Blockbuster / by Michael Durr

It was an early Saturday morning in 1999 and I road my bike to my neighborhood Blockbuster in search of a job. Mowing lawns wasn't cutting it anymore, and I actually walked out of my first day as a caddy at Oak Brook Hills Golf Course. Who was I kidding, I knew the answer to the infamous question "Where do you want to work?" and the answer was Blockbuster Video. I remember being nervous about applying, not sure why, maybe it was the fear that if this didn't work out I was going to be jobless forever. I remember sitting in the back room, a room that smelled like burnt plastic and leftover McDonald's, filling out the application. On my way out I saw my next-door neighbor George heading into the store. He wasn't a customer, he was actually the UPS delivery man. Yes, the UPS delivery man was my next-door neighbor. He used to honk down our street at my mom every day when he would stop home around lunch and my sister and I used to play with his kids Aaron and Sarah. Anyway, he saw me exiting the store and asked what I was up to and I said applying for a job. He inquired and said, "You want to work here huh?" and he followed that with "I'll put in a good word." I am sure I smiled and got excited, but I was still skeptical if I would actually get the job there. Since I had no experience in anything.

The next day I got a call from Blockbuster. I went back to the store and nervously stood in front of the store manager. She looked at me and said, "George says you're a good kid, don't disappoint him" and she handed me the new hire paperwork. I was ECSTATIC! My soon to be long journey of being a Blockbuster employee had begun.

I worked at the apex of the movie rental industry. The Westmont Blockbuster was the largest and busiest in the district. I remember dropping tapes my first day because I was nervous and being made fun of by some of the vets, but I stayed the course. It wasn't long after that day a massive round of firings happened because employees were caught doing drugs in the back room. I quickly climbed in seniority after that.

Over the next year I was the quintessential Blockbuster employee. With my slender build, spiky highlighted hair and tanned skin I could have been the Blockbuster poster-boy or the guy in the training videos.

After many many busy nights, working Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and other major holidays. I grew in popularity among my managers and about a year later when I asked to be a manager they said yes. (It did take some convincing though) I was one of the youngest managers the store ever had, according to my store manager. My competitive nature and OCDness made me one of the best managers on staff and I think I could have stayed there forever. (good thing I didn't)

To keep this post from getting too long I will not regale the endless amounts of stories I have about my favorite job, a place that is now an auto parts store, but I will leave you with my thirty for thirty moments at the monumental rental facility.

In no particular order

1) Winning the running contest on who could take the most VHS tapes back to the wall without dropping them 2) Holding "donation night" with Scott at our registers. (Don't bring that up to Sherri) 3) Biking to Lasalle Bank with over $5000 in my back pack to make the deposit from the night before 4) Inventory nights with Kevin and The Eagles, it was a love/hate relationship (Dusty black fingers and being tethered to a 1988 computer for six hours in the middle of the night was a great time) 5) Throwing shrunk wrapped CD jewel cases over the building with our initials on it to see who's went the furtherest 6) Working with Dave and Jeff (aka. Kramer) Oh, the things we did. I wonder where there are today. 7) Wendy's night's and chowing down a full box of Mike and Ike's during the course of a work-day 8) Free movie rentals (a week before they were released) The problem was I could never watch them because I was working 9) Learning terms like VHS, CD, DVD, MOD, POP, BBV, PVT, PVD, and CSR 10) Meeting Scott for the first time while I was running movies in my high school volleyball uniform 11) Working until 4am when I was 18, my parents must have been very trusting 12) Holding customer entertainment contestest in busy lines and watching the Westmont cops pull people over in our parking lot 13) Getting flicked off and called an asshole. (for no apparent reason) 14) Getting robbed 15) Watching my manager Tricia check-out Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox and not realize who he was 16) Dressing up for Halloween. Scott, Sean and I dressed up as Presidents of the United States. I was JFK, and yes it sucked checking people out in a rubber mask for six hours 17) Working Christmas night every year. I always brought in delicious left overs for the staff 18) Opening the store alone and blasting the Jurassic Park theme song 19) Getting asked to two dances, while working, by two different girls 20) I wasn't the one known as "Spike Mike." 21) Pulling pranks on our rival Hollywood Video. (Thanks for the Braveheart VHS tape) 22) Working alone at the tiny Downers Grove Blockbuster that opened by the tracks 23) Cleaning up other stores in the district with Scott, because people had heard how good we were 24) Parking my parents blue "Durr4" Chevy Celebrity under the Blockbuster sign 25) Surprise visits from friends. Namely Dustin and Mark Baluga, who I thought was dying when he came in and we had to dig his 4Runner out of the snow. 26) Mario Kart on the N64 Kiosk 27) Arguing with customers over late fees 28) POSTERS 29) The smell of burnt popcorn and the sounds of the dropbox door and the looping trailer. (Why couldn't then make that thing an hour long instead of 15mins) 30) Selling Blockbuster rewards memberships and collecting gift cards. (Yes, I still have them)

Best of all. The friends I made and the friends I hired. (Sherri, Scott, Pat, Kevin, Nikki, Rachel, Korey, Kelly, Saundra, Tricia, Helga, Misty, Spike Mike, Chris, Jessica, Emily, Dave, Jeff, and all the others)

PS. The first girl I ever kissed was a girl I asked out in my Blockbuster uniform while she was looking for a movie. It took the ego boost from my store manager to suck it up and do it.

I truly get misty eyed thinking about my time at Blockbuster and how my kids will never understand what or where it was I worked. It will be nothing more then some dusty relics and nostalgic stories to them. It sounds corny but Blockbuster was more than a job to me. It was a culmination of my adolescence. It kept me occupied and out of trouble, although in more ways then one it got me in trouble. It was any young dudes dream job. Playing sand-volleyball during the day and working at Blockbuster at night. It was perfect. I learned how to be a leader, how to delegate, how to have fun at work (and still get work done), how to be responsible (to some degree), and how to work hard. These are all things I still do in my current job. I could talk about Blockbuster for hours (clearly) and it is unfortunate that future generations will not be able to share in the same pastime, not just as employees but as customers. Who remembers walking into a Blockbuster on a hot summer night with a bunch of friends and trying to decide what movie to rent? Then after about two hours walking out with Weekend at Bernie's or something terrible. Also, I know people remember rainy Friday nights trying to park in the Blockbuster parking lot, all so you can rush in and search for that specific movie you were looking for, knowing full well there was not a chance in hell it was still in stock.

I'll never forget smiling at every person that walked into the store and saying "Hello, Welcome to Blockbuster." Then whispering under my breath, "Now get the hell out here it ten minutes to midnight and I need to close this damn register."

Make it a Blockbuster night!

Blockbuster Video, Wow What a Differnce.

No more LATE FEES my ass.

The failed attempt to make a come back.