When the nice Mormon lady critiques my selections at the video rental counter. #Awkward

I can only imagine what the DVD/Video purveyor thinks of me when I barge into our tiny, local Mom & Pop shop on occasion and, after half an hour of milling-around and scrutinizing titles, end-up selecting a heap of the most disparate films imaginable to pile on the countertop. That’s how I roll, when it comes to film.


Maybe (make that “Likely”) it’s just me, but I start feeling more than a tad self-conscious about the wildly diverse nature of my selections when the cheerful, lace-collared Mormon clerk, ostensibly for the sake of small-town friendliness (or perhaps for sheer lack of anything more interesting to do), feels compelled to discuss each of my viewing choices as she checks them against her computer inventory. Whatever the reason, I can’t stand it when she’s working the place and I always dread that awkward ritual. It creates uncomfortable scenes, because then I feel obligated to explain my picks. Why can’t she just go hunt my movies down in the back room, ring the damn things up, and stare in malignant silence as if every customer were a pestilential inconvenience, like the teenagers do when they work the counter? But noooooo:

“Oh! I see you’ve rented Chariots of Fire! Now, isn’t that just one of the great classics that doesn’t seem to get the appreciation it deserves these days? So full of humanity. So rich in moral triumph. So inspiring!”

“Um … Yeah. It’s … well, it’s a truly archetypal elucidation of the brutal courage of the human spirit captured in one incomparable cinematic narrative.”

“Oh, I’ll say it is! And look at this. You’ve also picked … Why, it’s House of 1000 Corpses. Well, now, that’s a startling image on the cover there, isn’t it? With a sort of skinned skull staring out from what looks like a kind of mucous membrane, or possibly the lining peeled from someone’s eviscerated intestines. And then there’s that rivulet of blood dribbling down onto the woman’s heaving breasts, there. Hmmm. Now. Isn’t that something.”


“I … er … um … it’s … uh … one of Rob Zombie’s productions and I … well … for me he seems to grasp, by his unique use of imagery, certain otherwise overlooked aspects of the metaphysical quandary posed by the graphic depiction of human slaughter, and I … um …”

“Oh, sure. Sure! That quandary. Well, we all wonder about that, don’t we? Sure we do. Okie-dokie, let’s have a looky-loo at what else you’ve got in this stack today? Awww … Anne of Green Gables! That’s just one of the most adorable and wholesome stories ever told, what with Colleen Dewhurst as ‘Marilla’ and Richard Farnsworth as ‘Matthew’ and that wonderful little girl–I forget what the heck her name is–who played ‘Anne.’ This must be for your little girl at home! Oh, how old is your little girl? She’s going to love this! You know, I played this for my daughters when they were about eight or nine and it opened up a whole new world of imagination and reading for them. Why, it was just …”

anne marilla

“Um. Well, I don’t have a daughter, you see, I … um …”


“No, I … see … I grew up only five miles from the Canadian border, and this series was filmed in Canada when I was still a kid, where the story itself originated, and the program was pretty much a cultural phenomenon for anyone remotely connected with Canada. Like a national treasure, really, and huge? Whah! Man, it was Star Wars huge … I mean, if you were Canadian, or pseudo-Canadian, so … um … the movie possesses a considerable nostalgic value for people like me who grew-up around the place and time it was made, therefore I like to revisit that sort of …”

“Of course you do. Sure! I understand. Look, we’ve all got our touchstones, right? Personally, I couldn’t watch a movie featuring that lovely Green Gables farm and then switch right over to a house full of a million corpses, but to each his own, I say.”

“It’s … um … a thousand corpses.”


“A thousand corpses. It’s House of 1000 Corpses. Not a million. I mean, that’d be a lot of corpses for one house, don’t you think? Still, I could envision a thousand corpses being contained in just one house, depending upon how they were stacked and stored, mind you. Now, take a house like Anne’s at Green Gables, you know? That house, to me, could hold a thousand corpses, no problem, what with the upstairs bedrooms and that cute little parlor, there, where Anne invites Diana Barry over for tea and there follows the ill-fated Raspberry Cordial incident? Yeah, you could stuff some bodies in that room. Not to mention Marilla’s root cellar, which is only alluded to, I realize. And then there’s Matthew’s barn, but then I suppose you get into the question of whether the barn can be considered a part of the actual house or merely as a dependency of the house, and that’s a matter of debate, so when it comes to corpses and storing them …”

“I … I see. Yes. Yes, I absolutely understand. It’s … it’s … it’s a question of space, really, isn’t it?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“Well, um … heh heh. Let me go and find these videos for you and I’ll be right back as soon as I can …”

“Wait, you forgot these last two I’d like to rent!”

“There’s more, are there?”

“Yeah. I’ve got Fried Green Tomatoes with Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy, and … oh, yeah–John Waters’s Pink Flamingos. You know, where Divine eats the dog turd in the climactic scene?”


“I … uh … (gulp). Say, have you ever considered Netflix, sir? I hear they have some wonderful services for the viewer of exceptionally eclectic tastes.”

“But don’t you want my business as a small-town video emporium struggling to compete with the corporate monoliths that threaten your very livelihood?”

“Oh, sure. Sure! I’ll get this line-up of movies for you today, no worries, but you should know that the owners are about to retire from the business.”

“My gosh, really? When?”

“This afternoon.”

“This afternoon?! Uh … I had no idea. No one in town has said anything. When did this decision come about?”


“I see. I suppose it’s going to take you awhile to find all of these movies in your stock room, huh?”

“Probably, sir.”

“So, I’ll have time to, say, run over to the corner market and pick up a few things while you look, won’t I?”


“Probably, sir.”

“And the door to the shop will be locked and the ‘CLOSED’ sign’ll be in the window when I get back, won’t it?”

“Definitely, sir.”

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