Thursday, December 30, 2010

Annual Abscondments

People “purchase” (read: rent and never return) Fernando's movies over the course of the year for any variety of reasons, and they often choose items that fail to measure up to a somewhat reasonable standard of quality. Fernando only hopes vamoosing with these beauties is worth it when the souls of those thieves are judged in the afterlife. Without further ado, here's the complete list:

Dance Flick: It's a ______ Movie, but not even an authentic Zucker and Abrams crapfest. Fernando can only point to this as an example of why one should watch a movie before stealing it.

Saw VI: It's like Saw or Saw II or Saw Anything! It's got to be good! Sequelitis is a filthy lie spread by people who hate milking franchises for all they're worth!

Astroboy: Hmmm...this or Princess and the Frog or Planet 51? Astroboy is perpetually in, so it must be better than both of them combined!

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra: Damn but 80s nostalgia must have been strong that day.

Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakuel: Not only does it feature the most annoying cartoon creatures in the history of animation, but the title proudly sports a tooth-gnashingly bad portmanteau. It's almost as if the thief did me a favor.

Serious Moonlight: If you want a dark movie about the horrible facts of love, don't halfass it and take Broken Flowers instead.

Bloodrayne: Oh, hindsight. I guess I SHOULD have picked up that copy the guy once tried to sell me. Dreadful.

Up: Ok, this one doesn't deserve to be on this list at all. It's a good movie. But still stolen. Sorry you have to have such rotten companions, Up.

A Serious Man: I mean, it's Coen Brothers, but who's ever heard of it? Fernando loves the Bros, but hasn't seen this one. Some year he'll get around to it....but he has been saying the same thing about the Harry Potter movies since 2005.

So that's that. 2010. One hell of a year. Fernando will see everybody in 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's Always the Sane Ones

Fernando had an irregular, but competent and timely, customer who came in about once a month to rent movies. No real problems with this person; she returned her movies mostly on time and, if she was late, came in to pay off the late fees in full when the movies were returned.

All this changed one fateful day when she rented two decidedly mediocre movies, Astroboy and The Box. Movies were one day, two days, three days late. Quite peculiar for her. Fernando calls her up, phone rings, and the most obnoxious answering machine recording ever assaulted him. You know people who let their kids do the recording? Now imagine the child is about three, and there are obvious, five-second breaks in the recording when the parent is coaching the young one into squeaking out the message. And the message is a good twenty seconds long. Not fun.

Anyhow, Fernando left a friendly message reminding her she still has the movies and waited a few days. Still nothing. So Fernando called again, endured the horrid answering machine, and left another reminder. Waited a few days. Still nothing.

Now Fernando was in a pickle. Nobody was clamoring left and right for the movies because they were very, very mediocre indeed; but on the other hand Fernando did not want people to start helping themselves to his inventory, and she was not making any effort at all to return his calls. So Fernando called a third time and proceeded to sit on the issue for three more days, hoping the problem will remedy itself as the woman snaps back to sanity.

Of course, that wasn't gonna happen.

So Fernando called her one last time on a Friday afternoon and informed her that unless the movies are in his drop box by the time he gets in on Monday, he would be getting the authorities involved to assist in any future action. Lo and behold, come Sunday evening she finally called back! She apologized most profusely for not getting back sooner and swore up and down she would be in on Monday to take care of things.

Monday rolled around and she finally showed up about 15 minutes before closing, not endearing herself to Fernando in the slightest thereby. By now she has racked up almost $40 in late fees. She put down $20 on the late fee and returned one of the two movies, promising Fernando that the other movie was to be returned the next day and the remaining balance paid off. Fernando agrees to this plan, contingent on her updating her account information.

Those of you with a realistic view on humankind might guess that it did not come to pass. Nor was she in the next day. Or the next. So Fernando called her again, suffering that hellspawned answering machine once again in the process, and left another, friendly, reminder of her promise. The waiting resumed.

Five days passed before Fernando called again. And still no response.

Fernando sighed in lament, shook his head, charged her for the replacement movie, and put her on the ban list.

Those who purport to take shameless advantage of munificence often find themselves losing everything.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Fernando is trapped talking with a regular customer one evening. This customer loves loves loves to bitch. About any topic, really: his job (or more accurately lack thereof), his classes (as he attends a nearby community college), politics (which wouldn't be so bad if he was somewhat remotely informed regarding the topics on which he was ranting), and so forth. (Note: Fernando, of course, realizes that he, himself, maintains a weblog in which he does the exact same thing regarding some of his more...eclectic customers and experiences, and accepts the resultant hypocrisy). Fernando has been known to be argumentative, but only when there is the chance for at least vague progress to be made on a subject or if Fernando can do the equivalent of “owning noobs” who really should have known better. Usually, it's not worth it with this guy because the cognitive dissonance possessed by this man is mind-boggling, and he is the sort that loves baiting arguments. Sort of an IRL troll, except far more mercurial. Some days he's peachy-keen-nice and others he is a thundercloud of impotent rage lashing out against whatever target is most convenient.

Anyway, today the initial subject of discussion was the weather. “So, I heard we're gonna get dumped on pretty fierce this weekend,” he says as he prepared to leave with his movies.

Fernando nods. “Yep. Right now it's out hovering over North Dakota, Minnesota”--STOP HERE WAS FERNANDO'S MISTAKE RESUME-- “Supposed to be pretty bad.”

Minnesota? No way in hell would you get me to live out there. The place sucks.”

Fernando arches an eyebrow on purpose. “Really? Have you lived out there, then?”

No, but you couldn't get me to go if you offered me a million bucks. The place is an empty hellhole.”

Well, I mean, that's a pretty vague description that could apply to lots of places. Here, for example. I'd drop everything to head over there for a million bucks. Hell, half a million. A quarter. Even a tenth of a million.” And right there is when Fernando chose to fight this battle. Poor, ignorant Fernando.

I don't know why you would. The people there suck.”

That's not really fair. I have a number of friends who live there.”

It's empty. There's no good place to live.”

It's not completely empty. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Duluth, um....”

See, you can't even think of more than two places,” he interrupts.

Three. Um...Moorhead.”

What the hell is Moorhead? I've never heard of it.”

Out by Fargo. On the west end.”

How the hell do you know this?”

I just said, I have friends from there.”

They should get the hell out of that state. State's going to hell. They can't even elect people right. Isn't their governor election or some shit still being counted?”

Actually, that was decided back on the 8th.” Fernando avoids mentioning the fact that other states, like Michigan, are even more going to hell, because that would just set off a lack-of-work rant or a Granholm rant or God knows what. Instead he shrugs. “Different strokes. They've got their system, we've got ours.”

Still, wouldn't want to have anything to do with that place.” Then his bipolar pills kick in and he goes from cranky ranter to normalish-guy in a good mood. “Anyway, I'll catch ya later, Ferny!” And he leaves. Fernando shakes his head and sighs because some people.

He tried his best, dear Minnesotan readers. He really did.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lots of Trouble, Little Gain

A woman comes in and rents a movie, Serious Moonlight. In an ideal world all would be well and good but, this world being the world that it is, the woman fails to return the movie. A few days later Fernando tries calling her only to find the number is out of service.

Luckily, a thing called the internet exists, and, indeed, this woman is on a popular social networking site and conveniently posted her contact information for all to see. Fernando uses this to leave a message to her and she replies that she will be in to return the movie the next day. Three guesses what doesn't come to pass. So Fernando shrugs and gives her an ultimatum: either the movie is returned within the next three days or he reports its unauthorized absence to the proper authorities. Later that very same day the woman comes down to the store to explain that the movie is forever lost and plead if she could somehow make things right.

Fernando agrees to sequester the hammer of justice in exchange for the late and replacement fees being paid in full.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mother Nature Hates My Guts

It's a sunny and warm day in late April. The sun is devastating what few pockets of snow remain and, for the first time in a long time, the heater has been turned off. The door to the Dominion of Movies is propped open by a VHS rental case and the spring air is fortifying the stale, wintry atmosphere of the building's interior.

Fernando is standing at the counter talking with a customer who shares some of his geeky tendencies; specifically, regarding the HBO miniseries based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Suddenly, the wind began picking up.

Fernando likes wind. The feeling of being buffeted by a strong breeze is that of euphoria. So Fernando was overjoyed when some of that turbulence rushed into the store in a flurry of good smells and comfort.

Fernando and his customer continued their conversation when there was a massive gust of wind and a great rending tear coming from outside. Then something dark and rectangular was gusted across the street in a dust devil/mini tornado about the height of Fernando's building.

What the hell...?” Fernando asked, coming around the counter and peering outside. His shirt was flapping in the gale and he peered at the object being ghosted across the street. It finally came to rest in the parking lot of the old flower shop across the highway. It was now white, and had strangely familiar words and lettering on it.

You're shitting me,” Fernando said in disbelief. He walked out into his parking lot and looked up at his storefront. One half of his sign was missing from its usual spot, instead having been forcibly relocated to across the street.

Fernando retrieved the signage and hauled it into the back of the store. A few days later, it cost him $75 to get a guy on a ladder to reattach it. He had the repairman put extra screws into it to prevent that from happening again.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Promise Made

Fernando is keeping himself entertained one evening with Law and Order when the phone rings.

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Hi. I was wondering how much my late fee was.”

Sure thing...could I get your name?”

Jax T.”

Fernando was hoping it was someone else. Unfortunately, he knows that name well through infamy and a spot on his list. “$60.”

What? Really? I didn't think it would be that much!”

Well, last time you were in you rented Shutter Island. You had it out for over two weeks and disregarded my phone calls reminding you to bring it back. At $2.50 a night, plus the fact you had late fees previously, it adds up.” It is somewhat necessary for Fernando to point out at this juncture that the individuals in question had only ever rented twice.

I guess so. much would I need to pay off if I wanted to come down to rent tonight?”

All of it.”


You put a buck fifty on your late fee last time you were in, and it was at over twenty bucks then. As I said, you then rented Shutter Island and it is now at $60.”

So I can't rent?”

Not unless you pay off the entirety of the late fee.”

Well...can I rent if I promise to pay it off when I get my income tax refund in January?”

Come by in January and we'll talk.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Every year a boy who is the grandson of a lady who never, ever comes into the store stops by to visit his grandmother during his summer vacation. And every year during this visit he stops by the store every day and bothers Fernando by asking him endless questions about what movies that he hasn't seen are good (which requires going most of the way through the store's inventory to find something he hasn't seen in the first place) and why Movie X is located in Genre Y area and so forth. Fernando loves especially that The Boy is here right as he opens (or even beforehand, and who knocks on the door or window when Fernando is making the store presentable by vacuuming and cleaning the counters and sorting returns) and so there are no other customers needing help around to spare him this fate.

Most of the time the boy's hijinks are but petty annoyances, but one day The Boy went beyond the call of duty and entered full-blown obnoxious mode. Fernando was updating his inventory database with the week's new releases, and the positioning of his office coupled with the inherent lack of immersion of which database entry is capable made it all but impossible for anyone but the most highly-skilled of ninjas to escape his notice. So Fernando was fully aware when The Boy gallivanted up to the counter with a couple rental tags in his hands, and was already swiveling to assist him, when The Boy whistled. Not in a lackadaisical way, or even a sexually approving, stereotypical wolf whistle way (that would have been mighty, mighty creepy); but in a “come hither, yon servant, that ye may bask in my radiance” way.

Fernando was not amused. “You know that I knew you were there, right, and that I was already getting up to help you?”

Yeah, but I wanted to make sure you knew I was here. You were busy playing your computer game.”

Fernando glances at his monitor, across which is plastered an incredibly unfun OpenOffice database. “I was updating my inventory on the computer for tomorrow's releases. Databases are the opposite of fun and don't require my full attention anyhow.”

The Boy is nonplussed. “Oh. I didn't know. I just wanted to be sure.”

Now you are sure.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Advice

One of Fernando's regulars comes into the store and peruses his selection of X360 games for a short while as Fernando fills out his rental slip and fetches his movies. When the monetary exchange is made, the man says, “You don't have a huge-huge selection of X-Box games I see.”

Well, they're $50 a pop,” Fernando replies. “And budgets being what they are, I'm forced to trickle them in far more...tricklingly than I would like. It would go more quickly if you helped me get a bigger budget to work with!” he adds, grinning rackishly and chuckling.

The customer gets the joke. “Well, you probably already know, but Family Video sells their X360 games for like $15 when they're through with them. It'll help you get a lot more for cheaper.”

Fernando thinks the man is still joking and laughs. Then the customer says, “No, I'm serious. It could really help you out.”

Now Fernando is no longer jocular. “Ok. I should give money to my biggest competitors to buy for my store a used game that is no longer even a new release that will be covered in their stickers?” Fernando pauses to give the customer a chance for rebuttal. When none was forthcoming, he continues, “That's right. I wouldn't. It would be silly. Notwithstanding Family Video has screwed me over before, so I'm even more disinclined to associate with them.”

Sorry. I didn't think about the stickers.”

Nah, no biggie,” Fernando responds. “It's not your job to think about what stickers are on which discs. Only lame people who own a video store need to do that.”

I'll pick up Toy Story 3 tomorrow, then?”

Yep, I'll have one waiting for you.”

And thus peace and order were restored.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Facial Recognition Software

Fernando is...well, put bluntly, he's pretty bad about remembering and sometimes distinguishing people. He's atrocious with names and not much better with faces. He once opined to one of his friends that he thinks Ashton Kutcher resembles John Krasinski, and was ridiculed endlessly for it.

One December afternoon (though it could very well be called “evening” because the sun goes down at about 3.30 PM) at around 4.30 a regular customer enters the store and browses about a bit. She asks Fernando for the location of The Nativity Story because it's about that time of year, and Fernando guides her to it. She picks out a couple of other movies and it's time for checkout.

You've got a free rental coming, if you wanted to use it,” Fernando informs her as he fills out the slip.

She is away reading the upcoming releases posting and says, “Oh, that's nice. I didn't know my card was already filled. I remember you just starting me a new one last time I was in.”

Fernando shrugs noncommittally. “Well, that's because your old one got filled up. It comes to $7 all together.”

She digs about in her purse for money while Fernando retrieves the movies. When he returns to the counter, her face takes on a quizzical look. “Are you sure I've got a free rental? Because I don't think I could have filled another card so quickly.”

Positive,” Fernando says with supreme confidence. He digs through the full cards pile and retrieves one bearing the name Tristana P., and sets it on the counter.

How do you know it's mine?” the woman asks. She does not look at the card immediately, for she is filling out a slip for Fernando's weekly drawing.

Well, your name's at the bottom. See?” Fernando points and she glances at the card after dropping the slip of paper in the bucket.

A pregnant silence ensues. Finally: “That's not me.”

W-what? You were just in here a couple days ago and....” Fernando trails off.

I'm Cassiopeia K.” She points to the bottom of the rental slip, at her signature, which is clearly not Tristana P.

Whoops. “Oh. Oh God. I'm sorry. You look just like Tristana. Um, with your hair done like that.”

Really? I saw her today. I don't think I do.”

Um,” says Fernando, at this point trying to salvage whatever shreds are left of his dignity, “did you want me to start you off with a new card, then?”

Please,” she says, smiling in mirth. Fernando does so and she departs after asking him to hold a couple of movies for her for the next day.

Fernando's software must be Adobe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In a Timely Manner

Fernando does custom movie ordering for people who seek home entertainment, as he has the might of a distributor behind him. Usually these are the vanishingly rare DVD releases of movies originally released in the 1960s and 70s, because anybody can go down to Wal-Mart and pick up Riding in Cars With Boys for $5.

The first time Fernando did such a custom ordering was for a couple in November of 2009 for a movie called Gargoyles from 1972, as a Christmas gift for one of their extended family members. The people who wanted it asked if he could track it down; once Fernando did so and found out the price, they agreed to it, and so the order was put in. The movie arrived with Fernando's next weekly shipment, through some dint of fate. He called the couple up to let them know the movie was in and they assured him they would be down in a few days.

They failed to show. But life gets in the way, so he called them up again and left a message that their movie was still down at the Dominion, and waited.

And waited. A week later, another call.



About a week before Christmas, Fernando calls again, reminding them that that day of object-giving was almost here and that a movie can't very well be a Christmas gift if it isn't in one's possession before Christmas. To no avail. The holiday comes and goes.

Now Fernando has a pickle. He's got a movie from 1972 that no one has ever, ever heard of and that he spent good money on. He could toss it on the sales rack, but then it would be certainly sold at a loss. With his luck, the couple would come in just as the movie was sold for $8ish to someone else. So Fernando does the next best thing.

He sticks it on a very, very high shelf out of sight and forgets about it.

Months pass, until February of 2010. The people who put in the movie order from so very long ago return to the store for the first time in four months to rent a stack of movies. Ah-hah! thinks Fernando, now I can get my money on this thing at long last!

So Fernando reaches up to the high, out-of-sight shelf and retrieves Gargoyles, the plastic wrapper of which is by this point covered in a faint layer of dust. He wipes it off on his pants leg to make it more presentable.

"Yeah, um, I've still got your movie here." He sets the DVD on the counter.

"Oh wow! We totally forgot about coming by to pick it up!"

"Er. I called you guys up about four times throughout December."

"We must not have gotten the message then. But this is great. My sister-in-law's birthday is coming up!"

"Well, it's still $18. You should probably get this out of the way. One less thing on your to-do lists."

The husband looks to his wife. "Well, we don't have that much on hand right now. But we'll be in when we return these to pick it up, don't you worry."

Where have I heard that before? Fernando thinks a trifle bitterly to himself. The movies are rented and returned the next day, but no one entered the Dominion. And the waiting resumed. Gargoyles resumed its sad, lonely perch on Fernando's top shelf.

In the interests of vague brevity, the movie was finally paid for on March 18th, 2010. As of December 2009, Fernando asks for half the price of any custom orders to be paid as a deposit when the order is agreed-to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


A small family unit enters Fernando's store one evening. Father, mother, 14ish-year-old son. Fernando greets them and they immediately fan out to browse the store. Everything seems harmless enough.

Then it begins.

Hey, Mom! Look, Toy Story 3!” says the teenager.

Mother walks over and says in a very disapproving tone, “Toy Story 3? I didn't like that movie. It's gay.”

The son wanders somewhere else. “Oh, man. This place is so lame. They still have Playstation 2 titles back here. Twisted Metal Black? That game is so old!” Because, after all, there is zero profit, none, to be possibly made from keeping around games for a system that many people hereabouts still have and use. But, oh, right, it's for a gaming system that's not the current gen. That means it's obsolete and horrible.

Meanwhile the father is browsing somewhere else. “Shut Up and Sing? Why do they even have this here? It's crap. I would never watch it,” he comments to no one in particular. But he has caught onto Fernando nefarious plot to force people to watch all his movies! Dammit, the revelation of this secret plan must be nipped in the bud!

How about Why Did I Get Married Too? That's a good one,” says the husband to the wife a few moments later.

We don't need to rent it. I had a friend download it to my computer,” she responds, simultaneously admitting to digital piracy and ignorance of the difference between down-and uploading data.

How come they don't have Halo for X-Box?” asks the son from over at the video game rack. “They have stuff for 360.” Which is for an outdated...fuck it. Logical coherence is dead.

Long story short they bitch about a bunch of other stuff supposedly wrong with the store and leave without renting. Fernando wonders why they haven't yet started their own rental business with their boundless knowledge.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Capacity for Capability

Man in his late teens/early 20s comes into the store. He seems familiar to Fernando but can't quite be placed. Fernando scours the late list for him in preparation but nothing jumps out, so he is content to wait. The man browses the store for a few minutes before selecting a movie tag and bringing it to the counter.

Can I get your name?” Fernando asks, filling out the rental slip.

The man gives it, and realization dawns. This guy rented a couple of movies about six months back and had them out for three weeks before Fernando cut off late fees—older titles, both of them. The day Fernando was set to replace them and tack on an additional $40 to the late fee, they had appeared in his drop box, but it still added up to a hefty $88 all said and done. And this man was sequestered firmly on the do-not-rent list through this string of actions.

So Fernando informed the man of this, producing the rental slip in question, and he looked downright sheepish. He stammered out an apology and asked if he could rent if the bill was paid in full.

Now Fernando was speechless. Nobody—nobody--asks to pay the bill in full, especially not when getting loud and violent and threatening never to rent again was an option.

But that was indeed what came to pass! The bill was paid in full and the man was welcomed back to the store a reformed customer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


A young man comes into the Dominion one evening and selects a movie. He brings it up to the counter and Fernando informs him, “You've got about $20 in late fees. You wanna throw something on there?”

The other raises his hands defensively. “Whoa. Late fees?”

Yeah. Hang on a second.” Fernando retreats to his magical file cabinet and digs through it a bit, retrieving the rental slip in question. “Sorry, $21.50.” He shows the young man the slip to show he's not pulling numbers out of his ass.

I have to pay these off? C'mon, man.”

Fernando spreads his hands. “I mean, what do you want me to do? You had a movie out for over a week.”

C'mon. I could've gone somewhere else. I'm just trying to help you out, stay local.”

I appreciate that. But work with me here. Look at it from this side of the counter. Throw a couple bucks on it and we can nibble away at it. I'm not trying to be the bad guy here.”

I'm not paying the whole thing.”

And I'm not asking you to. Just a couple bucks. We can take care of the rest down the road.”

He rents his movie and throws $1.50 onto the late fee. Time will tell if Fernando's kindness pays off or bites him in the ass.