My wife always hated my DVD collection. A testament to my bachelorhood prominently sitting on a set of shelves in our living room, she would glance over at it like an unwanted dinner guest who had long finished desserts and was now lighting up a cigar in our living room. Drunk.
She'd been warming me up to the idea for months, unsuccessfully. We would ditch the cases and file the media neatly into more efficient storage boxes. And given that a.) I wanted to be a good husband b.) we're soon moving from our large house into a tiny city apartment and c.) I'd get to keep using the cases of my 100+ video games, I finally gave in to her request.
Here's the sequence of painful events that followed.
During a quick trip to one of those red and white office supply stores, she picked up a set of boxes (coffins) and sleeves (coffin liners). Then on one particularly sunny afternoon, she sat down at our coffee table and transformed into some split personality I'd never seen in the 12 years I've known her. With crisp, militaristic movements, she quickly studied each case, noted its contents, and ripped its silver heart from inside.
And she didn't shed a tear.
I realize that the future of my movie collection is with digital downloads and that all this packaging is horrible for the environment. I know that with current technologies, it's just plain stupid to waste your shelf with codecs better suited for hard drives. But that didn't make the experience any easier.
"Maybe we could just keep the box sets intact," I offered.
"Why?" she responded, her eyes emotionless like a killing robot.
"They're just nice to have. I like looking at them," was all I could say. That was enough to keep a few on display.
But I knew how defeated I sounded. Many of these DVDs hadn't been watched in years. And a sickening amount of them were never even opened before the unceremonious gutting by my wife. So why had I bought them in the first place?
I think that I just liked having them on the shelf. It wasn't about having a particular movie to watch. It was about owning a particular movie.
To her credit, my loving wife was being extremely thoughtful in her digital cleansing (while I was too distraught to help). She noted all sorts of details from each box that I might want to know, like bonus features and episode titles. And when I pressed her again on keeping some of the more loved cases around, she reminded me that her larger plan was to store the DVD cases for when we move back into a house one day, or at least a larger apartment.
"So we're going to store the storage?" I ask.
"That's ridiculous. We'll just throw them away."
After all, I have iTunes' Cover Flow and programs like Delicious Library to curb that craving for packaging and album art. But still, my stomach dropped with every case tossed to the wayside, my trophies of consumerism simultaneously helpless and useless upon our rug.
At the moment, my once-cherished shelf of DVDs stands as a temporary monument to a once-thriving civilization. The cases sit empty—soulless—awaiting a trip to the trash in fleeting tribute to an era gone by.