Dear Nice Man at Blockbuster (I’m sorry, I don’t know your name),
Ten days ago I stood in your shop with my daughters, choosing a couple of DVDs to watch before we went on holiday to Sweden. As usual, we faffed around a lot, with my daughters laughing at ‘inappropriate’ DVDs when they thought I wasn’t looking, and me looking longingly at a box set of CSI Miami and putting it back reluctantly.
As usual, I tried to talk you out of charging us a fine for bringing back our films late, and as usual you were charming but firm. You very kindly pointed out that it would be cheaper for us to take out 5 DVDs for a week, than 2 DVDs for two days. You admitted you didn’t know why either, it was all a bit bonkers. But that was the way it was. We explained we were off on holiday and didn’t want to risk leaving your DVDs behind in a foreign country. You nodded sagely and told us of your own plans to take your elderly mother away on holiday, but not until September when things would be quieter.
You even cleaned our DVDs for us so they wouldn’t jump, though in fact they still did, and I thought to myself, I must ring up and let you know, so they don’t get put back on the shelves for the next person. But I never got round to calling. Well, we were packing, then we were travelling, then we were away. And I didn’t realise how little time I had. Because, only a few days after our chat, your shop would be broken into by looting thugs. And all the DVDs that you spent your working life categorising, maintaining and displaying so carefully, were destroyed or stolen. All the windows were smashed. The till was stolen. And your livelihood was gone forever in a single thoughtless night.
There are thousands of stories of innocent, hardworking people caught up in the violence that gripped London while we were away. We have all seen terrifying images of fire, violence, crime and cruelty. I turned off the Panorama programme last night when it began to set scenes of rioting to music, as though the country’s pain was some sort of slick choreographed pop video. Somehow, the repetition and the clever editing blunts our response. But driving past your wrecked, sad, boarded up Blockbuster shop yesterday made it all real for me. You were just a nice person trying to make a living, and now that has been taken away from you, through no fault of your own.
I hope you weren’t on duty that night. I hope you are all right. I hope you can still take your mother on holiday.
And I hope you’ll let me off my next fine.