Advertising romance: Gone in 30 seconds – Pt. 3 – How to Say I Want You, Now

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I had nothing to do at three in the afternoon on a Friday, so I tagged along with my roommate to pick up some videos.

If you don’t already know of it, Village Video (located at Nicollet and 16th) has the greatest movie rental deal in the state: rent four movies for five dollars and keep them for four days.

To watch them all you more or less have to cancel your social life for those days, or make a social life out of watching movies. That task is either easier or harder than it sounds, depending on the diagonal distance from one corner of your television screen to the other corner, and the number of speakers you have in your living room. I hear five is a good number, and I hear five-point-one is even better. Furniture also helps, such as large, cushioned sofas and reclining chairs, as do refreshments and adequate heating.

For the record, our living room consists of a Farfisa Organ, a single, rather uncomfortable chair, and a 27-inch Sanyo television (but no antenna) that sits atop a side table scraped out of the “as-is” section of Ikea, with a screen that is definitely not flat, and definition far below HI-. A DVD player manufactured by TruTech (I’ve never heard of it either), hums on the floor.

For a clearer feel of this room, imagine a remarkable void – like how Pluto probably felt when the scientific community flicked it off the end of the Milky Way; or better, how you probably felt when you learned that the end of the only galaxy you’ve ever been a part of, and a fixture of your elementary school education, was suddenly no longer what you thought it was. It’s a far cry from those demo chambers in Best Buy with their innumerable satellite speakers. And unlike at Best Buy, in our living room, no one’s going to ask how you’re doing today, sir/miss.

Needless to say, my roommate and I usually watch movies alone, as in he watches a movie alone, or I watch one alone. We’re not loners, per se, and sometimes we do watch a movie together, in which case the kitchen chairs are as invaluable as they are uncomfortable. If we’re loners, we’re loners by circumstance, not by determination. If you can’t afford a couch and don’t know how to use Craigslist, and if you aren’t devoted enough to trek from thrift store to thrift store the city over, and if it isn’t spring and your fellow scholars aren’t leaving their couches on the sidewalk with their microwaves, or if you don’t even have a truck to go pick up a used one in any case – in short, if the world of home entertainment hates you, and it has every right to and probably does, the way you just Ö the way you just use it like that – then loner you very well may be. You’ll overcome this. Stick in there.

So, on this cold Friday, my roommate and I were renting movies (four of them for five dollars!) and canceling our social lives.

But something happened after we paid and left Village Video. Or, something almost happened.

When we left the store I caught the eye of a young woman wearing a yellow cloche, out from under which brown curls bobbed at her shoulders. She was wrapped in a coat of brown and white tweed houndsteeth. She had a friend, a shorter, squatter girl who locked the black VW Golf they had just exited. The VW was an older model, or an older-new model – probably mid-to-late nineties – with squared edges and side panels dusted over with salt. The second girl had blonde tangles for hair that stuck in every direction, and a pale complexion made paler with dramatic eye shadow. She looked like she left her apartment every day expecting to run into David Bowie at the grocery store.

After only a glance, I wanted to talk to these two and I could easily have said something like, “Hey, we already rented some movies, save your $5.36 (tax included) and come watch these with us.”

Then again, did I really want to invite these two strangers to watch movies with my roommate and me in our galactic void? The whole proposition does have a serial killer feel to it – on my part; that or it just sounds like an all around lame way to spend a Friday night, which it was.

Also, Village Video isn’t the most glamorous rental location, its vast selection notwithstanding. It’s deliberately grimy, and hardly the place to find romance. Inside, the air smells of unwashed wool after you’ve smoked a carton of Parliaments and missed a few drops of PBR, which happened to dribble off your chin and find themselves soaking somewhere in the vicinity of your chest. It has a peculiar charm, but that’s like saying “he has a lot of personality,” which is the polite way to say “he’s kind of ugly,” which is just slightly less forthright than saying “he’s really ugly” and then laughing. It’s on par with Loring Park around 2 a.m. in July, as far as ideal locations for serendipitous romance go.

So the seconds split themselves slimmer and slimmer, and separate ways were quietly taken by both parties.

Now, I didn’t stand and stare at this pair and their car, scrutinizing and memorizing every detail about them. After all, it was, what, -20 degrees Fahrenheit? Like I mentioned at the beginning, the walk back from the Village Video doors to the car was 30 seconds tops, and the eye I caught I probably held for no longer than five of those 30 seconds, more likely even less. Two seconds sounds about right, and if I’m absolutely honest, I probably just shifted my eyes for a step, summed up the pair mid-stride, and then buried my chin deeper beneath my coat’s collar, never removing my hands from my pockets.

But these days, it never seems to take more than five seconds for an urge to hit, whether it’s What I Crave, or whom I fancy. Whether or not I actually entertain those urges is another matter. I imagine I’m not alone on this front. I’m sure this has been the case ever since the land before time, or at least ever since people started writing about it. Or, first they performed songs about it, then they wrote about it, then they made movies about it. Romeo and Juliet only needed to pass a tiny bushel of furtive glances between them, and look at the lengths they went to for romance. I have a feeling those two would have sold a lot of Big Macs and soft drinks, had someone brought an HD to the Capulets’s ball.

I’m equally as sure that the action following those strange urges – or the in-action, as it were – has changed since the 16th century. For one, the urge is not just a matter of sexual attraction or bearing the family coat of arms with dignity. It’s merely the modest urge to want to engage in some casual conversation. Maybe that is a matter of bed sheets, maybe sometimes. Who are we kidding? Of course it is. But it’s also a matter of what to say at the bus stop, or in the parking lot, when it’s -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

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