I feel a little sentimental about the end of Blockbuster, because I worked there and I was a customer for a long time.
It’s sort of like the old 80’s video game arcade – it’s outdated and unnecessary, but it still holds a place and time in my mind.
I had a brief stint as an Assistant Manager at Blockbuster Video in Laurel, MD in the fall of 1993. It was shortly after I graduated college, and I couldn’t find the job with a salary and benefits that I expected would be waiting for me when I got my diploma.
The hourly rate of $7 was actually pretty exciting to me at the time. It was up from the $5.50 an hour I was pulling down at my first post-college job as a front desk guy at a Comfort Suites.
I was the newest one on the management team when I was hired a little more than 20 years ago, so I was assigned the Thanksgiving afternoon and night shift. That sort of sucked, and on top of that, lots of old friends from high school were back visiting parents and stopped in to get a video on Thanksgiving.
Many of them had moved on to jobs they supposedly liked, and I was busy doing the “be kind, rewind” thing. But I got free rentals, so there.
Anyhow, after working from 2:00pm to close on Thanksgiving, I went into work the next day and proclaimed that I was glad I’d be off on Christmas, since I took the Thanksgiving shift. Nope, I was told I’d get to work Christmas, too.
Fortunately, one of my many interviews paid off a couple days later, and I got an administrative job. It was still hourly and with no benefits, but it was more money, and no uniform. My career with Blockbuster, which promised lots of opportunities, according to company head Wayne Huizenga in a rah rah video, was over.
Four years later, I got a job at my first dot com (Medsite.com), and began my chapter in online business, the space that would ultimately make Blockbuster obsolete. If only they didn’t make me work the holidays, maybe I would have stayed and saved Blockbuster.
On a side note, in the mid-90’s I was publishing a zine (a print publication – not an eZine), and I had a column in there called “Movies That Affected My Life”. Here is an entry about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and my time at Blockbuster.
Steve Martin stars as this high-strung guy that’s trying to get home to be with his family for Thanksgiving. After all sorts of travel disasters, Martin ends up being paired up with a huge pain in the ass, performed with an affected Clark Gable-type suave by John Candy.
It was about 5:00 or so when I popped this tape in the vcr. The store was pretty much empty. Since I was the newest manager at the time, I got stuck with working on Thanksgiving night, the 2:00 to close shift. The rest of the city was at home watching the Cowboys and eating turkey.
I was watching movies with a handful of cashiers that would rather work than be with their families. And so there I was, the Blockbuster in my hometown on Thanksgiving. Not that it mattered, really, because everybody in my family had gone out of town to visit and celebrate. I guess these were the trappings of drinking all though senior year, instead of finding a good internship.
Then at about 8:00 or so, one of the cashiers brought me a plate from her house. It made the food a little hard to digest though when I thought about how the Saturday before, she had propositioned me. She had a husband and two young children at home.
After finishing up the books, I headed home to my real feast. My first after-midnight Thanksgiving… a six pack of Private Stock and some cold KFC. In a way, it was the loneliest day of my life, but in a another way it was my best Thanksgiving.
Twenty years later, I’m heading to see the Cowboys play in person on Thanksgiving with my family, and then we’ll stream Planes, Trains, and Automobiles from Netflix or Amazon Prime.