Bust Blockers – Actual Play Blog

Day 1: Hi! I’m Andy Brown, and I’m the manager of your prime time, one-of-a-kind, cinematic hotspot, Bust Blockers! Well, Assistant Manager. But the actual manager quit, so I guess that makes me effectively the manager! (…Right?) This is Day One of my blog, and I’m here to tell you all about the non-stop excitement here at everyone’s number-one Bust Blockers location! I hope you enjoy!

Day 2: (Yes, we’re still here!) Man, we’re fucked. Like…breakup-sex, take-out-your-frustration-on-each-other’s-genitals fucked. Sorry for the language but…yeah, totally boned. I was gonna try to keep this PG but what’s the point? Turns out we’re the last Bust Blockers standing, if you can believe it. I don’t think it’s because we’re a money maker or anything. Honestly, it’s probably just that corporate forgot we existed and never filed the right paperwork. All I can say is…I give it a month. Two, tops. Time to start polishing up the resume so I can land one of the no jobs available in East Podunk, Alaska. Sigh.

Slow day today, but that’s not a shocker, right? Smelly Old Lady (SOL) came in and rented Wild Hogs for the…14th time? I just checked the account and yep, this is the 14th time for her. I guess she’s a big Tim Allen fan. Thing is…at $3.99 per 7-night rental for the older movies that’s, what…almost $60? Next time she comes in I’m just gonna give her the copy and report it as stolen. She’s earned it. Sure, she smells like pee but she’s always nice (rare) and never complains about her late fees (rarer).

Day 3: (Yes, we’re still here!) All this talk of shutting the place down has got me all nostalgic. I started this job, oh god, six years ago?! Ugh. It was supposed to be a summer job but I kept showing up on time and not stoned off my gourd so they made me a keyholder by the end of my first summer. Plus, the money was decent compared to fast food or dishwashing. Plus, I could rent movies before everyone else got their hands on them. Plus…it was easy. Easier than community college, that’s for sure. And look at me now! Acting manager! Who needs a degree when you have this much power?

I remember my first “sale”. Some tweaker came in, grabbed a brand-new copy of “The Dark Knight” off the shelf with the security case still on it, and tried to return it for cash. I had no idea what the hell to do but luckily my first manager, Big Mike, was there and told the guy to fuck off or he’d call the cops. The guy left but our dumpster got set on fire that night so…I guess he showed us?

I miss Big Mike, man. I wonder what he’s up to now? I remember one night when we were doing inventory til like 2am, Mike brought in a couple 30 racks of Natty Ice. I don’t know how we managed it but the Regional Manager said we had the best numbers out of all the stores in the area. Oh man! That was the night Ali passed out in the Kids VHS section and we covered her in Disney clamshell cases. That was a good crew.

Ali was cool, though. Bit of a burnout, but the fun kind, not the steal-your-wallet kind. Hardest I ever laughed was when that guy turned in the wrong video and Ali didn’t check the case before she rented it to someone else. That guy came back in a panic, asking if we remembered seeing a home movie he might’ve dropped off. Turns out the video was…very personal and his partner was pissed. We eventually got the video back and called the guy to pick it up. Ali said we should watch it before returning it but Mike was having none of that. For a dude who would regularly buy beer for his underage employees, he had morals.

Speaking of morals, I wonder if they’ll do a full inventory of this place when it finally shuts down? I don’t want any of the movies or games or anything, but you think I could nab the disc resurfacer without anyone noticing? That thing is a miracle worker. Trust me, I’ve seen the shittiest discs come in and we’re able to buff them back to brand new. Think I might have to snatch if/when we go under.

Day 4: (Yes, we’re still here!) Another day, another stolen kids movie. I don’t know what it is about the kids movies, but every time a new animated movie comes out, half of our inventory seems to walk. We’ve started putting the new shit behind the counter and making parents ask for it. Great example they set for their kids. “Hey Billy, if you can’t afford something you can just take it!” It’s not like they’re stealing bread because they’re starving. They’re stealing Cars because they’re bored and broke. Kachow.

I was in the back room counting the drawers at the end of the night and filling out the deposit slips and I noticed a three-ring binder on a high shelf. This thing was covered in dust like it hadn’t been touched in a decade. I pulled it down and it’s the corporate handbook, including the “Formula for Success”. No wonder the company shit the bed! We had the formula up on a shelf this whole time, unused! For the curious, the formula for success is “Service + Efficiency = Success”. Therefore, by the transitive property, Efficiency = Success – Service. Or maybe Service = Efficiency – Success? Is that even the transitive property? Again, community college was hard for me.

But nothing is as hard as listening to the DVD recording of an Eagles concert for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. If I have to hear Hotel California or Take it Easy one more time, it’ll take more than Love to Keep [Me] Alive. That’s an Eagles joke…which you would know if you had worked at this store at any point between now and, oh, 2001 or so. We used to have a Fleetwood Mac DVD but Shithead Shawn broke it one day because, well, he’s a shithead. An even bigger shithead is the manager who said we can’t play G or PG movies anymore. Hey wait…I’m the manager now! Looks like PG movies are back on the menu!

Day 5: (Yes, we’re still here!) Sorry, short update today. I was just telling Lumber Bob (he looks like a lumberjack straight out of central casting but his name is Robert so…) that we were probably closing down pretty soon and this big, burly man gets all choked up. Even weirder than that, his reaction got me a little teary, too! I realized he’s been coming in every Sunday since I started (and probably before that) and every time he shoots the shit with me for like an hour. We’re not really similar in any way – he’s pushing 60 and has a family, I’m a drop out who’s never had a relationship for more than a month or two – so it’s not like we’d hang out normally. And yet every week we talk and laugh like old friends. I guess we are friends.

I wish I could just buy this place and turn it into a tourist trap. Nostalgia sells, right? I mean, sure it’s out of the way a bit but people would still come to hang out, wouldn’t they?

Day 6: (Yes, we’re still here!) So last night I started thinking about how the hell I could actually purchase this place and keep it running. Maybe I could take out a loan or get some other investors who were kindred spirits and saw the value of clinging to this place. Maybe even a grant if we say it’s like a media museum or something. I was feeling pretty energized about it, honestly. Hopeful.

And then Ryanne (the regional manager) called and said they got an offer for the land and the building and they’re thinking this might be the best time to cut their losses. Corporate hasn’t approved the sale but I guess she has a meeting with them soon. Fuck.

What’s the point of even trying to keep this place open? By the time I get enough money, this place will be closed and turned into a Dairy Queen or whatever. She’d be stupid not to take the money at this point but I’m not going to pretend hearing that didn’t hurt. Bad timing, I guess. That’ll teach me to care.

I’m sitting here in the breakroom writing this on the back of a report printout I found in the recycling bin. I don’t know why I included that info but…there you have it. There are so many cardboard cutouts here that it’s sort of like writing in front of a crowd. I look up from my scrap of paper and see I Robot Will Smith staring back at me intensely. Meanwhile, Buddy the Elf leers creepily over his shoulder. What are we going to do, boys? Any ideas?

Day 7: (Yes, we’re still here!) Holy shit you guys! I guess our status as the last surviving store hit the national news and, somehow, folks have found this blog! If you’re reading this, um, thank you! Hey, this might be pushing my luck but I’ve started a little web store with “Save the Last Bust Blockers!” t-shirts and mugs and whatnot so if you’re feeling generous, please buy one…or a hundred. I mean, if enough people buy this stuff I might just be able to buy it before Ryanne convinces corporate to sell it elsewhere. My dad says if this place closes down, I can always join him on his fishing boat. Please, save me from a life on the high seas!

Although, honestly, sometimes the life of a pirate (okay, fisherman) doesn’t sound so bad. Especially not after arguing with a customer for the 8th time today about the late fees. Yes, I know they’re steep. No, I can’t just waive them. No, you can’t speak to the manager. It’s like…stop keeping the movie forever and you won’t have this problem! I swear the same people that get upset about their late fees are the ones who get upset when the new releases aren’t returned on time. Be the change you want to see in the world, folks. Gandhi would’ve returned his copy of Casino Royale on time.

Okay, enough begging and bitching. I was walking through the VHS section today and noticed our copy of Can’t Hardly Wait had a coupon on it from when the movie first came out. The coupon was for Lays WOW chips! Remember those? If not, let me refresh your memory. Lays WOW chips were the ones with Olestra/Olean, the non-absorbable fat. They were recalled so damn fast because they caused “anal leakage”. Yum. Betcha can’t leak just once!

Oh shit. I was just thinking about the attention this is getting. What if Corporate finds out about this and gets pissed about the language? Guess I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to it.

Day 8: (Yes, we’re still here!) Sales are going strong! Woohoo! Thank you so much! And so far, nothing from corporate!

I was thinking about the movie I’ve rented more than anything else since starting here and, well, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that my number one most rented film is Singin’ in the Rain. No matter how shitty my day is or what’s going on, that movie always puts a smile on my face. My grandma and I used to watch it all the time. She would watch me a lot because my mom had to work a couple different jobs just to keep the lights on. Almost every night she would put it on right around bed time and fall asleep on her recliner. I’d lie down on that rough ass couch with that thin blanket and listen to her snore along to Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds until I couldn’t fight off sleep anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I was on those nights. I miss her.

But enough about that maudlin stuff. Let’s talk about Frankenhooker. We’ve got the old VHS of that stupid movie and, somehow, the gimmicky box still works! It’s got a button on it that, when pressed, makes the titular (heh) undead call girl say, “Wanna Date?”. It’s cute and all…until you’re alone one night and the thing starts talking to you without being touched. It’s never done it with anyone else in the store, weirdly enough. Make of that what you will.

Speaking of catchphrases, do you remember the one corporate tried to implement when the business started to die? Some consultant probably bought a third house with the money they made to come up with “Movie time. Family time.” Like…that’s it? That’s the Manchurian Candidate activation phrase that’s supposed to trigger all our former customers to come streaming back? They could’ve paid me a box of Junior Mints and a slap on the ass and I could’ve come up with something better than that. For example, “Just tell your spouse it’s a drama and you can watch whatever softcore porn you want”. Or how about, “Cheaper than a babysitter and will keep your kids from bothering you for 90 minutes.” Okay sure, they’re a little wordy but I really feel like they’ve got some merit.

Day 9: (Yes, we’re still here!) So, since I’m now in charge of this place, it falls to me to open every morning. We had to let our other morning keyholder go because, well, failing business and all. It’s weirdly quiet and dark in the mornings, especially in the winter, so the firs thing I do every day is turn on every light and play some loud music. I’m not afraid of being alone, I just don’t like the feeling. Plus, that Frankenhooker VHS has it out for me.

Luckily the loneliness doesn’t last long. We were actually pretty busy today, especially for a Tuesday morning. My first customer came in and returned The Descent, saying it was the scariest movie she’s ever seen. She was super cute and, apparently, has great taste in movies so I was instantly in love. Don’t worry. I didn’t make it weird for her or hit on her or anything. I’m a professional, dammit. She asked for recommendations for similar movies but, honestly, does anything really compare? I asked if she’s ever seen Alien because that feels similarly claustrophobic and has a strong female lead. She said she had but didn’t like it.

And just like that, she was no longer attractive to me.

How can you not like Alien?! It’s a friggen masterpiece! Gross. I ended up recommending The Cave because, well, spooky cave. I hope she doesn’t enjoy it. And that she slips on the ice in the parking lot. No wait! On the ice at home so she can’t sue us.

Day 10: (Yes, we’re still here!) That Alien-hating woman came back today and told me The Cave sucked. I asked if it sucked as bad as Alien and she laughed. She has one dimple when she laughs. She said maybe, just maybe, she didn’t give Alien a fare shake and had to rent it again. I said that, while she was entitled to her wrong opinions, she could rent it on the house today only, no strings attached. She took me up on the offer and also rented Bubba Ho-Tep which she said she’s seen dozens of times. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. Oh god I hope she doesn’t read this.

The ceiling started dripping again. We had a big storm and I guess the cheap patchwork they fixed the roof with was, in fact, just cheap patchwork. That should’ve been my first inclination that this place was circling the drain. We had been complaining about the roof for months and the company said to just make do because there was no budget for repairs. One of the owners came down and put a tarp over the spot and weighed it down with a bunch of cinderblocks. They also kept bringing us “new” ceiling tiles from another location that shut down so we could change them out without the customers noticing the water damage. Eventually the tiles ran out and customers started complaining about the musty smell in the store. They “fixed” the hole but I guess, like everything else here, it was a half-assed job.

Day 11: (Yes, we’re still here!) They tried to renovate once, you know. We didn’t have roof money but we had money for new paint and a new sign…well, half of a new sign. They replaced the word “Bust” with this insanely bright halogen lighting system that takes forever to warm up on a cold day but, once it’s going, I’m sure astronauts use it to navigate. Unfortunately, they ran out of money or there was a production issue or something, because “Blockers” is still the old, dull, semi-busted sign it’s always been. This means that, as you drive by at night, you only really see “BUST” which isn’t great branding for a failing video store.

And now for some insider information. In addition to the break room and the manager’s office, there’s another “utility” room near the employee bathroom. No one ever had the key to that place aside from the manager, and we were always told it was just a bunch of wires and fuse boxes and whatnot. Lies! It’s so much more! It’s actually a time capsule. Remember when Bust Blockers promoted/sponsored that Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn romantic comedy in the early 2000s? If you said yes, you’re a dirty liar and should feel ashamed of yourself. Anyway, all the promotional material for that movie was destroyed…or so we thought! There’s a ton of stuff in here! I’m talking T-Shirts, posters, fanny packs (!!!), you name it! I don’t know if it’ll get me in trouble or not but…this merch will be available shortly on the website! Get it while it’s…hot?

Day 12: (No, we’re not still here!) Hey guys. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but corporate is shutting down the store and selling the property. Oh, and they found out about the blog and the merch and are firing me effective immediately. Shithead Shawn will be in charge while they liquidate everything and get the storefront ready to be an Army Recruitment Center or nail salon or whatever. Fuck.

Apparently, our main distributor filed for bankruptcy and none of the major studios wanted to sell us movies at a steep discount anymore. Go figure. Even worse, I wasn’t able to swipe that disc resurfacer! With that said, I have it on good authority that Shithead Shawn will find his inventory approximately one “Singin’ In the Rain Two-Disc Special Edition” short of what it should be.

I turned in my key and nametag this afternoon but they let me keep the blue polo so I got that going for me, which is nice. Man, this hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s like I’m just going through the motions. Shouldn’t I be sadder? Or more pissed?

I dunno, man.  All I know is that I’m going to take a week off before I head to work with my dad. And on the bright side, Talia (that’s the name of the cutie with the dimple) does read this blog and said that, while she still doesn’t think Alien is very good, she’d like to watch Aliens with me and see if it’s any better.

So that’s that. Thanks for reading this and for being part of this futile effort to fight change, my brave nostalgia warriors! Honestly, I had fun and I hope you did, too. And remember, even if we can’t have Bust Blockers anymore, they can’t foreclose on our memories.

Keep on singin’ in the rain,

Andy Brown

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