My DVD dealer

With Netflix, never again will I have to endure the humiliation of having a video-store clerk bray, "You have a late fee on 'Bubble Boy.'"

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published July 20, 2005 3:03PM (EDT)

"Do you own stock in the company, or what?" a friend asked me recently. So perhaps I've been a tad evangelical about Netflix lately. But you really do have to try it. Seriously.

I found the online DVD rental service via a discussion on Table Talk. I had given up on most television somewhere around the time "Buffy" went belly up, and now, except for a weekly date with "Arrested Development," I find myself resorting to reading and talking to my spouse for entertainment.

I was ripe for conversion.

What first seduced me was the seemingly endless number of titles Netflix offers. And though normally I'm too lazy to sign up for anything, the prospect of more efficient laziness -- like never having to go the video store again -- was appealing.

Previously, I had to get my movie fixes in one of two ways. I could go to the vaguely filthy, irrationally organized local independent shop, where a request for "Let's Get Lost" would be greeted with "We have 'Let's Get Naked.'" Or I could go to Blockbuster. And I hate Blockbuster. Forget the robotic staff. Forget getting stuck with charges for movies I knew I'd brought in under the wire. Forget the way a wall of "Creepmaster III" boxes could gobsmack me into blanking on the movie I'd originally come for. They lost me the day the clerk loudly announced to me and the throng behind me at the checkout, "You have a late fee on 'Bubble Boy.'" Oh the shame.

Now I live with no deadlines. No minimum or maximum number of DVDs. And no judgmental clerks. I can have practically the entire Criterion Collection and every volume of "Freaks and Geeks" at my fingertips. And I can luxuriate in every bonus feature without speeding through to get the damn thing back by noon. Dude!

The monthly fee has proved considerably more economical than what I used to pay in rentals and penalties. I can add titles to the queue whenever I think of them, not when I'm in a retail-induced sensory overload. I can log on and see a friendly suggestion that I might enjoy "Donnie Darko." Netflix, you know me too well.

With our family's plan, we're limited to three titles out at a time, a perfectly generous amount. My husband can have "Blue Crush," my daughters can have "My Neighbor Totoro, and I can have "The Day After Tomorrow" at the same time. Peace reigns in our household.

When we're finished with a title, which, in the case of my children, happens around the 300th viewing, we just slip it in a prepaid envelope and drop it in the mail. The next movie in our list arrives, like a little present from the movie fairy, faster than you can say "Gyllenhaal." I love Netflix so much I want to marry it. And what I love best is not only can I -- shamelessly -- bring "Bubble Boy" home any time I want, I can keep him as long as I like.

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Object Lust subjects are chosen solely on the discretion -- and unabashed enthusiasm -- of the writer. No product manufacturers are paying for this feature.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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