Sunday, December 01, 2013

Oops…Should have held onto my VHS player.

I'm having belated second thoughts about having gotten rid of my clunky dust-magnet VHS player and the massively heavy monitor. It seemed a good idea at the time, when I lugged them to the electronics recycling depot last year. My logic was that, from now on, anything I wanted to watch would be available on DVD. My second assumption was that, if I ever wanted to watch a VHS tape, I could find somebody else's place to watch it. Wrong on both counts.

DVD's on a protected shelf
There's a funny story about a couple who offered to assist a burglar in carrying their stuff out to his van, if he'd take their VHS tape collection, too. This didn't seem so far fetched when I arrived at the holding shelves of the Vancouver Central Library to pick up the only copy, on VHS, of an obscure mid-nineties NFB documentary called "Just Watch Me" about the dream, during the Trudeau years, of a bilingual Canada. Trudeau 1.0, that is.

VHS tapes might someday enjoy a vinyl-style revival. But my first surprise was that they currently don't seem to warrant much respect. I borrow DVD's frequently, and the Holds department keeps them protected by the barrier of the librarian's desk.  I assumed my VHS was being held back there, too. But she pointed me to the open shelves, where the honour system rules. I guess experience has shown that unscrupulous patrons give in to the temptation to grab somebody else's reserved DVD. However my VHS tape, like the books, was shielded by nothing more than an elastic and a slip of paper with my name on it.  
No need to protect a VHS

A much bigger surprise came when I walked my tape over to the Information Desk for directions to one of the library's public-access VHS players and monitors. They have acres of public-access computers, but my question stumped her (not an easy thing to do with someone in her position). She spent some time on the phone confirming that I was out of luck. "Our family is holding onto our VHS system in our crawl space," she commented. But I don't think that this was the offer of a loan. 

The Central Library loans VHS tapes,
but has nowhere to watch them
So now I have till December 22 to find a spot where I can watch my documentary. As someone interested in the impact of rapid technological change, it is an intriguing challenge.

If I don't resolve this dilemma within 3 weeks, I'll try to renew the VHS. Theoretically, this won't be an issue, since the poor thing has not even proven itself to be DVD-worthy. But,if somebody else has requested it, the library won't let me keep it for another round. However, if someone else wants to borrow it, won't that mean that I've stumbled across a kindred spirit? That would mean there are TWO of us in Western Canada who are still, 45 years later, working on the Quixotic plan to become bilingual for philosophical reasons! Maybe that next borrower will let me come over and watch it at their place.