I despise the video rental place that I’ve been frequenting.
I should preface this by saying that in the part of Toronto where I live, businesses treat dogs like royalty. This is a marketing ploy, of course, and once your pet has been given a treat at some place, say the video store I despise, it will be forever embedded in the dog brain and they will always drag you back whenever you walk by. Having thus fallen into their trap you’ll feel an obligation to spend a little bit of cash.
Anyhow, in spite of my hatred of this pretentious and manipulative video store, I’ve been going there for ages, almost always dragged in by our (very powerful!) Miniature Dachshund. One day I returned a film to the humorless Ghost-World Witch who was working the cash. She always wears her hair in pigtails, sports a different Metal Band t-shirt each day and frowns through severe librarian glasses. She’s chunky, too, unappealingly chunky. And pale. God also gave her thin lips and dead eyes, hair that looks like it gets washed once a week— out of necessity rather than love— and she emits the pervy vibe of somebody who likes to be suspended from the ceiling when she has sex with her bear-suited nerd.
You can just tell these things.
Crisply, she took the movie from me and looked at it.
“Larry Crowne?” she snorted.
“I just wanted to watch something that didn’t ask too much of me.”
She looked at me again, appraising, and then texted something to somebody.
This drove me crazy. I was certain that the text was about me, but didn’t want to appear self-centered, so I just steamed. Heidi, my dog, was begging for the treat she’d been conditioned to receive, her tail thumping on the floor.
I sighed heavily, ” Can I get a treat for my dog, please?”
“No, we can’t give treats out to everybody. You only get one if you rent a movie and you’re just returning one.”
I looked at her, and then pretended to send a text message to somebody.
She didn’t seem to notice.
“Surely you’re not serious. Look at my dog, how can you not give her a treat? Don’t be cruel,” I said.
I looked at her.
“I have to help the next person,” she said, “could you step aside, please?”
“I just don’t think that the world revolves around me and my stupid dog.”
“I sponsor a child in Africa! You don’t know the good I do!” I hissed.
“Yes, I’m sure you’re a very good man, Larry Crowne.”
I have hated her ever since.
And it’s a deep hate, the sort of hate that actually pulls me toward her rather than drives me away, and I’ve kept going back to the place hoping for some sort of triumphant resolution. I wanted her to do something to provoke me so that I might say something utterly devastating and ruin her life. But she never gave me the chance, either avoiding me completely or maintaining a bitchy, professional distance that was impossible to breach. This just twisted me into knots. It seemed ungracious, like bad manners, somehow. Utterly frustrated and defeated, one day I just complimented her.
“You look very pretty today. That Children of Bodom t-shirt looks good on you.”
“I’m not here for you to ogle, prick,” and then she raged off and had another clerk serve me.
This guy, in the hushed voice of censure said, “Smooth move, Romeo.”
They thought I liked her.
I was speechless and disgusted and didn’t return to the place for months.
My first foray back was shortly after New Year’s, and having joined a health club and made a few resolutions, I was feeling expansive and full of good cheer. You know, let bygones be bygones and such. As I walked toward the counter, ready to apologize to the Ghost-World Witch for all the misunderstandings, I overheard a bearded man who looked like a folk singer from the 1950’s, speaking to his wife as he flipped through the stacks of DVD’s.
” We could rent the five hour director’s cut version of Das Boot!”
His wife, who was swaddled in so much clothing as to look like she belonged to some sort of mystery religion that didn’t much like women, nodded weakly. She was defeated and had been for years. It was clear.
“Are you serious?” I said to the man, “A five hour version of Das Boot?”
The man looked terribly offended and started to sputter on about what a great movie it was and how I should mind my own business, and just as I was starting to apologize to him, the Ghost World Witch came flying out from behind the counter. Waving her meaty arms about, she shouted, “That’s it, you’ve harassed me and now you’re harassing our customers, you’re banned, get out! Get the fuck out!!”
I was not in a good spot here. I was about to try to justify myself to everybody involved but could see that I was in an utterly hopeless position, with the only possible “victory” I could score being the slim possibility that I might be allowed to continue to spend money at a store I despised. Getting banned from a video store didn’t seem so bad. Hell, I was physically thrown-out of a bowling alley last year, and so I shouted, at nobody in particular, “Once a white supremacist, always a white supremacist!” and then stormed out.
Netflix, here I come.