Record Store Blues

This may seem weird, but stay with me. You know how everyone bitches and moans about how difficult it is to get CDs out of their cellophane and sticker prison? It may be hard to believe, because God knows I bitch and moan about everything else, but I don’t complain about that. Why not? Because I don’t think it’s hard; in fact, I think it’s fun.

The great tragedy of my switch from purchasing CDs to digital downloads is that I don’t get to open CDs anymore. This actually leads me to offer to open CDs for other people (but not perfect strangers, I’m not that crazy). But since every person I’ve made that offer to hates opening CDs, I’ve never been turned down.

I learned the Great Secret to Opening CDs many years ago, while working at a record store. I worked at the store for most of my breaks when I was in college. When I started, the store was called The Wall, but a change in corporate ownership early in my time there led to a rebranding as Record Town and then FYE. I don’t know if The Wall was a national chain or not, but it had two really cool features. The first was the ability to listen before you buy. You could bring any CD in the store to a sales associate and we’d open it, pop the disc in the CD player, and set you up at one of the listening stations. And that, you see, is where I learned the Great Secret to Opening CDs.

(Incidentally, the other really cool feature was The Wall’s Lifetime Music Guarantee. We put a sticker on the cellophane wrapper of every CD we sold and the idea was that the customer would attach the sticker to the jewel case. If the CD became damaged in some way, just bring the CD with the bestickered jewel case back to the store and we’d gladly replace it. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I went back to the store where I worked, which is still a FYE, and asked them to honor The Wall’s guarantee. I’d bet that none of the employees have any idea that their store used to be The Wall, and a third the size it is now, but I do.)

In a lot of ways, working in a record store was an ideal job for me. But my store became less and less fun each time I went back. There was some kind of magic that first summer, when we were still The Wall and we hadn’t been corporate’d to death. Plus, the people I worked with that first summer were pretty damn awesome. Most of them were still there when I went back at Christmas, but we had a new, uber-corporate manager and new restrictions on what music we could play in the store. Plus, we were Record Town. At least once a shift, some middle-aged dude would feel compelled to take me to task for the store’s name while I was ringing him up. “Gee, you’re the first person to notice that we sell CDs, not vinyl; aren’t you clever?” My usual response was that, in my world, a “record” was a collection of songs, not a format.

In case you’ve read this far, hoping that I’ll let you in on the Great Secret to Opening CDs, I have some bad news: I won’t. I’m not trying to be an asshole, but it really is fun for me; I don’t want to lose the opportunity to open other people’s CDs. Plus, it’s actually ridiculously easy and I don’t want to ruin the trick. People wouldn’t be so impressed with my skill if they knew how easy it is.

Until tomorrow.

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