Friday, March 25, 2011
Death Valley II: Is that a gun in your pocket or... oh, it is?
Finally, the day arrived for my departure. Leaving Amynah with Sana and her uncle’s baby-blue minivan, I swapped the baby seat for my backpack, booted Raffi out of the CD player and replaced him with some AC/DC and hit the highway for Las Vegas, where Jon and I were to rendez vous.
Our plans for our one night were pretty mild, given that we were far more anxious to enjoy Death Valley to its fullest than we were to
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…and then I fell asleep, head spinning, clutching the twenty five cents I’d won like it was a teddy bear.
The next morning, after an excellent breakfast at a shady off-strip casino that apparently had a Western Buckaroo theme, yet had decorated its main dining room with paintings depicting the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie between British and American naval vessels. Those martial scenes got us in the mood for the last activity we had on our Vegas itinerary before heading to Death Valley.
That’s right, boys and girls, Jon and I shot some guns.
This was entirely Jon’s idea, but I won’t pretend I wasn’t happy to go along with it. Jon had spent some time in Canada’s military reserves in an artillery unit, and apparently had a hankering to revisit the glory days of pretending to blow things up. Vegas has a sin for every taste, and so we made our way to the imaginatively names “Gun Store.” After parking my Honda Civic between a jacked-up pickup truck and another jacked-up pickup truck, we made our way to the entrance, passing a couple of enormous gentlemen whose stetsons and sideburns were locked in mortal combat over which would earn the honor of being their hosts’ dominant head furniture. They in turn, were gawking at a Las Vegas city cab pulling up to the front of the store.
“That’s a cab” one observed. “What the hell?”
“Who the f*** takes a taxi to a gun store?” said the other, clearly affronted.
Always curious about the social mores of different cultures, I was going to turn and ask why one wouldn’t take a cab to a gun store, but was saved from a probably embarrassing faux pas by a female voice.
“You boys looking to shoot today?”
“Uh, yeah,” said Jon. I turned from my investigation of Gun Store transportation etiquette to behold a pair of pulchritudinous young women in extremely tight t-shirts manning the welcome booth outside the store. They beckoned us over, and leaned over their table to show us their guns.
Pointing to the helpful diagrams on the counter, they explained that the store had a large variety of weaponry one could rent, ranging from modern combat weapons to “The Dirty Harry.” You could also rent “packages” – the “Coalition Package” of three or four assault weapons from different NATO countries, or the “U.S. Military Package” of their army’s weapons (one of which looked like it should have been mounted atop a tank).
“There’s also the World War II Package, of historical weapons,” the blonde girl said, adding non-judgmentally “if you’re into the Nazi thing.”
Jon, being into the whole HOLY CRAP DEFINITELY NOT A NAZI thing, rented a vintage gun from the British Army (also used by Canadian troops in WWII and, for all I know, still is today).
I stepped up to the booth, looked the blonde straight in the eye (not easy) and said, “Look, I’ve never fired a gun in my life. I’m looking for something really simple. Also, you should know I have girly wrists,” flapping my hands by way of illustration.
“Uh…” said our hostess while Jon stifled a laugh. Behind me, I heard a sideburn bristle menacingly.
Recovering, blondie recommended a gun whose name I forget but contained a bunch of the more macho consonants (in case you’re wondering: X, T and K are macho. L, H, F are not. Y was for a while until it was outed as a closet vowel, which are totally not macho).
Our menu selections complete, we entered the store, at which point we were signed our release forms (In signing this document, I recognize that guns are dangerous, as are the fumes, the noise, the bullets emanating from them, as are other Gun Store customers, and so I hereby release the proprietors and staff from any liability. I further affirm that I did not take a taxi to this Gun Store). We were then invited to pick our targets, which ranged from generic bulls-eyes, to images of Osama Bin Laden, to zombies. There was also a pair of brown guys holding handguns that I guess were supposed to be terrorists, but were dressed like average North American dudes, and were even depicted with friendly smiles on their faces. They could have been customers of the Gun Store, if the Gun Store existed in a parallel universe in whcih it had non-white customers. Maybe they were supposed to be taxi drivers? Slightly creeped out by the options, Jon and I selected generic targets without faces, and were handed our clips and told to wait.
Eventually, it was our turn to be ushered onto the range. We donned our ear covers and eye protection, and took our places. Jeff, our range instructor, started with Jon – loading the gun for him, placing each of his hands on the weapon, and telling him how long to squeeze the trigger.
Of course, Jon had only paid for fifty rounds, and the Tommie gun is an automatic rifle. It is designed to shoot quickly. Jon paid $70 bucks for this experience, and did not want to shoot quickly. Yes, he rented an automatic rifle in order to shoot slowly. This is why he is my friend.
Jeff: You have to hold the trigger down, for at least four rounds.
Jon: Ok (Rat-tat!)
Jeff: Ok, good – but you have to hold the trigger longer.
Jon: Sure! (Rat-tat!)
Jeff: Ok, aim a little lower, and really, hold the trigger longer. Four rounds.
Jon: Right! (Rat-tat!)
Jeff: You’re going to jam the gun.
After Jon’s Tommie reluctantly expectorated the last of his rounds, I was up. I will be honest – I was nervous as all get out, and had been trembling slightly ever since we set foot in the store. Just holding a gun was getting my adrenaline pumping, which was not helped by the fact that I kept getting hit by hot shells waiting for Jon to finish mangling his paper target.
In any case, I had two clips of ten rounds to work my way through. My first shot came closer to the target adjacent to mine that what I was aiming at. I think my second shot hit the floor before reaching the target. My third shot probably alarmed the target quite a bit as it whistled by into the sand pile on the rear wall. The next few shots hit more or less on the paper, but never within a foot of where I thought I was pointing the gun. This I will blame on the aforementioned girly wrists.
For the second clip, Jeff explained how I was supposed to line up the sight. “You see the white dot? That should line up right in the center.”
“Uh, yeah,” I said. That was a lie. I didn’t see a white dot. My heart was pounding so much, my vision had gone blurry, even with my glasses on. Nonetheless, I fired off the next ten shots with much greater accuracy, but I have to say, I cannot imagine being able to operate one of those things effectively if I was actually trying to hit something that could move, let alone shoot back at me. Of course, I was slightly distracted by the pair of sideburns firing an anti-aircraft gun in the booth next to mine.
We took our targets as souvenirs, and exited the store, passing a giddy woman with a pink M-16 and an Osama target on our way out. Suitably pumped up, we climbed back into the Civic (which had stayed nice and cool in the Vegas heat, thanks to the shade cast by the neighbouring monster-trucks), and hit the road for Death Valley.