One of the side effects of moving is that it allows you to go through belongings to sort out what is good enough to make the cut to your new destination and what becomes fodder for the trash heap. Compound that with a COVID-19 world where you’re staying at home more than you normally would, and you have ample time to revisit your glory days of yore.
One of the tasks I assigned myself after we moved last summer was to go through all of the photo albums and stacks of printed photos that I had and organize them. (You see, kids, back in the good ol’ days, we used to have to take pictures with a camera, not a phone, and then bring the film inside said camera to a specialized shop to have the pictures developed. It was a whole process. And until the advent of digital cameras, you didn’t even know if you got the shot you wanted until after the photos were developed!)
Among the pictures, I found a couple that triggered some dear memories – that of the greatest job I have ever had (and possibly ever will).
In the summer of 1998, I reached the pinnacle of my desires. At long last, I had turned 18 and could get a job working at my local video store. If memory serves, it was called Ambassador Video at the time (I’m hesitant because over the course of a few years it went from Jumbo Video to Flicker to Ambassador Video. I believe it was in its last incarnation when I was hired.) I had been a very regular customer at the store for years. I had actually applied earlier, but because the store also rented adult videos, they had a policy preventing anyone under the age of 18 from working there. I would rent multiple movies, multiple times per week. (You see, kids, back in my day, we used to have to rent physical copies of movies when we wanted to watch them. First on BATA or VHS tapes, then eventually on DVD. The store would only have so many copies of any given movie, so you had to keep trying and hope you could get a copy.)
My time working at Ambassador was a highlight for me. I was a movie buff. I would watch just about anything at all. I used to buy the Leonard Maltin movie review books and go through the titles, one by one, highlighting all of the ones I’d seen. I loved being asked for movie recommendations; it was such a good feeling to walk through the aisles of the store with a customer and point out all these movies that would probably be overlooked, and then to hear their comments when they returned the videos.
It was partly the crew, partly the environment, partly the job itself that made this so much fun. I got to work with an eclectic (oh, so very eclectic) bunch of movie-lovers. I’m still friends with a few of them. Hell, I even married one of them! Our management was pretty laissez-faire about things, so long as we got our work done. I built a rapport with many of the regular customers, some of whom I still recognize from time to time as I’m out and about in my current life. And our environment was great. We were located in the same building as an A&W restaurant, a grocery store, Tim Hortons and the Bulk Barn. Our store was open 24/7, 365 days a year. I had the pleasure of working some of the graveyard shifts in later days. We would have a little influx of customers from 12-2AM, then it was pretty quiet until the shift ended the next morning. I’d spend the night just watching movies or concert videos with the sound blaring and tidy up the store. I couldn’t believe I was literally getting paid to watch movies.
Another reason I’ve been thinking about Ambassador lately is because my wife and I recently binged Superstore. Watching the cast of oddball characters got me thinking about our gang. I really think it could make an interesting series as well. Kind of a cross between Superstore and Clerks. We had the aloof Regional Manager who just let us do our thing; there was the psycho, security-obsessed supervisor who once ran after, and basically tackled, a kid who was stealing from us; the girl who met someone online in another province and just disappeared one day; the paranoid stalker girl who would park outside the store at night just watching one of the employees she had a crush on through the windows; the “creepy” mall janitor; and many more!
And of course there were the star-crossed lovers who liked each other, but just couldn’t find a way to make things work out at the time. (of course, it’s because he was an idiot… but that’s another story.)
Despite feeling like I was there for eons, I worked at Ambassador Video only for a few years, right up until the store was shut down. I still remember getting that sad phone call from our Regional Manager asking if I could come in for a few hours to help pack everything up because we were closing for good. I still regularly think about this phase of my life. It had so many wonderful moments, so many laughs. I truly felt like I was part of a family. I cared about my coworkers as much as I did anyone else in my life. I would work 30+ hours in a week, yet still spend my free time hanging around the store talking to my friends.
Although I enjoyed my years working at Chapters, and have had some really good times with my current employer, nothing has lived up to the few years at Ambassador.
And what about you, friends? What was the best job you’ve ever had? What made the job so special to you?