Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quicksand Rifle

Tarzan (1932) trapped in a quicksand bog
  Growing up in the '70s and '80s, TV (all 3 channels plus PBS) showed a lot of reruns of shows like Lassie, Superman, The Lone Ranger, and Tarzan.  Genuine, black & white staples of our diet.  Bad acting with genuinely absurd plotlines and near-impossible solutions based on completely wild assumptions.  I can just imagine sweaty, BCG-wearing, chain-smoking, sweaty writers brainstorming at the 11th hour trying to decide a plot.  They wanted to get home to their failing marriages, the AC broke-down last week and they have to come up with just one more plot for the season: a throwaway filler-story with some peril in it.  Black cups of 5-hour-old percolated from a Hills Brother's Coffee can now empty, it tastes lukewarm and stale like their series is becoming.  There is little doubt the show won't be taken-on for another season.  A transaction might have gone something like this:

"Hey, Joe.  We got the hero gettin' the bad guy but we need a twist!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
(long, draw from a Lucky Strike then discarded in a way-too-overfull ashtray)
(the night air is as stagnant as their ideas and offers no reprieve.  No moon.  Distant sound of cars 5 stories below, civilians going out to jazz clubs or something better.  They just want to go home and crash for the weekend.)
"How about we give him a dilemma where he has to choose between his trusty sidekick or capturing the villain?"
"What, you mean like he's tied to some train tracks or somethin'?"
"Yeah, yeah.. but.. we've already done that twice."
"Think the kids'll notice?"
"Oh, they'd notice all right."

(long pause, frustrated)
"Hey, you remember that African safari movie?"
"Sure, kinda a bomb, really."
"Yeah, but remember the jungle scene?"
"It was all a jungle scene, idiot!"
"Yeah, but remember.. the quicksand?!"
(dawning reality)
"The quick sand..."
(furious typing on an old Olympia Deluxe)

  And there it was.  Sidekick had to be saved from quicksand.  This pitfall was everywhere, seemingly.  Every show had at least one scene in the series where someone was affected by quicksand.  It lurked everywhere, usually unmarked for some reason, even though the savior of the victim might even have time to mention, "..and we really should put up a sign so people aren't affected by this incredibly dangerous quicksand!"  Honestly, sometimes a sign was up, but it was the size of a 45 rpm record sleeve, usually rusty, and either fallen to the ground and covered with inconvenient leaves or facing the lake or some other impossible angle so no one could heed it, and sure enough, someone, anyone, would get trapped in quicksand.

  Growing up, by age five I kept an incredible, hawk-like watchful eye for quicksand in Methuen, Massachusetts.  Turns out this was rather silly.  Doing some research, there actually is a little area near Rhode Island that has some, and Michigan and Florida as well as the Carolinas have a good amount here and there, but it's generally only a foot or two deep, as the underground river that creates it isn't a freakin' subterranean Amazon and more like a little brook, so even if you do get caught up in it, you could walk out with only a little trouble in the same way if your foot went ker-squish into a muddy swamp and the boot got stuck a bit.  The TV show Mythbusters did a rather good job explaining it as well.

  So there was really no need to worry, even as a 5 year old kid.  Quicksand wasn't everywhere, you didn't immediately sink up to your waist then slowly drown.  Just a lot of hype.  Very, very few people have died via "killer quicksand" and almost none in the US ever.   A bit of a wasted effort.

  My point also goes towards gun ownership.  Most people I know have "protection" firearms, but I've known, nor heard of anyone ever needing to "protect" their homes from a break-in.  Being a ninja, most thieves prefer no human contact if there's any skullduggery to be accomplished.  A thief wants to perform the least amount of effort for the most reward.  It's in their way of thinking.  It's their mantra.  Why, you ask?  Well, it's because if they weren't lazy, the wouldn't have to steal because they'd be hard-working and not need anyone's junk to pawn or fence.  They want things easy-peasy.  In and out.  Gone in a flash.  Zip, gone.  They'd usually only encounter someone by mistake and want to leave, using force only if they're trapped, like a large Rocky Mountain Lion in a corner, then they'll put up an escape fight, just like a neeeeenja would.

  Case in point, I was once at a neighbor's for 5 minutes discussing something about drums when I came back to my garage to go in through the door there.  I had left my cars in said "carriage house" as well as the garage door open as it was my primary means of ingress into the domicile.  Anyway, behind my TransAm against the back wall was suddenly a ducking-down ebony fellow about 6 foot something.  My other neighbor offered to get a shotgun (obviously without thinking as the drywall would suffer for it as well as my car in its random spray-pattern, choke or not). 

Turns out Martin stole the Skittles.  Huh.  Nice drug dealer.

I casually said, "Hey, bud.  What's up?"
(he kept hid)
Amused, I offered, "You lookin' for somethin'?"
(he slowly popped up, cornered)
"I uh.. is this house 8245?"
"Nope.  I think you got the wrong place."
"Oh, it's not 7292?"
"Nah, I guess you should probably get goin' now."
(long pause)
(I back up graciously, giving him lots of room)
(He comes around from the car, nothing in his hands, which was nice)
(He walks around the car, gets to the garage door and quickly walks to a waiting car driven by a woman where they take off).

  My neighbors were confused why I didn't call the police, try to murder him, etc.  Well, honestly, I don't need a murder rap on my clearance paperwork, justified or not.  He wasn't stealing anything yet.  Probably lookin' around for something of value, but aside from the cars and a few tools there really wasn't much there.  Is a life worth a Kobalt socket-wrench?  I think not.  Even if he stole it, heck, he can have it.  I have ten bucks.  I can get another.  I'm not wealthy but a life is worth more than ten bucks (usually).  Perhaps my mercy will have him reconsider his path.

  I've told this tale a few times to some friends and they are concerned why I don't have a .50 caliber Desert Eagle or some Walter PPK James-Bond weapon or something of the such.  I do recently own a compound bow for target shooting, but I would never consider it as "home defense".  I don't live in fear.  I've lived a full life and I'm good.  The "song of my people" ask at a funeral, "Did he have passion in Life?"  If the answer is "yes" then there is no sorrow.  I lived with passion, and I've seen things and done great things and lived a full life.  If I get stationed at New York City Penitentiary to rescue the President (not this current one, mind you) and the Plutoxin 7 virus is involved, you can bet I'll be fully loaded.  I've trained on firearms in the USAF (like Snake Plissken) and I know how to maintain them too.  Oooo.  Note* I shoot better at Roosky targets.  Just sayin.

 So the argument then arises, "Well, what about Becky?  How are you to protect her?"  She'd also prefer I not have a gun.  Well, it's kinda like quicksand.  The odds of being killed by a psychotic maniac randomly are pretty slim.    So is being struck by lightning, meteor strikes, Tasmanian devils burrowing upwards from the ground, dynamite, ninja strikes, nukes, etc.  Guess it's possible, but can you really guard against these things?  It's the wet-dream-fantasy of every gun owner to be able to be ready, steady and protect their family with Mr. Gun.  The logistics are not there, however.  Being groggy, grabbing for a pistol, rifle, etc., aiming at a still-waiting shadow in the hallway (conveniently) and taking out your assailant is near impossible.  Seriously.  To be that alert in-time that the psycho killer is caught unaware and you get the jump on him when all his senses have been heightened by whatever drugs he's on for the last 2 hours to your 8 second drunken-sleep-stupor is impossible, even if you're a biathlete, let alone aim and shoot well enough that no one else gets hurt.  Your drywall will suffer and pieces of assailant will be everywhere.  Any female in your house will never feel safe there ever again, no matter what, so you'll have to move.  You'll have to sleep with the ambivalent knowledge that you saved your family, and you're a murderer forever.  I've known people who have killed.  I've worked with the British SAS and other organizations.  They don't relish the past, hero or not.  It's sad for them at best, and they make it matter-of-fact, an albatross they carry woefully for all time.  Even the SAS admit it's near impossible despite training to be able to one-up a burglar when you just wake up without collateral damage of family.  You're fooling yourself with a Linus Security Blanket if you think otherwise.  Life isn't like the movies.  Good luck with that lie you tell yourself (unless you're a Navy Seal specializing in disoriented combat for 20 years, then, well, you're pretty awesome).

"Escape" brand personal lightning rod.  Actual.

  I'm not against guns, I just see no practical use for them in the same way I don't see a practical use for wearing a lightning rod to protect me from potential strikes.  Indeed, having one might even attract lightning or some such eventuality.  That which you fear the most will meat you half way, you know.  You'll will it to exist.  Karma's a funny thing, that.  There are firearms hobbyists, sure, and they have a place in the world lest we all speak Russian.  Being prior military they're a necessary evil, but the evil must be weighed, and in an incident when you have to decide in a flash the scales don't have time to settle, and a life is lost at a minimum, if not a few.  For what?  $10?  The odds of a mob attacking a home are the same as if Ganymede were to leave Jupiter's grasp and plummet into Australia.  How long could you hold-out?  You think you'd be the hero?  Unlikely.  Lots of blood, and you'd be likely dead, and have a drywall bill on top of your coffin.  If Dr.Crazy comes to your door, I recommend ADT or pepper-spray, the former is a button-press that summons police (in my area) in 90 seconds.  Happened twice on accident.  Such summoning also comes with 120 db of soul-jarring sirens, alerting the whole street something's up.  If some madman can keep calm and murder during all that chaos, a tip of the hat to him, and bra-vo. 

  When you draw a gun, you up the ante.  You're not sure if it's a thief or a murderer, the latter extremely rare like winning the lottery but in reverse.    The thief's life is now in extreme jeopardy when as before he was not.  He meant no ill-will except for some quick gain financially, something small, maybe a little jewelry at best if he's lucky, perhaps a few DVDs to quick-sell on eBay?  Now he's gonna die.  This really upsets said thief and now things are gonna get crazy and he might actually have  a pistol as well and now it's a showdown.  Even if he misses you, the stray bullet might hit someone behind you, like your daughter or dog or whatever. 

How the film Gravity should have ended.

  You might take him down but ultimately it's your fault because he was just going to escape and you made him go to those extremes.  Well, we can argue this is not the case, that it was his fault by being there at all, but eventually it'll bug you.  Eventually, that reality will be bipartisan and both are truths and you'll try to ignore it and the blood will never come out of the carpet from both people.  It's a lot to think about.  A lot.  No easy choices, but I had made mine.  If that garage thief had a .38 Special waiting for me as a last-ditch effort escape-plan, things would be different.  With the cards presented, I let him fold.  Would you?

Guy in Detroit buys actual tank for home protection.  Overkill?  Perhaps.  Detroit?  Hm.

Happy Thanksgiving, and stay away from that "quicksand".

Enjoy the Day of Armageddon of my People!

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