Thursday, April 28, 2011


Fernando's #1 Fan had been absent for roughly a month, which suited him just fine. He had a business to run and could do with fewer distractions eating up a great deal of his time.

So she stopped showing up for a while, and life was good.

Then one evening, out of the blue, she reappears at the store as Fernando is in a conversation with Ronaldo, one of his D&D players. He finds out from Ronaldo later that she slumped upon the floor out of Fernando's sight in a dejected heap. Soon Ronaldo departs, and she bounds up to the counter and proceeds to give Fernando a quick run-down of the things going on in her life.

Some of these topics are of an illegal nature, and to complicate matters further other customers are browsing the store while she relates this gossip. This makes things a mite awkward for Fernando. Then, compounding this awkwardness, she proceeds to invite Fernando to a bonfire she is hosting the upcoming week; when Fernando politely declines and is about to suggest that she leave, she comments that he would look much cuter without glasses. She waltzes out before Fernando can say anything in response.

Fernando decides later that evening (roughly a minute or two after her departure) that this shit needs to stop.

The following day, she returns to the store and immediately begins talking to Fernando about sushi. As the store is completely empty at this point, he cuts her off so he can say what needs to be said with minimal embarrassment to her.

I think we need to have a discussion about the sort of relationship that ought to exist between the two of us.”


Point one: The stuff you were telling me about getting high and drunk with your friends last weekend? I don't need to know that. I especially don't need to hear that when there are other people in the store. I have a business reputation to uphold and I don't need people overhearing things like that. That's how rumors get started, and I won't tolerate my reputation being tarnished by them.”

I'm sorry. I guess I need to have some more restraint, I guess....” she says, looking pouty and apologetic. Fernando does not let this sway him.

Second: You seem to have the idea that there exists a non-business relationship between us. That isn't the case. That cannot and will not be the case. I'm like a decade older than you, we have zero life-interests in common, and I, again, have a business to maintain. Based on the comments about being hotter without glasses you made to me yesterday, it seems like you have some weird crush on me for some reason. That won't work out because, like I said, I'm a decade older than you and we have nothing really in common aside from the fact that I own a video store and you sometimes rent and watch movies.”

Well, you know what?” she yells in a sudden fit of anger, “I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm not even into you! Deuces!” And she flips Fernando off British-style, storms out of the store, gets into her car, and tears out of the parking lot at about forty miles an hour.

Job well done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Popularity Resolution

Over the course of the next week following previous encounters, Fernando's #1 Fan came to visit every single day. At first it was an entertaining distraction from the usual grind, but before long things evolved from “entertaining” to “irksome” before reaching “annoying.” She would come by nearer to closing time when business was but a slow trickle. Then she would come by about ten minutes before closing time and linger about the store, resisting Fernando's increasingly obvious hints that she leave so he can accomplish the shit that needs accomplishing in his life aside from running the store. On the occasions when his vexation reached critical mass and he all but bodily ushered her out the door she begged Fernando to relent. Overall, bothersome.

One evening Carlos, one of Fernando's good friends, swung by the store not long after closing to “shoot the breeze,” and it was at a time that #1 Fan was loitering. She skedaddled from the scene when Carlos pulled up and as Fernando unbarred the door to allow him entry Carlos asked, “Who was that?”

So Fernando related the tale of how her presence had come to be a nigh-permanent fixture at the Dominion, all because Fernando had been charismatic and personable to her on one innocuous occasion. Carlos took this all in and finally said, “You need to just put your foot down.”

I've been trying to do that. She seems to think that we are best friends just because I said some nice things to her one day.”

That's because she's a high school girl. Do you want me to talk to her?”

No, I've got to settle this problem for myself. Else it looks like I'm too cowardly to tackle my problems head-on.”

Alright, man. If you need a wingman or anything, just let me know.”

But #1 Fan did not return to the store the next day, nor the day after, and not for a great long while. Fernando later finds out through the grapevine that Carlos encountered her at a local grocery store one day and made oblique hints that Fernando is a nice guy to everybody because part of his job is being a nice guy (provided the person in question is deserving of such treatment, of course). That seemed to snap her back to reality.

Seemed to snap her back to reality....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Common Courtesy

It's New Release Tuesday at around 4 PM. Most of the new releases have already gone. A chubby, dumpy woman, younger in years than Fernando but who nevertheless looks older, enters the store carrying an open can of soda and a bag of Doritos.

Hey, do you know every movie you have here?” she asks around a mouthful of orange junk food.

I know whether or not I have ev--” Fernando begins, then stops and scowls as the noise of a horrid rap song fills the store.

Yeah? Whattup?” the young woman says into her cell phone as she raises a finger at Fernando in a just-a-second gesture. Fernando returns his attention to his computer screen. In part because he has just been ignored and moreso because he has no desire to see if an eruption of half-chewed chips is spilling out of the woman's mouth and onto the floor.

After blathering for two minutes she hangs up. “Ok, what were you saying?”

Fernando rotates in his chair to face her. “I know whether or not I have a given movie here, if that was the question you intended on asking.”

Oh, yeah. Do you have I Spit on Your Grave?”

Ah, that movie. Fernando had heard rather notorious things about it. He gave it a pass because more important things came out around that time. “Sorry, can't say that I do.”

Well, you should definitely pick it up. It's awesome.”

I'm sure it is. I'll see what I can do.”

The young woman turns to leave but then reconsiders and returns to the counter to fill out a gift certificate drawing slip.

I'm sorry,” says Fernando, “but you have to rent in order to be eligible for the drawing.”

That sucks,” she says, crumpling the paper. “You should let everybody fill it out. That would be tits.”

It would also lead to a bunch of people who have no intent on renting to loiter around the store in the hopes of getting free crap.” Subtle, no?

Guess so.” And she leaves, chips and soda in hand.

That evening, Fernando found a discarded bag of nacho cheese Doritos in the grass next to the store when he closed up.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

War on Terror

One of Fernando's regular customers comes in to pick up a couple of gift certificates for a child's birthday party to which her own children were invited. After she writes out the check and the transaction goes through, she is sealing the envelopes Fernando provided and asks, “Wait. Is this my pen or yours?”

It's definitely yours. My pens aren't nearly that nice.” And, indeed, this is a sleek, impressive ballpoint pen that is operated not via click, but with way past cool twisting of the pen's shaft.

Neither are mine. I think I borrowed this one from my life insurance office.”

Life insurance is the most important kind of insurance,” Fernando says in a way that, he hopes, resembles a koan. “Aside from vehicle and property and terrorism--”

Wait, terrorism insurance?” the woman interrupts.

Oh, yeah. Terrorism insurance.”

You're joking.”

I wish I were. I pay like eight bucks a year to have terrorism insurance coverage on my building here. It's bundled in with everything else but when I get my yearly invoice-description-thing there it is, itemized.”

Why?” she asks.

Oh, obviously because I run the daily risk of a terrorist obliterating my property. Actually, it's like a federal thing that I have to have it.”

And she busts out laughing at that. “That is just about the best thing ever. Terrorism insurance! I'm going to have to tell everyone that that exists! They won't believe it! You just made my day.”

Oh, it's real. It's all too real.”

She laughs again and says, “See you later, Fern! Thanks for the gift certificates!”

Fernando strives to make the world a better place in his own way whenever he can.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Late Fee Negotiations

One snowy day a gentleman enters the store. Fernando does not recognize him at first, but then he speaks and all comes back. This gent is on Fernando's ban list because a great many movies were rented by him years ago and never returned, and they were inherited by Fernando when he took over the store. And by “great many” I mean like $154 worth of late and replacement fees.

There are other customers in the store at the time and Fernando does not feel it fitting to embarrass the chap in front of everyone else, so he is free to browse the store for a while before coming up to the counter with eight rental tags in his hands.

You've got $154 in late fees,” Fernando states before anything else is done.

What? Really? I don't remember this.”

You wouldn't arbitrarily be on that list, trust me.”

So?” he asks after letting it sink in.

So, you have $154 in late fees. That's kind of my argument in its entirety. Would you like to pay it off?”

I don't have that much on me. I have only enough to rent these movies.”

Fernando takes a brief glance at the avalanche of tags. “You have twenty-eight dollars in rentals there.”

Really? Er...that' lot. How about you let me rent them and then I'll come back soon and square up with you?”

How about you put down the twenty-eight dollars on the late fee as a gesture of good faith, since you're intending on squaring up with me soon anyhow?”

He gapes at Fernando for a moment, then books for the exit.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Bridge-Selling

One Wednesday afternoon Fernando found himself speaking on the phone with a representative from a movie distribution company, something of a coincidence seeing as Fernando's current distributor had just recently fucked up royally and managed to get him zero of the copies of Little Fockers he'd ordered, forcing him to pick them up at the local Wal-Mart.
This man took Fernando's meager abilities at salesmanship and pooped all over them. He knew his stuff. He mentioned things in the industry that only someone who had actually worked in the industry would know (as opposed to people who sit in a distribution office). Fernando wishes he had the sales chops this guy did. All in all, he did his job very admirably and sold Fernando on his company's business model, which he made sound as if it had been carved by Christopher Lee himself using a mithril chainsaw on a metric ton of unicorn butter.
But despite the man's overbearing charisma, Fernando is not an idiot. Anything that sounds too good to be true most often is.
So Fernando did some snooping on the internets and turned up some kernels of information that the nice salesman had neglected to mention during his piece. Like the fact that Fernando would have to pay a $40 per month subscription fee to use the company's services. Or that for Fernando to get the super-low prices he had been quoted he would need to order a great many movies...not aggregate, no, but from each distribution company. So he'd need a glut of Universal followed by a glut of Paramount followed by a glut of Lions Gate followed by a glut of Weinstein Brothers and so forth. The size and composition of Fernando's customer base is such that he has minimal use for a large variety of indie and foreign films or, conversely, twenty different copies of Black Swan or The Next Three Days. And this does not, of course, even touch on the logistics of inventory management in finding space for all these additional, mandatory films.
What peeved most Fernando is not the fact that these constraints existed so much as that they had been kept veiled and would likely have sprung up as an unpleasant surprise after a hypothetical contract signing had gone through. Of course, Fernando could always void the contract, but that would require him to pay, according to discussions of this company's business model that Fernando had espied online, $250 to the PoS (that's point-of-sale, you pottyminds...though the alternative expression is also rather apropos in this circumstance) software distributor to give him an alphanumeric code that would allow him to cancel his $40/month account. Rather shady, all told. But Fernando supposes that is what stellar salesmanship and burgeoning success in business is all about.
So when the gentleman called back the next week to attempt scheduling an in-person sit-down with one of his company's representatives, Fernando informed him that these services were not something in which he was interested at this time. The sales representative of course apologized and attempted to regain Fernando's trust by offering him “incentives” for keeping the company in mind, but Fernando did not allow his opinion to be swayed.
Fernando would rather deal with the occasional no-show movie, for which he is not charged, from his current distributor than sign on to a company set upon screwing its customers out of money through subscription and cancellation fees.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Famous Handyman

A twenty-something-year-old man comes in one evening. “Hey, man,” he says, “do you know anything about X360s?”

That depends what's being asked of me,” answers Fernando. “General maintenance or stuff like fixing the Red Ring of Death?”

You must be psychic or something. You read my mind.”

Not that hard to guess, actually. It's a matter of statistics. Well, and confirmation bias. Had I been wrong I still could probably convince you that I know what the hell I'm talking about.”

He barks a short chuckle. “So can you fix it?”

That'd be a horrible idea that would put you worse off than you were before because I'm inept at doing things like actually, physically fixing electronics. Your best bet is to go to the Xbox website and see about sending it in for repair or replacement if it's still under warranty.”

Uh, well, I bought it used so I don't have, like, the code or anything. So you know anybody who could fix it?”

Not off the top of my head. You might want to try asking at the Sound Shelf, since they deal in used electronics and might dabble in repairs too; I dunno. Else Radio Shack might be able to help you.”

Damn. I was just up there and they told me to come to you and ask for help.”

Word of Fernando's innumerable talents has spread far and wide, it seems.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Open Quests

A middle-aged woman enters the store one weekday afternoon and browses for a bit. Then she comes up to the counter and asks, “Do you have any VCRs?”

Fernando looks up from doing his monthly sales taxes. “Er, you mean VHS tapes or the actual players?”

The tapes.”

I've got a few milling around yet, but I'm phasing them out because the only way to get the players is secondhand and they don't release movies on the tapes at all anymore. I've got a rack of them up for sale if you want to take a look. They're a buck apiece, or six for five dollars.”

Oh, okay. Thanks.” And the woman shuffles over to the VHS sale rack while Fernando returns his attention to matters of taxation. A few minutes later, he hears the woman reapproach the counter and he again turns to face her. She sets a single tape down.

Could you hold this for me? I'll be right back.”

Sure thing,” says Fernando, who places the VHS tape in question behind the counter. Then she exits the store.

Fernando waited two days for her to return before putting the movie back on the sale rack.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Fernando is finishing up the helping of a customer one Saturday when he asks a question he has asked of this customer countless times in the past: “Receipt or popcorn?” For it is Saturday, and this means customers are entitled to a complimentary bag of microwave popcorn if they so choose, and of course anyone can opt to possess the receipt at any time.

Instead of automatically responding “Popcorn” as he had numerous times in the past, the man says, “What? One or the other?”

No. Not at all.” Then, after a brief pause during which the customer's face screws up in ultimate confusion, “My use of the word 'or' in that disjunction was of the inclusive, rather than exclusive, sort.”


Your taking of the popcorn does not preclude taking the receipt, if that is also what you desire.”


Fernando feels as though he's making things worse because this education in grammatical logic is going nowhere. So he reaches to his popcorn bin and sets a bag atop the rented movies and says, “Forget it.”

Oh. Okay. Thanks, man.” And the customer leaves.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bad Parenting?

A forty-something year old man who is missing half his teeth enters the Dominion one Saturday afternoon. He is utterly unfamiliar. “You got the other Walking Tall?” he asks. By this Fernando assumes he refers to the sequel that has none of the actors from the original film.

Indeed I do. Let me just take a look in my database for where it's hiding,” answers Fernando. So he enters his Open Office database and does a search for “Walking Tall.”

As the computer begins sifting through over two thousand entries, the man pounds on the counter with a fist and demands, “What's taking so long?”

It's still searching,” says Fernando. “There are a lot of movies to parse.”

Well, goddamn. Tell it to hurry up, buddy boy!”

Fernando makes a displeased face in the computer's direction at being called “buddy boy.” A few moments later, the man continues his pounding and shouts, “Goddamn, I could have found this thing by now! What kinda people hire you, buddy boy?” Midway through his rant, the computer pops up a result. Maybe ten seconds have elapsed since Fernando struck CTRL+F.

Now Fernando turns from the screen having decided missing out on a two dollar rental will be worth it to drive away an unapologetic asshole. Plus, he's called Fernando “buddy boy” twice now. “1218.”

What?” asks the interloper in dull confusion.

Fernando tilts his head towards the floor where the thousands of cases loom from their places in genre-sorted shelves. “The number's 1218. I'm sure you can take it from here.”

The man's face assumes the look of a thundercloud. “I don't know why your parents let you work here for them. They'll be getting words from me come Monday.”

Fernando grins not unlike a fox locked overnight in a henhouse. Some people remain irrevocably behind the times. “Please do. I'm positive they'll get a kick out of it.”

The guy grumbles some maybe-words rendered even more unintelligible by his lack of dentition and storms out.

Never did come in on Monday like he promised. So sad. He probably has late fees, too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Too Funny

Fernando is busy filling out a rental slip for a customer who'd just rented the night before. “Wow, good memory!” says the woman when Fernando jots her name down without needing to ask her.

Well, you were in just yesterday. I'd be in pretty poor straits if I can't remember which name is attached to which face for even that long,” Fernando says with a shrug. “Give me a week, week and a half and things will go back to the status quo.”

For some reason, this causes the woman to burst out in laughter. Not polite chuckles or girlish tee-hees, but full-blown belly laughs that suck the breath from one's body. After a while, she calms down enough to gasp, “You're too funny. I never would have guessed.”

Thanks,” says Fernando. “I'll take any win I can, no matter how small.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April's Goals

Fernando enjoys writing. This fact should be obvious to anyone who visits his weblog, since he certainly is not garnering fame, fortune, or any other real benefit besides self-satisfaction from maintaining it. The other fact is that Fernando is horrible at writing without a...let's call it a "cause." He suffers from distractions and procrastinations and all the other nasty little things that keep him from attaining wordcount goals and meaningful progress.

The good news is that Fernando is able to ignore these things when he feels an obligation looming overhead (and, no, making up his own obligation never works. Stupid self-psychology). Having a Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday schedule on his Chronicles, for instance, requires that he have something available for posting on those days so as to avoid the dreaded schedule slip that plagues so very many other projects on this great internet. Fans don't like schedule slip, and Fernando likes to believe he has fans out there. Somewhere.

Another way Fernando finds himself goaded to action is through random and nonrandom writing contests. Things like NaNoWriMo, which occurs every November with the goal of having participants hammer out 50,000 words of fictional prose. The month of April has a sister challenge named ScriptFrenzy.

The goal of this one is to write a 100-page screenplay before the end of the month. Fernando has never written a screenplay before, but it doesn't seem that difficult. Michael Scott once wrote a screenplay. Probably nothing will ever come of having written this screenplay, but that's alright. Writing is an analogy for sex in that you're bad at it unless you do it a lot, and often, and are willing to on occasion put up with headaches and frustration.

And that's Fernando's project at the moment. It is a fun little distraction and even if he does not "win" something of value, like knowledge of his limits or whatever, will have been gained. Fernando is ever an optimist.

Happy writing!