice to see you again,” the store owner said as he handed me my change.

And, as far as I could tell, he actually meant it.

I walked out into the snow and zipped up my coat, trying to shield myself from the bitter chill of my own hypocrisy.


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