Published 6:33 pm Thursday, February 18, 2010

If any of you are as observant of the world around you as I am, you’ve noticed something a little eerie happening lately. There’s been a slight dimming in the night landscape as you drive down the street these days.

Have you noticed the lighted signs that are missing from strip malls, their once bright faades now wearing only the ghostly outlines of letterforms? Even the smell of the night air has changed since these famed pillars started disappearing. There used to be a slight hint of roasted kernels in the air that grows ever fainter.

Those dying giants are video stores. As I make my commute from Norfolk to Suffolk, I have noticed more and more storefronts that once had names like Planet Video, Hollywood Video, or Video Freakintastic plastered across them in big bright text are slowly closing their doors and shutting off their wonderful lights.

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Maybe you haven’t noticed the death of these institutions of lower lounging. Maybe you’ve joined the hordes of people flocking to the nearest Redbox, and you were too busy to care.

All hail the Redbox, with its affordability and convenience. It is an inspired installation to the consumer sidelines, plopped down in front of places like convenience and grocery stores.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an attempt to bash convenience or technological advancement. I love Redbox. I’m simply acknowledging that I will shed a tear or two over the loss of video stores as they goes the way of the BetaMax and, well, VHS.

The little trinkets like PEZ dispensers and snacks that you could buy near the counter will be missed. Of course, there are probably plans in the works for attaching snack vending machines to Redboxes … so, problem solved.

And then there was the smell of air-popped popcorn filling the old video store, from the comedy section to documentaries. That scent can inspire the spirit of movie-watching like nothing else. Maybe Redbox can install a misting device that wafts the smell of warm popcorn and butter in your face as you make your selection on the touch screen. So, yet another problem solved.

But the one thing they will never be able to simulate, duplicate or emulate — and the thing I will truly miss the most — is the sweet little goth redheaded girl, complete with a lanyard and black, horn-rimmed glasses, who’s behind the counter of every video store in the world and who gives you insights on the movies you’re about to rent. That’s a service no Redbox can match and one that will be missed as we move forward in this world of impersonal, yet somehow better, ways of exchanging goods and services.

So, if you’re confused about whether I’m for or against something as innovative yet simultaneously murderous of the video stores I so enjoying visiting, I guess my official position on the changing landscape of home entertainment is simple: stoked but sentimental.

So, goodbye redhead, hello Redbox.