Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Happy Halloween Tale

One of Fernando's most regular of customers comes in one day in October and asks if he has the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. She is a teacher, and her science class was studying global warming, and she felt it would be a helpful educational tool in discussion on the topic. Fernando agreed with her and allowed her to borrow the movie free of charge, as Fernando is an ardent believer in lifelong education and “paying it forward” to the next generation.

About a week later said customer returns to the store carrying a large piece of posterboard. Fernando is intrigued by this, as customers do not usually bring along pieces of posterboard when they come a-renting. But, lo, this piece of posterboard was a large, approximately two-and­-a-half by one-and-a-half foot card from her entire class reading, “Thank you, Mr. Ferny (they did not want to deal with the hassle of how to spell Fernando's last name)! The movie helped us learn about global warming and what we can do to help the earth.” and with a veritable phone book of names on the card's inside.

Fernando pinned it to the wall of his store and it now proudly gazes down upon his Dominion.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reservations Over Reservations

Fernando has a customer come in and ask about a movie. All the copies of said movie were out, and the customer asked if it could be held for the next day, where it would be picked up around five. As Fernando was jotting down the information in his Notebook of Infinite Justice, he asked, “Could I get your number to give you a reminder?”

“I don’t think you need to. I won’t forget.” Fernando cringed on the inside upon hearing those words.

Fast-forward one day to 5 P.M. No customer appears. Come quarter to six, Fernando digs up the customer’s phone number in his records and makes a call, whereupon the customer says she cannot make it tonight, but would like the reservation to be moved to tomorrow.

“Absolutely I can do that for you.”

“Great. I’ll be in around 2 to pick it up.”

“Well…I don’t know if a copy will be around right at 2.”

“What do you mean you might not have a copy? You’ve got one right there.”

“Yep. I’ve also got a waiting list two deep on this movie for tonight.”

Cue the hysterics. Eventually it was agreed that the customer would come in tonight to pick up the movie.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rules is Rules

Fernando has a weekly drawing at the Dominion of Movies. Every time someone comes in to rent or buy a movie, he or she fills out a slip of paper for a gift certificate for free rentals. A short set of rules was posted near the bucket but they mostly described how one won and the limits of entry (as much as you wanted). It used to be the case that Fernando would allow people to fill them out even when not renting, but one day that privilege was heavily strained and ultimately revoked.

A teenager came into the store with four of his buddies. They putter about for roughly twenty minutes, spending most of the time loudly proclaiming about how “awesome” this or that particular horror movie is, before the leader finally selects an older rental and brings it to the counter. Fernando goes about filling out the rental slip, taking the gent's money, and retrieving the film while the teen and his buddies begin stuffing the ballot box, as it were.

When Fernando sees them tearing through his meager stock of fill-out slips in a frenzy of contest entering, he says, “You know, it's one per visit.”

Doesn't say that on the rules,” said the ringleader, and he is actually correct. The rules say nothing about limiting the number of entries per visit.

That may be so, but it's not really fair to the other people who enter.”

They should do it too then. Nothing's stopping them.”

You're're right,” Fernando agrees. He scoops his hand into the bucket and removes a handful of slips, then begins picking through them, crumpling up and disposing of the renter's duplicates and the ones submitted by the four not-renters.

Hey, you can't do that!” one of the associates says.

Fernando does not look up from his sorting. “The rules don't say anything about that.”

Yeah they do! They say anyone can enter!”

Correct. They do not, however, guarantee anyone can win.” The troop of recent pubescents exit the store in a huff and Fernando immediately undertakes a necessary project: a new set of rules to explicitly close that nasty, textual loophole.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How to Chickify Your Heroine

How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent movie. It's cute and funny and action-packed and features Gerard Butler at about his hammiest. It also has Astrid, the lead female protagonist who is, for the first two-thirds of the movie, an awesome example of female asskickery in action. She enrolls in dragon-slaying school and is, by far, the most competent of all the students there.

Then the film's first major climax takes place (I shan't spoil any details for those among my unnumbered readers who have not seen yet seen it) and Astrid miraculously and instantly and surprisingly transforms from a cocky, smarmy badass to Generic Female Love Interest, and all of her previous skill is swept aside to make room for shoehorned “niceness” trying to pass itself off as character development, maybe. Designated Male Protagonist Hiccup (who I admit I found quite likeable, and whose character was never derailed) proceeds to carry the day and Gets the Girl at the end of it all. Oh, and there are totally cool dragons.

Now, people like happy endings; I certainly do provided it's genuinely earned and not some obvious legacy reward. But a happy ending does not necessitate having everything wrapped up in a nice, pretty bow and pairing off all the males and females into happily-ever-after couples. Why couldn't the movie have been about a guy, his dragon, and an awesome female lead who doesn't swoon for the guy?

How to Train Your Dragon is not a movie about the budding romantic relationship between two (or more) characters. It's not a movie asking the sorts of existential questions we all face in our own romantic endeavors and exploring the psychological intricacies of True Love. Can a movie that isn't a romance/romantic comedy have a little bit of lovey-dovey goo tossed in? Absolutely, if it allows the viewers to glean more depth in the characters in question, like in, say, Up. HtTYD just throws in the Astrid-Hiccup pairing and the verisimilitude of Astrid's motivations goes up in smoke. It doesn't provide any insight to her character; we know from the opening scene that Hiccup has the hots for her, and that she can't tolerate him in the slightest, and that she is impossibly irked as he consistently one-ups her in training. Then something happens and we get a girl who, while admittedly still Tsundere, finds herself d'awwwing at Hiccup and his spiffy dragon ride, their previous rivalry forgotten entirely. Oh, and the other (characterized far, far more one-dimensionally) students don't react to this sudden change at all.

Maybe I'm being a cynical hardass about all this (Ok, I am a cynical hardass about all this). How to Train Your Dragon is a fun, pretendland family film and (probably) shouldn't be torn to shreds because its writers decided to throw the protagonist a, heh, bone. The movie's main message is one of understanding the motivations behind actions, avoiding stereotyping, and being open to the possibility of questioning strongly-held traditional beliefs. It, however, could have done just fine without the apparently necessary romance. Toy Story did splendidly and is a timeless classic in the same genre, and it didn't need a love interest to achieve that.

Not every single story needs to provide True Love, people.

Friday, October 22, 2010

That's What Friends Are For

Fernando does not get many visitors these days, since everyone is off doing his or her own thing, and spare time and money are precious commodities roughly on par with spaceship fuel. Sure, Fernando has his weekly gig with his dragonslaying crew, but most of Fernando's other correspondences with his peers take place via the internet or via telephone.

When an opportunity for an in-person reunion rears its head, therefore, Fernando will take fullest advantage of it.

One of Fernando's best friends from the days in which he was a slacker in college instead of a slacker in a video store is Consuela, who currently resides some eight-odd hour drive from him. Consuela's job requires her to do site visits once in a great while, and it was fortuitous that her most recent site visits brought her to the vicinity of the Dominion of Movies. So it was agreed that she would stop by one night and the glory days would be relived. Fernando also made it a point to induct her to the most wondrous of offerings from Fernando's community: the legendary Sweaty Bill's Pizza.

She arrived safely and timely, and reunioneqsue words were exchanged; they were on the tune of "I'm here!" and "Welcome to the Dominion of Movies!" (as if Consuela was stopping by from her neighboring dorm room instead of it being the first time in about five years they had seen one another in person) and the pizza was ordered with three toppings: pepperoni, green peppers, and mushrooms. When the pizza was picked up twenty minutes later and brought back to the Dominion for consumption, the pepperoni and green peppers were nonexistent compared to the veritable genocide of Princess Peach's subjects slathered on top of the pie.

Consuela is one who loves mushrooms and occasionally purchases cans of the things to munch on as a snack; Fernando is significantly less enamored. But even Consuela's mighty fungal craving could not tackle the mountains on the pizza. Slices could not be lifted without them tumbling everywhere. One could brush one's hand over the top and displace entire settlements. So these extraneous mushrooms were soon piled in one corner of the pizzahouse like a grisly offering to some Cthulhuesque chaos god whose infinite hunger could not even reduce the pile. Consuela became highly amused.

So the mushrooms-with-a-side-of-pizza were eaten, and NBC was watched (though we really had no clue what was going on as we were busy "shooting the breeze"), and we discussed things like politics and DRM and Rebecca: The Horrible Groupwork Girl From Our Cuban Politics Class Back in the Day. It was enjoyable, and Fernando was made merry, and Consuela too. But, as all good things must come to an end, Consuela had to leave barely more than two hours after she had arrived. Timely site visits require driving and competent driving requires sleep. So Fernando bid her a good night and thanked her for finding time to visit. When she at last departed, the Dominion of Movies became a less cheerful place.

But, ye gods, those mushrooms.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wall Street Financiering

Fernando is writing up the rental slip for a customer when the customer says to him, “Yeah, I was wondering if you would be interesting in buying a movie from me.” Fernando had been busy upgrading some of the older VHS tapes to DVD, and so was on the lookout for deals of that nature. Word had apparently spread, incorrectly, that he was looking for people to sell him any old beat-up DVDs.

"Which movie?"


"I think I'll pass, thanks."

"But I bought it brand-new from Wal-Mart the other day. I wanted to sell it to you."

"You bought a movie from Wal-Mart to resell to me? Bizarre."

"I watched it and didn't care for it and I figure you might want it."

“Convince me I should buy this used movie you bought from Wal-Mart.”

“I’m trying to get some money back on the movie. Will you take it? Ten bucks.”

"No, that's alright. I think I can do without an additional copy of a movie that I already have that never rents anyhow."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Questions and Clarity

Fernando is approached by an elderly woman with a grandchild of perhaps 14 in tow. “Yes, I want to know if this movie is rated R.” She places Fired Up upon the counter, the cover of which reads in big, bold letters “UNRATED.”

“Ma’am, this is Unrated. It has content that was not screened in theaters.”

“I looked on the back and I didn’t see it was rated R. I just want to know if it’s rated R or not, so I know it’s safe for the kids to watch.”

“Well, it’s Unrated. Like I said, it has content that was considered inappropriate to show in theaters.”

“Like what?”

“I imagine six to seven seconds of naked female breast, as well as at least ten minutes of additional footage that had been better off remaining cut.”

“So it’s not rated R?”

“It is rated R in that most of the movie was rated R when it was in theaters. They added some content to the DVD release that was not screened, and gave it an Unrated rating.”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all. Is it rated R or Unrated?”

[Pause] “Unrated.”

“Ok, we’ll take it.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Typed the Draft in OpenOffice

Every now and then Fernando has people return his movies, only for him to learn upon inspecting the discs that they are rendered nonfunctional. Sometimes this is because a combination of hemp, sawdust, and peanut butter has been smeared all over (Note to self: this is a story Fernando will need to relate in the future), and other times it is because an almost imperceptible ring of burn exists going all the way around the disc's surface. The latter troubles Fernando because it means people are renting his movies in order to steal them. Their reasons are their own, and he is certainly not the Morality Patrol, but it is very off-putting to because, 1) the disc is now ruined and needs to be replaced and 2) it's against the law.

Let me preface this opinion piece by saying that I have zero empathy for the MPAA's misguided crusade to stop technology from doing what advances in technology have always done, namely shaking up the status quo. The problems of piracy are not limited to film media, of course. Music, computer games, and console games are also exploited in a similar fashion. The digitization of entertainment media has made it much more attractive to the producers of such works to include limitations such as DRM that lessen the consumer's rights in the name of “intellectual copyright.”

Ideas can be copyrighted, and they should be copyrighted. Otherwise we'd be quite a culturally deficient bunch of primates and every branch of the arts would be the aesthetic equivalent of iwrestledabearonce. However, ideas should not, in my eyes, be able to be bought and sold willy-nilly. The creator of a work should have exclusive copyright ownership of that work, and this right cannot be traded to any other person, group or organization with one exception: that of work-for-hire (Fernando likes the idea of contracts between two consenting parties being valid because otherwise havoc would be wreaked upon the legality of his collecting of late fees), and in that case the organization for which the work was hired cannot sell it to someone else down the road, so not really an exception at all.

Furthermore, a universal system of encoding data should be used among countries that make meaningful effort to enforce copyright law (that means not yours, China). I find it somewhat hypocritical that, on the one hand, the free trade advocates push for greater global integration of markets and, on the other, unabashedly restrict it through area encoding for software. They're trying to have their cake and eat it too. It's unfair to the consumer, and it puts the consumer in a pickle. Say there's some quirky and unique Japanese console game I wish to play that will never, ever get a US release. I've got two options: either shell out a bunch of money on a Japanese console (the expensive way), or find some means of modding my own console to play this foreign game/wait for computer technology to reach the point that the game in question can be emulated and I can find the find the ROM/ISO/whatever via the 'tubes (the illegal way).

Finally, the consumer needs to have final say over what happens with his or her virtual property. Things like the Amazon Kindle fiasco of last year, when Amazon deleted due to copyright snaggles all the copies of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four from the Kindles of people who had purchased them, should not be allowed to happen (Amazon made right to those people in the end, so my beef is not with them personally. I like Amazon). If I buy a copy of any sort of hardware, I should be allowed to do what I will with the software as well, and to let whomever I wish borrow it and what do whatever he or she wants with it (within the bounds of the law). It's mine, not yours. Books made of actual paper are about the only things that do not have built-in protections to keep people from sharing them. It is a fundamental mistrust of the consumer that leads to the implementation of restrictive DRM, and that's only going to lead to resentment on the part of the consumer (as if it hasn't already). And when people get resentful, they get petty and “stick it” to “the man” in any way possible. Thus the problem of piracy is perforce perpetuated. (And not just piracy. Heck, even in running the Dominion Fernando finds that it is a much much much better idea to not treat people like they are mere sources of income because it increases the likelihood of them returning).

In an ideal world a happy medium can be reached between the people who produce works of intellectual merit and the consumers thereof, such that the former can make enough to avoid starving and the latter can do what he or she wants with what he or she buys, and everyone can be content. I feel it would be in the producers' best long-term interests to extend the first olive branch by being generally less draconian in their business methods.

Look at what the open-source movement has perpetuated on the internet, for instance. I don't run Microsoft Works anymore. I hate the idea of having to pay $400+ for a legitimate copy of Microsoft Works; and pirating it is a horrible idea because it would prevent me from ever updating it, to say nothing of the omnipresent risk of viral tag-alongs in said download that could seriously muck up my system. OpenOffice, while not the perfect substitute, works quite well enough for my word processing, spreadsheet, and database needs, and it's free. That's one hell of a bargain, and people love getting bargains. It makes us tractable, and the realm of big business loves tractable consumers. Undoubtedly, the companies and lobbyist groups will see this and will begin moving in this way immediately.

Fernando is such an optimist.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Do You Want a Play?

Fernando is minding his own business one slow October afternoon when the phone rings. The caller ID flashes “NEVADA CALL” and Fernando feels a burst of titillation. He lets the phone ring three or four times while he gets into the proper character.


Yeah, this is John calling on behalf of Lou Diamond. I've got a play that you might be interested in, and I just wanted to give you a quick Spiel to see if you'll back me up.”

What play is it that you speak of? Is this performed on a stage?”

Well, let me help you out in getting you on board. You ever heard of Lou Diamond?”

He has quite an improper name. It resembles that of a human streetwhorewalker.”

Well, our records show you have a movie store, and we've got a DVD coming out that'll be a huge hit. I just wanted to know if you'd be up for a play.”

Again with this silly play. Is this Dee-Vee-Dee one in which humans perform on a stage? Did the step-ladder-humans create it? It is something they would be likely to do. We must be wary of this step-ladder-human nonsense!”

What....No. Listen, just give me your name so I can put you down for one of these.”

Ye, this sounds reasonable. Cokakar.”

O...kay. That's really your name?”

Is your name is really your name?”

Listen, are you the one in charge there? Is there somebody else I can talk to, the owner or something?” Up to this point, “John” somehow managed to remain incredibly slick-talking and upbeat. I have to give him major credit for that.

No, no. Haragol Amelel is not here at the moment. You speak to Cokakar.”

Well, um--”

I once had a filthy elefim in my body. It made me do such silly and filthy things as hug a dwarf-man floating in midair with rats.”

What are you--” Now he started losing it. Tee-hee-hee.

The one most annoying step-ladder-human became a bear and I threw the elefim into the ocean not long thereafter. And another one off a cliff. It survived. Filthy elefim.”

He hung up and hasn't called back since, which is odd as Cokakar was being very friendly that day indeed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Guess the Whole Point I'm Trying to Make Here Is....

A woman drove over to the movie shop and she walked right up to the guy behind the counter and I said, “Yeeeeeeah, whaddaya want?” (No, actually it was “Hello, how can I help you?”)

“I'm here to pick up that movie you're holding for me.”

Fernando is confused by this statement, since the only movie he is holding at the moment is for someone who is definitely not this person. “Your…movie?”

“Yes, you were holding a movie for me.”

Fernando is rendered more confused. “I did?”

“The Chihuahua one [Beverly Hills Chihuahua].”

Fernando ponders for half a moment before recollection dawns. “Oh, riiiight. That movie. I sold it.”


“You said you’d be in on the 25th to pick it up. I held it for a few days before I put it back out on the sale rack.” It ended up selling later that same day.

“But I was going to buy it.” Cue sad puppy eyes. “You promised you’d hold it for me.”

“I did have it on hold for you…but it's been three weeks.”

That's just the way things go.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Business Does Not Work That Way

Saturday morning in early June. Fernando is completing his opening ceremony and has just finished vacuuming. He is busy straightening the rugs when a truck pulls up. Despite it being fifteen minutes before opening with the sign clearly set to "CLOSED," the forty-something man and woman in the vehicle nevertheless saunter up to the door and give it a mighty yank, then start gesturing in fervor when the door fails to open.

Fernando is feeling kindhearted and decides to open a bit early, so the couple enters the store as Fernando finishes the cleaning at the front of the store. Not one minute later, the woman asks, “Have you put out the movies you got back yet?”

No, actually, I haven't. I was about to do that once I finished up out here,” Fernando responds.

Oh. Well, can you tell me what you have back there?”

Hell. One of those people. “I will sort my returns and put out the tags as quickly and accurately as possible, yes.”

The couple then proceeds to stand directly at the counter, not even bothering to browse the rest of the store, until Fernando finishes sorting his returns, which takes all of about five minutes. He gathers the tags and the duo then requests that he dump them on the counter for their perusal. They eventually pick out movies that have corresponding copies still out on the floor from the day before.

Fernando begins to fill out the slip and the gentleman asks, “How much more would it cost to rent these things until Monday?”

It would be a $1.50 per movie.”

Ok, let's do that.”

So Fernando writes the slip and informs the man when he is finished that the total comes to $15. Apparently, this struck a nerve. “You said they would be $1.50 each!”

No, they would be an extra $1.50 each. $3.50 for the first night. $5 total.”

You didn't say that.”

I assumed I shouldn't have to. That would be disastrous business sense, for me to rent movies out for two nights at less than half the cost of a single-night rental. If I actually were to do such a thing, I would have no choice but to fire myself.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nihil ex Cinema

As Fernando is the owner of a video store, he makes it a vague priority to be reasonably informed on most aspects of the film world by keeping up to date on film reviews, box office earnings, and film trailers in order to maximize his profit potential. As a side effect of this research, it exposes Fernando to some of the most vile and twisted things ever to spring forth from the human imagination, and he says this as a person who has been around the internet a time or two.

Fernando is not a person one might call “prudish.” He has his idiosyncratic likes and dislikes but generally does not care about other peoples' likes and dislikes as long as they are not harmful to bystanders. As an examaple, customers regularly ask Fernando to recommend horror films for them and he is frank in informing them that he does not watch a lot of horror, but he will do the best that he can with the information he has available to him. Fernando can see the appeal to others in a movie with Freddy Kreuger, because sometimes people just want to enjoy a film in which an affably evil, fedora-wearing nightmare eviscerates hot young teenagers in their sleep.

Fernando does only a little trade in what one might call “arthouse” films largely for financial reasons; he picks up a few indie films now and then if he finds them personally interesting, but they are by and large comedies or satires and are by no means large renters. The trouble, as Fernando sees it, with “artsy” films (even in the genre of comedy on occasion) is that they face the challenge of degrading into the territory usually reserved for exploitation films. A lot of the so-called “art” films made today are nothing of the sort; their directors claim to be spreading some sort of political or social message, but end up failing at that task amidst the offensive elements included to perhaps make it more appealing to the “general” consumer or because one simply can. The aesthetic distinction between movies which evoke controversial imagery for meritorious reasons and those that have them simply to have them and to draw viewers (like the Saw series or Pink Flamingos) is continually blurred in the eyes of the potential consumer.

Take A Serbian Film, for example. (DISCLAIMER: I have not watched this movie. I never will watch this movie. All the information on this movie I have gathered from reviewing the plot on the internet, and reading the reviews of those brave souls who have watched the movie. If that makes my opinion on the topic in question in some way less valid so be it. I don't feel I should have to stick my tongue into a septic tank to hold the belief that it will taste bad. That being said, the curious can head here for an objective plot synopsis; and here, here, and here for a smattering of reviews. They are not safe for sanity) . This movie has incredibly violent and graphic scenes of rape, pedophilia, necrophilia, and incest, to say nothing of regular ol' murder and torture and coarse language, speckling its narrative. The film's creators claim that the movie is “a diary” of the horrendous things that took place in the Balkans over the past few decades and that it is the way it is in order to raise audience empathy for what happened there.

I wager here's what actually happened with the film's potential audience: people like me who are...we'll say “peckish” in regards to visceral imagery, will never watch the film, regardless of what we do or do not know about what transpired in the Balkans. People unaware of what they're getting into when watching the movie will just see a long string of abuses, and they'll come out of it feeling bereft of a soul and wondering what on earth just happened to them. People who actively enjoy watching particularly sadist bits of cinema could give less of a damn about the underlying message in what they're watching anyhow.

Some might point at me and say, “But Fernando, you're just letting your biases cloud your judgment! And you yourself said that people can be emotionally moved by it, so there's a point behind it after all!” To this I respond: someone can be filled by raw emotion by being provoked in exactly the same way as in this and other films. Sure, viewers are emotionally moved, but they're not moved in any way to give them cause for action. It's about as close to nihilism in art as one can conceivably get; it is an unveiling and interpretation (though not necessarily celebration) of hopelessness inherent in humanity without prompting a solution, and it is a silly thing to perpetuate when there is, in fact, a great great deal to celebrate in even the direst of existential straits.

Perhaps that viewpoint makes me an uncultured, close-minded philistine and precisely the sort of person who most should be viewing these artistic efforts in an attempt to broaden my artistic horizons. And I am not saying that A Serbian Film or Salo or Gummo or its boundary-pushing ilk wholly lack artistic merit. Art is self-expression, and the filmmakers of these movies certainly have a right to that; to paraphrase one of the reviews of A Serbian Film, it's a gigantic angry exclamation mark of what Serbia's people have had to suffer. But the other half is having an audience interpret that work, and if doing the cinematic equivalent of pooping on a paper plate and sticking it in a microwave is what is needed to be considered “trendsetting” and “deep” and a “true artist,” I would rather stick with the equivalent of kitsch watercolors.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Peripeteia? Not on YOUR Watch

Fernando likes to believe he is fairly flexible in how people pay off their late fees. So long as they make payments on them all is well and good provided no unanticipated $10+ additions come to pass on that account.

But sometimes this is taken to absurd extremes.

A regular customer of Fernando's had a moment in which he had out four movies over the span of three days. Fernando had never had any trouble with this customer before and the man promised to pay off the late fees when he finally returned them. He makes a down payment of five bucks as a good gesture.

He then pays off the balance in fifty cent increments each time he came in, over a span of about six months from November to April.

But Fernando is not irked, for during these six months the customer did not backslide a single time, and every time he came in he paid precisely fifty cents, and slow but steady progress was made, and he rented more movies besides. When the late fee was finally paid off Fernando thanked the man for his diligence and loyalty, as customers like that are incredibly hard to find.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Peripeteialessness Mk. II

Fernando is approached by a semi-regular customer who wishes to rent three movies. Fernando begins writing up the slip and checks the late list as a matter of habit and sees that the individual in question has a number of slips with late fees attached to them…not a sizeable late fee, per se, but numerous small ones that are taking up space on the late list and the clearing of which may result in saving a single sheet of paper. Ever the environmentalist, Fernando informs the customer of the fees’ existences.

As anticipated, it did not go over well.

"What? Why do I need to pay off all $10.50 right now?"

"Well, you have numerous slips in the book, each with a small late fee attached to them. They add up."

"But I paid those off!"

"No, you paid them off partially, and rented again. Then you returned those movies late, paid off a portion of your new late fee the next time you came in, and returned THOSE movies late. It trapped you in a cycle of perpetuity and the goal of my life at this moment is trying to break it for both our sakes."

It was eventually agreed that the $10.50 was to be paid in full.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peripeteia? Not on My Watch

Fernando has a customer who has about $5 in late fees. She comes in to rent about once a week and pays off a dollar and a half on her late fee. She returns the movie one day late without fail. The first-night late fee for an new release movie is 150 cents. Every time she comes in, Fernando asks if she would like to pay off a bit more, perhaps even using one of the ten dollar bills Fernando can see in her purse to finish it off in its entirety, but she rebuffs him every time.

This cycle has been in place since September of 2009.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And They Say I Lack Social Grace

Fernando is sitting in his chair one August afternoon, playing Bejeweled 2 and being overall jovial, for he has reached Level 12. A car pulls up and a woman Fernando has never seen before slides a movie into the return slot. This is nothing new; Fernando has seen the most random of people return others’ rentals. The important thing is that they get back.

Once Fernando’s gems explode in loss a few scant minutes later, he decides now is as good a time as any to shuffle the movie back on the shelf. As he peers into the drop basket, he shakes his head and sighs. Every so often, people dump Family Video returns into his drop box; Fernando suspects these people fail at basic reading comprehension and geographical awareness.

Normally Fernando waits a while before calling up Family Video in case the person catches the mistake, so he sticks it on the shelf and returns to prowling the internet. Sure enough, about forty minutes later, a car hauls all ass into the parking lot and a man he has never seen before charges into the store. “Hey, do you have a movie that belongs to Family Video?” He is quite curt and his tone of voice is such that he accuses Fernando of being at fault for the misreturned movie.

“If by that you mean, ‘A movie that should have been returned to Family Video,’ yes, yes I do. Here you go.” Fernando hands over the film in question.

The man then says, “Yeah, I don’t know why my wife returned it to this place. We would never rent from you guys.” And he leaves.

Sometimes Fernando regrets being such an honest person.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Riding the Delivery Truck to Hell

Fernando's distributor is, for the most part, fairly competent. Once in a while it provides him with irksome snafus, but overall Fernando is pleased with his video source choice. Fernando's distributor's parcel delivery service, however, leaves much to be desired.

See, Fernando's distributor has a reciprocal deal with said parcel service in that the former gets reduced shipment rates on their orders while the latter is the exclusive means of delivery. This is great for the both of them, but it occasionally leaves Fernando hanging not unlike a kitten dangling so cutely and helplessly from a tree branch. Because said parcel service has, put mildly, a great potential for ineptitude in delivering that which Fernando most needs (namely, his weekly releases) in a timely manner, it is inevitable that Fernando will not actually receive his weekly releases in said timely manner on occasion. And when Fernando lacks weekly releases to be rented by his loyal customers, it becomes more difficult for him to accomplish such minuscule tasks as paying for electricity and water, making payments on his debt, and having what passes for spending money so he can buy himself nice things once in a blue moon.

Fortunately, there exist tracking codes that tell Fernando exactly how delayed his movies are so he can damage control as much as possible at the Dominion when the hammer inevitably drops. Sometimes they linger in Illinois or South Carolina or New Jersey (why they would choose to linger there is another mystery), or are en route and will be delivered between 3 and 5 PM, which is marvelous as tardiness is far preferable to outright absence. Today, however, Fernando's movies decided to languish in the closest largeish settlement to Fernando, a scant twenty-three miles to the east. Estimated delivery date? Wednesday.

Fernando does not know whether he should be selfish and feel morose over his own slightly depressed income or sad for his customers because they are forced to wait a day to enjoy such theatrical marvels as The Karate Kid or Human Centipede.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Master Chronomancer He Is Not

It is Fernando's third day of ownership, and he is sorting out the rental returns when he spies through the blinds a teenager who approaches the Land of Movies at about 1 PM. The youth gives the door a mighty yank but it, being locked as Fernando is not yet open for business, does not budge. The teenager leaves in consternation. Fernando shrugs in mild amusement and resumes his sorting.

Fifteen minutes later, the teenager returns and gives the door a few more solid yanks but is again thwarted by the immovable combination of metal and glass. Fernando is now more confused than amused at the young man's behavior. Fernando has, in the meanwhile, finished sorting the returns and was perusing his most favorite news aggregate site and the flamewars that exist thereon.

Again, fifteen minutes later, the teenager comes around and puts all his strength into trying to pry the door open, to the point that cases were jittering upon the shelves. “Well, that’s enough of this,” thought Fernando, who comes out of the office and approaches the door, where the adolescent has a most pissed-off look on his face.

“Can I help you?” Fernando asks, opening the door and moving quickly to block the hooligan when he tries entering.

“Yeah, I thought you guys are supposed to be open at 2.”

“Um…we are supposed to be open at 2. But that’s half an hour from now.”

“No, it’s not.” The youth whips out his cellular telephone and shows Fernando the time given thereon: 2:33. Confident in his faultless logic, the teenager constantly squeezes into Fernando’s personal space, making him most discomfited, but is firmly denied entry.

“Where are you from again?” The gentleman sputters a response, incredulous that Fernando would ask a question with such an apparently obvious answer.

“Yep, this is certainly not the Eastern Time Zone. We're in Central Time, and it’s only 1:33 here. Come back in 27 minutes.”

Let Me Tell You of a Man....

On one fateful day in the summer of 2009, a man made the lifechanging decision to cast his lot into the realm of self-employment through the purchasing of a video rental store. He divested himself of nearly all his monetary savings and placed himself in debt, but in his eyes no price was too high to pay for personal independence in the realm of money-earning and a near-limitless opportunity to "geek out" in the entertainment and pop cultural realms he so deeply understood and loved.

That man was one Fernando H. Stevens.

His reign as Lord of the Dominion of Movies began one day, and that very same day the fates conspired to lessen his mirth. For, they reasoned, if he is free of the nattering of bosses and the completion of pointless and repetitive daily tasks, should he not suffer emotionally through other means? The wrangling with distributors, the hassling of irate customers, the wrath of nature, these things shall be his foil! We shall break his spirits, and bring his stewardship to an end! But Fernando was strong of will and stout of heart, and refused to bow before the endless tides of despair.

These are the tales of woe and dread, and even those fleeting occasions of uplifted spirits, that Fernando experiences.