Real cost of video hire: $1,398.35

I’ve rented a movie for tonight. I chose Star Wars.

It cost me $2.90. That’s if you don’t count the time it took to choose it.

If you count that, the cost is somewhere in the region of $1,398.35.

I don’t rent many movies. Maybe one a week. I daren’t rent any more because I don’t have time.

I spent $300,000 the last time I bought a house. I looked at three before I found the right one, and it took me three hours to make the decision.

Renting a DVD takes half my life. I look at hundreds – and I still come away with something boring. Last week it was Bambi. I’ve already seen it eight times!

And I’m not alone. Every night I watch people in the video store (why do we still call them video stores when they no longer stock videos), ambling up and down the rows… searching… for what?

I mean, we’d save a lot more time if we marched in, snatched up the first movie that fell under our hands, rented it, watched it and brought it back. It wouldn’t matter if we didn’t like it because we’d be saving hours; days!

And every now and then we’d come across something worth watching. As it I’m so afraid of wasting my money and my time (my viewing time, that is; I’m not even going to think about my choosing time) that I rent Star Wars and Bambi.

How do other people choose movies? I guess they go for things they already know… actors they like, and directors they admire (can you name any movie directors? I can’t… well, except Walt Disney. That’s how I ended up with Bambi).

After that it’s such a risk! It’s like books – you can tell absolutely nothing from the cover blurb. Even the ones that are peddled as “a hotbed of lust and passion in the tropical paradise of the Pacific Islands” might easily turn out to be about the mating habits of dolphins.

And occasionally you find one that goes the other way. I rented a DVD once that looked like an Elizabethan drama and turned out to be well… an Elizabethan drama, but with genitals. No wonder the bloke in the shop sneered.

I only watched 15 minutes (honest!) and when I took it back I wanted to say something to reassure him I wasn’t like that, but it all sounded so… thin.

I could hear him responding: “Yeah; right.” And that’s it. Branded forever as the man with the dirty raincoat. Even though I don’t own a raincoat, dirty or not.

I don’t know why I bother really. I can’t really say I’ve ever watched a movie that was a life-changing experience. Sometimes I see one promoted and I think: “Ooh, I wouldn’t mind seeing that.” But when I miss it I don’t feel as if something important has been excised from my life.

They say that TV (and I guess, by the same token, home rental DVDs) are the modern equivalent of gin. Nothing more than a way of taking people’s minds off the mortgage and the promotion and the police bringing the kids home at 3am.

But I reckon gin had a lot more going for it – the choice was limited, the effects were certain, and it only took 30 seconds to grab a bottle off the shelf and pay for it.

And what’s more you didn’t have to suffer the emotional stress of Bambi’s mum dying. It gets me every time.