Last night I walked into my local Blockbuster and bought their "Next Register Please" sign. They were selling it for $5. The whole process felt like buying a corpse. Or, at the very least, a corpse's cufflinks.
As my wife and I stood in line to pay for the thing, we could overhear one of the two guys behind the counter talking about his plans to dine at a local Hooters establishment the following evening. It sounded like he was excited for the trip. I bet he was going to get the wings. I hear their wings are the best. He stopped talking about breastaurants long enough to say that I was buying their last "next register" sign. He said he was going to miss it. I believed him.
This particular Blockbuster didn't carry Quiz Show, the only movie in the world I wanted to see one random Saturday maybe a year ago. I doubt any location carried Quiz Show. They didn't carry anything I couldn't get somewhere else.
The copyright notice at the bottom of the "next register" sign read 2003. I imagined this was the last time that they had invested in anything new at any of their stores. They certainly hadn't invested in the store's tech. The Will Ferrel vehicle Elf played on the screens above us as we wandered through their graveyard of shiny plastic discs. The quality of the image barely making its way through the shitty TVs made this feel-good Christmas hit look like a VHS snuff tape.
Suddenly I find myself wondering, what if they cast Will Ferrell in the new Videodrome remake? I'd watch that. Tell me you wouldn't watch that.
I hadn't given Blockbuster a dime in quite a long while. This $5 (or $5.45 after tax) was the last money I'd ever spend at this dying American institution. But it seemed like the right thing to buy. Blockbuster, like so many futuristic ideas of the 20th century, has finally found itself in the 21st century's wake.
Next register please, indeed.
Photo: "Next Register Please" sign photographed by the bloggitarian Matt Novak