Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kiosk crisis

The best thing about movie rental kiosks is that they're automated.

However, the worst thing about movie rental kiosks is that they're automated.

I took this picture last Friday afternoon in the Carlton Woolworth's, just for giggles, because I don't think I'd ever seen a movie rental kiosk (Redbox, Hoyts or otherwise) open with its guts hanging out. It was interesting to get an idea of just how many movies one of these things actually contains. A total which was, I guess, not all that surprising.

Little did I know it would eventually need to become the artwork for the harrowing tale I am about to tell you. (Forgive the exaggeration in advance.)

A few minutes after taking this photo and finishing my shopping, I stopped by this kiosk to pick up Kick-Ass 2, which I had planned as my final evening's viewing before my wife and newborn son came home from the hospital. You see, I had assumed that the technician in the picture was only restocking the kiosk with new releases, and removing a corresponding dozen or so that were no longer earning their keep.

Instead, this is the message I saw:

That pretty much scuttled my plans to watch Kick-Ass 2 before my wife and second son came home -- which did feel like a mild disappointment at the time. 

A bigger disappointment came the next day, when they had to stay in the hospital an additional night because her blood pressure was reading high. But it did mean my viewing of Kick-Ass 2 was back on the table. I just had to go to a different Hoyts kiosk, and as luck would have it, an errand I planned to run anyway would bring me within easy range of one.

"Easy" ended up being a relative term. I had to circle around the neighborhood on my bike a couple times before I located it, mostly because it's only in the neighborhood in question (called Docklands) in a technical sense. But I did locate it, and came away with my copy of Kick-Ass 2.

Watching Kick-Ass 2 brought on another disappointment. It's just not very good.

As disappointment piled upon disappointment, it ended up being yet another extra night in the hospital for the patient(s). This would be the fifth recovery night, sixth total if you count the night she gave birth. Thus far, I had been fulfilling her nightly entertainment needs by taking our iPad home on my first visit of each day, downloading a new movie to watch that night (there's no public wifi at the hospital), and returning the iPad for her to watch that night. Now that the stay was going from long to truly ridiculous, she told me just to bring her computer instead, and rent a DVD.

I had to return Kick-Ass 2 to the Docklands kiosk anyway -- I could have returned it to Carlton if I didn't suspect that kiosk was still in a state of disability -- so I texted her with choices I thought would be good for her state of mind (nothing too heavy). She was sleeping, so I made some choices for her: Epic, which I had the ulterior motive of getting to watch with my older son the next day, and This is the End, which it turned out she had already seen. For myself I finally rented Mud.

Back at the Carlton Woolworth's while picking up my older son from his grandfather's, I noticed that the out of commission message was still up on that kiosk. That was 48 hours without being fixed. Granted, they were 48 weekend hours, but they were also 48 hours at the end of New Year's week, when plenty of people are still on holiday, still wanting to watch movies. I shook my head and starting mentally composing a blog post titled "Profitability shmofitability," which would gently tease Australians about the sanctity of their weekends.

The real drama started on Monday, when my wife and son finally got to come home from the hospital. My older son and I had about the most unsatisfying viewing of Epic you could imagine. I should have taken it as an omen when we first tried to watch it but the movie itself was still in my wife's computer, which was in her bedroom, where she was napping. After she awoke we attempted the viewing, but he was too distractable, not nearly interested enough in the characters (too many humans, not enough snails) to sit still for more than about 15 minutes. I of course had to plod on and finish the movie while trying to wrangle him and prevent him from jumping all over a woman recovering from a Caesarian section. I am incredibly stubborn about finishing what I start, especially at this time of year, with my ranking deadline just around the corner.

So we got a later start for the kiosk than I hoped, heading out a little after 4. (We = me and my older son, who was riding in the child carrier attached to the back.) I took a different route up a bigger hill, and when I tried to shift down into first, my chain came off and got mangled in the gears. At first assessment I was sure it was a total loss, but I kept on tugging and pulling on it, my fingers growing as black as night, for ten minutes. I finally wrenched it out, and it would power the bike -- sort of. The chain would slip and sometimes stick, and it never went around a whole time without making the telltale sounds of a partial shift. But it was going to be a better option than walking my bike to the kiosk, some two miles away. And definitely a better option than paying $10.50 in late fees.

Without being able to shift down into first, I really huffed and puffed up this hill until I could finally take a left and start going slightly downward.

Upon arriving outside the building containing the kiosk (a Coles supermarket), I was entirely unsurprised to find that my son had fallen asleep in the back. This always happens if he hasn't had a nap and has any kind of wheeled conveyance lulling him to sleep. I considered letting him sleep, and just sitting against the wall near where I locked up the bike and reading while he dozed. But the day had already been an exhausting one, so I roused him from his slumber, eliciting many whining complaints, and took him inside to the kiosk.

Where I saw the following message:


Actually, this message was still a few minutes off. At the actual time I walked in, the kiosk was rebooting. A guy in front of me was returning The Great Gatsby. "I went to insert it and it just rebooted," he explained.

We sat through two reboots, in sullen silence, until finally the message above did show up.

He wandered off, probably back to his car, which could easily convey him to another Hoyts kiosk. Me, I had to look up the next closest one on my phone and rely on a broken bike to get me there.

Which was too much to handle with my grease-covered hands and a little boy who had to go potty.

After locating a bathroom in the neighboring outlet complex, I drank what was known as a pine lime smoothie, while my son turned his nose up at the cookie I'd bought him, saying he wanted a different one. My stare was a thousand yards and then some.

Eventually, I summoned the energy to return to the Coles, buy something my wife needed, and continue on my way -- not before checking the status of the kiosk both before and after buying the item.

I huffed and puffed my way to a mall called Melbourne Central, another couple miles off, where I searched four floors before finding the kiosk. It would be too easy for the Hoyts kiosk to be right near the Hoyts theater, right? Way too easy. Instead it was in the basement outside of a Coles that I didn't even know was there.

Suffice it to say, I did not add to my complications by renting any additional movies.

It was nearly 6:45 when my son and I finally returned home.

Having written this whole thing out, I think it's probably only interesting to me, and I'm sorry you had to read it. Then again, if creating a sense of exhaustion and frustration to mirror my own was the goal, perhaps I have succeeded.


Travis McClain said...

I'd like to see our mutual pal Jonathan adapt this blog post into a screenplay for a short film.

I'm also curious to see what your position on weekend time vs. profitability is by the time your scheduled time in Australia comes to an end.

Vancetastic said...

Thanks Travis. I wish it were that interesting!