The Ghost of Cain

It’s a cold Thursday afternoon and I’m at the gun range. But this time my usual shooting buddy isn’t with me. There’ll be no good-natured banter. No burgers and beers afterwards. I’m here to learn how to kill.

“Ready?” the instructor, an old ex-marine, asks.

A small .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol is holstered on my belt with a round in the chamber. When I thumbed the bullets into the magazine earlier I couldn’t help but notice how they felt like big, heavy pendants in the palm of my hand. By themselves they are nothing, little brass and lead curiosities that cost eighty-five cents a piece. But when they explode out of a gun and are headed your way they become everything.

“Ready,” I reply.

Picking a plastic training pistol off the counter the instructor says, “Okay. We’re gonna do some of that shooting from the hip stuff I showed you. Come here.”

I walk over to the instructor. He abruptly grabs me by the shirt and shoves the plastic gun into my gut.

“Gunfights aren’t what you see in the movies, kid,” the instructor says, his breath so hot against my cheek I can tell what he had for lunch. “They’re dirty, nasty and personal. Get it?’

Taken aback, I can’t speak. But as I look into the instructor’s eyes I know I’m peering into the soul of a man who’s taken lives. He’s heard bullets whip crack past his head and watched villages burn. People have tried to kill him and he has killed. This man bears the Mark of Cain.

“When somebody attacks you they’ll probably be this close,” the instructor rasps. “You’ll have to fire point blank into him.” Feeling the fake gun pressing into my navel I reflexively suck my stomach in, trying to make myself a smaller target. But if this were the real thing I’d have no chance.

“But when a gun goes off this close,” the instructor says, “The bullet won’t be the only thing that screws the bad guy up. The flames’ll go into him too. The gasses will blow his flesh open. His blood will be everywhere – on you, the gun, everywhere. It’ll be a mess. He’ll scream. It’ll be awful.”

“Jesus,” I mutter. “What about shooting him in the shoulder or something?”

“When it goes down you’ll probably be off guard,” the ex-marine says. “You’ll be so scared your vision will tunnel. Your hands will shake. You’ll have the motor skills of a three year old and you’ll probably piss yourself and take a dump the same time. There’s no time for sharpshooting. Stick it in his belly and pull the trigger.”

Prior to this private lesson I’ve only shot guns for fun and relaxation. But now I’m not relaxed. I’m jumpy and nervous. Imagining burnt bits of someone’s intestines on my hands is not my idea of a good time. I want to go home. But I instinctively realize why the instructor’s giving me all those gory details. He’s doing his job. He’s training me. He’s acclimatizing me.

“Okay,” the instructor says, pulling the plastic gun out of my stomach. “Let’s go.”

I walk into the gun port. Hanging two feet in front of my face is a paper target with the vital areas of the human body mapped out.

“Now you’re firing an auto,” the instructor says. “So if you really stick it into a guy’s stomach you could knock the slide out of battery. So when you clear the gun from your holster tuck it in close to your side and let off three rounds. Just like I showed you. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Watch your muzzle. I don’t want you shooting yourself.”

I gulp and shake my head in the affirmative

“Wait for my command,” the instructor says.

I take a deep breath. I can’t believe I’m doing this. What possessed me?

“GO!”

My hand flies to my pistol. Once it clears the holster I rotate the barrel towards the target and fire three rounds from the hip. I don’t hear the noise or feel the recoil. The only outside sensation that makes it into my brain is the smell of gunpowder. But in my mind I’m not seeing a paper target. I’m seeing a flesh and blood man trying to kill me. And as my bullets rip his flesh open a shadow deep inside my soul suddenly roars.

“Not bad,” the instructor says. “You got him in the spine and the left lung.”

I don’t say anything and holster the pistol. I’m shaking. Frightened.

The instructor knows what’s up. Putting a hand on my shoulder he gently whispers. “You’re a good person, Steve. I know you. You deserve to live. Him?” he says glancing at the blasted target. “He does not. ”

I feel my eyes well up. I trust this old man. There’s no bravado about him. No swaggering cowboy machismo. Underneath his clipped speech and gruff manner sadness flows within him like dark, impenetrable river. He has seen things I’ve never seen. He’s done things I’ve never done. And he’s paid a very high price for being who he is.

We finish our session and I go home. I’m fine in the car but the moment I get into my apartment I start tearing up again. When I visualized that someone was trying to kill me it was so anathema to my being that when I started shooting I exploded with incandescent rage. I don’t want to go out that way. I want to be here. Training to kill ironically reminded me how very much I want to live. I have books to write, places to go, experiences to savor. And somewhere, hidden amongst a sea of faces, the love of my life is waiting. It’s then I realize what the shadow was. It was the Ghost of Cain. And he roared a terrifying truth – sometimes the terrible thing is the right thing.

“You’re a good person and you deserve to live,” I say aloud, my words echoing through my empty apartment. I silently pray that will always be the case.


Comments

The Ghost of Cain — 127 Comments

  1. You’re gone for a month and then a very intense post about going to the gun range for something cathartic… WTF happened to you? Were the holidays really that bad?

  2. I just realized in the last week that there has been a major shift in me. I’ve realized that I could kill someone who tried to hurt me or my children and it would not bother me. Many years ago, I was face to face with an ex, messed up on a mix of anti-depressants and who knows what he’d bought on the street. He had a loaded shotgun. I had the t-shirt and panties I was wearing. Somehow, I got in his face, said the right things, startled him and got him to back off. He went outside, I called 911, he broke down the door while I was on the phone, then finally ended up going outside to wait to be arrested. That night I first felt the shift.

    Since then, I have lost most of the little fears that held me back. I have no care for anyone who would hurt me or my family.

    If this is the Mark of Cain, then I have learned to welcome it.

  3. To put number #4′s concerns to rest, I’m not in the midst of a post Christmas psychotic episode. All is well. Just something that got stirred up in me (Actually a while back) and I it just struck me to write about it tonight.

    Very busy with my book! Deadlines. Not a whole lot of time for other stuff. Be well all.

  4. And he’s lived through his experiences, those things that made him the man you see. And he’s passing on those skills that kept him alive to you. Cherish that gift.

  5. sorry, but, having been brought up in that culture, and also having a job as a server/bartender, you have to kill or be killed. weather(sp?) it’s waiting tables (i.e. getting the upper hand on a 10% asshole,) or if it’s making sure that you live and they don’t, you have to make sure you go home at the end of the night, safe, sound, secure. No regrets? damned right. no remorse, well…, there are times i wish i had…………

  6. I’ve never quite understood how someone can pick up a gun and not contemplate it’s intended purpose. Sure, it’s fun and challenging to shoot. But if you are going to shoot, you should remember what it means if you ever have to pull that trigger to protect you and yours.

  7. You might want to consider renaming this website. I’m not saying you’re a bad writer, and I’m not saying Waiter Rant wasn’t fun while it lasted, but lets face it: your stories have absolutely nothing to do with the primes of this website. The people who come to read stories to the primes of “Waiter Rant” are not satisfied reading this stuff. Its like being lured in with a lie so that you can get people to read over dramatic snippets about your life that they wouldn’t otherwise read.

    I love over dramatic. David Sedaris is amazing. But he’s comical. You’re dark. And I mean, a lot of this over dramatic stuff about life and death could really be done without. You are a good writer, but don’t put over dramatic life stories on a blog about waiting tables. I should have unsubscribed a long time ago.

    I mean no disrespect. I bought and loved your book. But this blog has run its course and its time to let go.

  8. SO beautiful…so very sad…so many things come back to me while reading your story…oh, what a world. What a world. It’s just too big for me, and I have to trust God.

    Happy that you are well, as far as that goes.

    What a gift you have. Thanks for sharing.

  9. New to this website, and I haven’t been able to stop reading the archives! I very much enjoy the posts, as well as the additional perspectives from the comments from both waiters and patrons.

    Having said that, and given that you are short on time, I was wondering if you might start a post regarding whether/how/to what extent waiters (and bartenders and others in the service industry) remember good and bad tippers, and how that affects their future service to customers. I typically tip 30% to 50% on everything (and can’t remember the last time I tipped below 20-25% even for the crummiest service). At restaurants and bars, I usually put the tip on my credit card since I don’t carry around cash; do people look at the receipt and make a “mental note” of the amount a particular patron tipped?

    Also I often dine in larger groups, and we’ll get split checks a lot. I happen to know some of my friends are terribly cheap (something a few seem almost proud of, sadly), so I’ll overcompensate to make up for them shortchanging the waiter. Would such waiter typically distinguish between the good and bad tippers at that table in the future? Or would I get lumped in with the cheapskates?!

    If someone is remembered as a good or bad tipper, does that affect how they are served in the future? Does attitude matter at all? (Interestingly, at a salon I attend on a weekly basis, always tipping ~35+%, and have a friendly relationship with all the staff since I’m there so much, they last week begged me to bump my reservation since they double-booked and the other person scheduled in my spot was “really high maintainence”… they thanked me profusely for being so accommodating, and I said it was no big deal since I could tell they felt really bad… and still tipped 35%… but I did kind of feel like “I’m being punished for *not* being a diva/bitch?”).

    Sorry, I know this is totally unrelated to the original post, but this is the most recent active thread! I think this site does a great job not just providing a place to vent, but also as an educational forum. I’ve learned quite a few things about how the restaurant business functions. Anyway, I’d be greatly interested in any insights here or in a separate thread if you feel like it! Otherwise, I’ll continue making my way through the archives… and will look forward to buying the book!

  10. Guns are horrible!!Why are you even bringing that into your life?

    Why, in case someone else tries to bring a gun into my life. Not having a gun in such a situation would not make me a better person –it would make me a deader person.

  11. You haven’t lost your edge with writing. It’s amazing that you can still be so riveting. This medium suits you extremely well.

  12. Hannah-Moon… if you don’t want to read the posts, unsubscribe. I still love reading anything “Waiter” wants to write.

  13. Wow Steve, that was a bit out there…
    Do you have any reason to believe that you might have to shoot someone to protect yourself? Although I have though ‘what if’ I don’t think I ever see the likelihood of having to face down an armed assailant.

  14. Guns are horrible!!Why are you even bringing that into your life?

    People can be killed by pushing em out a window. “Let’s outlaw windows!” Say the anti gun Mac Obama Wackos.

  15. “You are a good writer, but don’t put over dramatic life stories on a blog about waiting tables. I should have unsubscribed a long time ago.”

    I understand the person’s point about the disconnect between dramatic life stories and a blog about waiting tables. However, these are well-written, powerful stories. I hope you’ll continue writing and sharing them, if not in this venue, then elsewhere.

    There’s a John Lennon quote I unfortunately can’t find, something to the effect of his not wanting to still be singing “She Loves You” when he was forty. The point being, people grow and change. Unfortunately, there’s a core audience which still wants to hear “She Loves You” and will complain when anything else is played.

  16. Waiter, I very much like your “posts from the range,” but I feel the urge to point out that you loaded “cartidges” or “rounds” in the gun, not “bullets.” Keep them coming!

  17. Those of you who are criticizing this post need to open up your minds and read it again. It’s actually a very beautiful piece of literature. Thank you Steve.

  18. All right then, let’s have it. How much did you tip him? And what is the protocol for tipping one’s gunfighting instructor? Is the gratuity based on a percentage of his fee? Or is a function of the number of threats of death or serious bodily harm received by the student?

    I considered briefly that it might be based on the number of ammunition rounds expended during the training session. I quickly abandoned that idea upon the realization that doing so might skew the manner in which the lesson is taught.

    Perhaps the best criteria to determine how much to tip for this service would be to base it upon how effective the instruction was when the anticipated threat actually materialized and was successfully dealt with. Awkwardly, however, that puts the tip off in a possible future.

    So how much did you finally tip and how did you decide?

  19. Steve, I’m so glad to hear that you weren’t mugged or battered or attacked.

    @Brice: Exactly. A rifle is one thing, a handgun is another. A handgun made for one purpose: to use against a human (yes, I know there are target shooters, but be honest)

    @Sara in PDX: Guns are what you make of them. They’re a tool like anything else. I know a lot of people who keep guns in their offices, not because they’re looking to hurt someone, but because they have to deal with people who might want to hurt them.

    @Hannah-Moon: The site was set up by a waiter who writes. Steve may not currently be waiting tables, but he still writes, and he usually centers his posts on waiting and service industry jobs. If you don’t like it, start your own. There are a lot of us who still enjoy following it.

    @Joan of Argghh!: Nail on the head.

    @henry: A commandment handed down to the Israelites who then went in and slaughtered most of the indigenous dwellers in what is currently Israel/Palestine. That war’s been going on for nearly 3,000 years.

    Steve, please take care of yourself.

  20. Another good post! Thank you.

    As an NRA Pistol Instructor let me recommend the following courses: first, the NRA’s “Personal Protection in the Home.” and “Personal Protection Outside the Home.” Those teach you more than just shooting while stationary.

    #27 Henry: Learn the difference between King James English (“Thou shalt not kill”) and modern English (“Do not murder.”) Something tells me that you don’t use King James English regularly. The meaning of the word “kill” has changed over the centuries. When the translators of the King James Bible spoke of people killing in self defense or in warfare, they used the word “slay” not kill.

    Finally, let me pick a nit: your instructor is a former Marine. The only ex-Marine is Lee Harvey Oswald. All others are former Marines.

    Again, good post!

  21. Hortony: what a perfectly STOOPID comparison! Of course you can kill someone by pushing them out of a window, but that’s not the intended use for windows. The intended use for a gun, however, is killing, plain and simple. This is not to say that I’m against responsible people owning guns, because I’m not. But if you’re going to make an argument, try to make an intelligent one.

    Good post, Waiter. Kind of rough to read, but interesting change of pace.

  22. [i]“Thou shall not kill” not thou shall not kill unless you have too.[/i]

    Love it when ppl bring this up when the topic of guns comes up. Nothing like quoting a commandment from a religion that’s killed many millions of people for not worshiping the same invisible man that they do.

    [i]Guns are horrible!!Why are you even bringing that into your life?[/i]

    People are horrible, not guns. There are many ways people kill each other, guns are just one of them and very effective.

    I have no problem with killing someone that’s trying to harm me, my family, or my friends. When they made the decision to do that, they made the decision to die. I would help other people who are too young or old to properly defend themselves. But any able bodied adult I wouldn’t use my gun to protect and put myself at risk. Living in the US, if they decide not to take advantage of the freedoms the 2nd amendment affords us, then they have decided to be a victim.

  23. 1) If you want a one demensional character….don’t get mad at the blog…go read a kid’s book. I hear Cinderella is good.

    2) Guns were created for war. I have no issue with responsible people owning one, however I spook easily. I would freak and end up shooting my cat in the middle of the night. Ergo…I do not have one.

  24. Why did you feel like you needed to learn how to defend yourself? It seems like you’re being stalked by someone, or threatened. Are you in immediate harm/danger? I dunno. That’s just what I got from your blog.

  25. John Sandford watch out!

    He is my most very favorite “action” write. And you have a unique voice that comes out in these short narratives … yes Waiter, you are good. Keep trying out these new experiences and writing about the good, bad, and the ugly.

  26. Gee Steve, could you come and scare my family into behaving better? nah, just kidding, sigh. I hope 2010 is good for you. Thanks for the story. When you didn’t post i just assumed you were having a crazy busy, deliriously happy holiday, but…?

  27. I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to kill another human being. I don’t have the slightest doubt that I could do it if me or mine were in danger. To try to comprehend what it would feel like to live with that sort of act and I can’t. The boys who come home from overseas live with that every day. A haunting of the sole I’m betting. Great post.

  28. Am I the only one who got really freaked out when the instructor unexpectedly pulled a ‘practice’ gun on a student armed with a REAL gun? Seems like the kind of instructional technique that would occasionally get the instructor shot.

    Also, the story gives the impression that the author’s first time “firing from the hip” was with live ammo. You’d think extensive practice with an unloaded weapon would have preceded this session.

    All in all, the apparent gun safety violations completely distracted me from the author’s intended narrative. I kept wanting to yell “STOP! That’s just not safe!”

  29. Pingback: You’re a Good Person and You Deserve to Live | The Minority Report

  30. Yo Steve….I’m pretty sure you have been busy, but did you forget about your loyal fans? Too busy to post a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” message????? That’s pretty lame…..forgetting your roots and all. It don’t take that long to post a little something….even a “I’m really busy but wanted to wish all my fans a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” message is the least you could do.

    Still….I keep checking to see if you’ve posted something. I do enjoy the site…..even if it is anemic and gloomy.

  31. Thanks, Steve, for your #6 response; while this piece was good writing, I was really afraid that something had happened to you to make you want to go seek instruction on how to use a gun to kill (albeit in self-defense).

    I have to agree with Dennis (#49) – I was very surprised not to have seen a holiday message from you to your fan base. Kinda worried me. I can appreciate you being busy, and knowing that you’re working on another book means less posting, but a couple minutes to wish us “merry” wouldn’t have taken so much time.

    Having said that, I wish you Happy New Year – wishing lots of love, laughter, health, wealth and success!

  32. To 35:

    “Finally, let me pick a nit: your instructor is a former Marine. The only ex-Marine is Lee Harvey Oswald. All others are former Marines.”

    DON’T FORGET MURTHA. He’s been disavowed and does not deserve the respect of being a former Marine.

  33. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    Remember Steve, muzzle control!

  34. Welcome back,Waiter. I didn’t fully understand the power of the gun until my first visit to the firing range. Sobering experience.

  35. I agree with Persephone and Don :) my BIL is a former Marine

    I also learned from a LEO friend that while they do practice shooting, the idea is a “body/torso” shot to most effectively disable a bad person.

    Have shot a .22 pistol and a .38 revolver – years ago at a funky outdoor range where most of the others there were redneck types (hey, now, I have friends who are).

    Also tried a shooting simulator – hit both “baddies” (one in the head, one was knee-capped) – if I still lived where I used to, I would want a shot gun.

    And face it, in an ideal world we would not have a need for weapons of individual destruction. But many of us do not live in an ideal world.

    Hope to see you posting more frequently, Steve – I’ve missed you, but kept hoping you would be back :)

  36. PROPS for becomming schooled rather than picking up a gun, not knowing how to use it, and making a mess…

    ALL IN THE FAMILY – Gloria says to Archie, DAD! How could u be for less gun control? do u know how many people are killed by guns everyday? Archie replies — “Would u rather, little girl, if they was pushed outta windez??!!??’

    guns, windows, pipe, 2 x 4 . . whatever.. u want someone dead, hurt, need to rob someone what have u .. people will use whatever resources they have. better off being on top of your game than dead in a dumpster that’s all i’m sayin..

  37. Great post waiter. I enjoy your views on the human condition, from the good to the terrible parts of it.

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of small 45 did you pick up?

  38. Steve,

    Thank you for taking the time and money to become a responsible gun owner/carrier. If I were ever in the wrong place at the wrong time, I would hope someone responsible would have a gun to protect themselves and others. That’s the thing about carrying – you might be in a position to help others, where if you didn’t carry, you could not.

  39. Brought tears to my eyes, for a multitude of reasons. Very intense writing in some amazing and some uncomfortable ways. Welcome back btw.

  40. I can’t really see a purpose for owning a handgun. If you find that somebody is murdering your family, chances are you played your cards wrong. Additionally, nothing makes me nervous like being constantly reminded that I should be always ready to pull out a gun and shoot someone.

    Frankly, the probability of a situation where:
    -you need to use violence faster than the police
    -you have access to a gun
    -a gun would be the appropriate weapon

    just retardedly low. Leave handguns to gang members and the police.

  41. Maybe working in the hospital is getting to Steve. That kind of work isn’t for everyone and you have to know how to process your stuff everyday so it doesn’t mess you up.

    Sometimes people think that in dancing with the dark side (listening to horrorcore, shooting off guns, etc), they’re processing there stuff because they temporarliy feel better.

    But the reality is that only by filling your life with good, healthy things can you crowd out the garbage.

    Going for a jog, eating a healthy meal, writing a letter to a family member, buying flowers for your house are what you need after a long day at the hospital.

    Be good to yourself and then you can be good to other people.

  42. When I took hand gun lessons the instructor said: “Never wave a gun or tell anyone; ‘I’ll shoot you’ always, always, always know if you pull a gun you have to be willing to kill, no questions asked. Are you ready for that?” It was good advice. Have we come so far in America we think the Boogie Man is jumping out at us behind every turn?

  43. @y,

    Do you know how many lawyers have guns in their offices? Most of them are not criminal lawyers either, but crazy clients and crazier non-clients have a way of showing up. Lawyers and their families have been killed often, especially lawyers who handle divorces. Family law is the most dangerous law to practice.

    Doctors, too, keep guns. Our pediatrician was working late one night when a couple of thieves broke in to steal drugs. (What the hell they expected to get in a pediatrics office, I don’t know. They were probably high, and happened to choose his office by chance, as it was in a medical building.) They shot him three times, then fled. He lived. A lot of doctors keeps guns in their offices just because of this scenario.

    y, you seem to have the false notion that if you behave and don’t do anything wrong, that nothing bad will happen to you. It doesn’t work that way. Nice people get attacked and killed all the time, in places that seemed safe. That’s the way it is.

  44. Good for you. We need more responsible people carrying weapons. I feel safe knowing there are individuals out there that took a concealed carry course and that they are among us. And for those of you anti-gun people, I just watched a show on National Geographic about death row inmates. One inmate was totally in denial about him and 4 of his buddies breaking into an elderly woman’s house and shooting her to death. He blamed it on the way he was raised and they were trying to get him off death row by claiming that the woman was already shot dead by his friend before he fired a shot into her. Too bad SHE didn’t have a pistol in her bedside table – maybe she would have been alive today.

  45. Persephone,

    If meeting agitated and armed people is part of your job, consider employing a security guard who takes care of that little morsel. Lots of institutions which do not expect such encounters have security guards all the same, so if doctors getting shot is a common enough occurrence that it is an issue, I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to hire one.

    The more civilians have guns, the more people get shot. Are you emotionally stable enough to own a gun? Is anybody you know? I have no idea, but I’d rather not risk that. People have ways of sometimes getting upset to the point of stupidity.

    Pepperspray and tasers are there because guns suck. If you need to incapacitate somebody really quickly, consider them. If it is a situation where they would be ineffective, you are probably dead anyways, so whatever. Your doctor lived because he didn’t have a weapon. If he had tried to fight back much, they would have made sure he was dead, especially if they were high.

  46. I try to avoid flaming when posting online, but for this crowd, that’s a tough resolution to hold.

    > @Sara in PDX: Guns are what you make of them.
    > They’re a tool like anything else. I know a
    > lot of people who keep guns in their offices,
    > not because they’re looking to hurt someone,
    > but because they have to deal with people who
    > might want to hurt them.

    If you are, to pick the scariest example, being robbed at gunpoint, do you think it would be wise to pull out a gun? I think it would most likely get you shot. Safer to hand over your wallet politely, and call the police — later.

    If you’re NOT being robbed at gunpoint, but perhaps someone is yelling quite threateningly at you, is shooting them with your gun the best idea? And if shooting them with your gun isn’t the best idea, so you decide to just take it out and warn them to settle down, has it occurred to you that someone else might shoot you at that stage?

    > Living in the US, if they decide not to take
    > advantage of the freedoms the 2nd amendment
    > affords us, then they have decided to be a
    > victim.

    So gun ownership’s a sort of ‘you’re either with us or you’re an idiot’ type of thing, huh? I gotta say, I think that’s a tough sell. Since I think you’re more likely to either: a) be a victim of violent crime if you own a gun, for multiple reasons (overconfidence, vigilanteism, upping the stakes in a risky situation); or b) shoot someone in your immediate family, or yourself.

    > Am I the only one who got really freaked out
    > when the instructor unexpectedly pulled a
    > ‘practice’ gun on a student armed with a
    > REAL gun? Seems like the kind of
    > instructional technique that would
    > occasionally get the instructor shot.

    This is an aside to my main theme in this post, but I have a feeling that if Steve tried to pull out his weapon when the instructor was up by him, the instructor would not have had a problem resolving that situation. Of course, yeah, it was a pretty gung-ho and dumb situation to be in. But then… This is a military guy we’re talking about. You’re familiar with the oxymoron joke about “military intelligence”?

  47. I haven’t finished reading yet but already know that I’m more like the 10th Dr. Who from the 2005 version—Never!

    Of course, with intention, he DID aim and fire at living beings, but the gun wasn’t loaded. It was more like Russian Roulette, if you will. He ended up firing upon technology with the real bullet and saving the day.

    I used to cash my paycheck at a pawn shop close by my home. It had a counter with guns under glass, among other counters. I always felt the deepest aversion to it—like I had to give it a wide birth.

    I hate guns with a passion of a googolplex suns.

    If you’re going to shoot me, then shoot me goddamn it!

    That’s my motto.

  48. Yet, one of my favorite images from the sixties is the one of the students (Kent State?)placing flowers into the rifle barrels of the police. It wouldn’t happen today, of course, (Don’t tase me bro!) but I love that iconic photo which I saw the other day and am looking for right now.

    Dirty, fucking hippies!

  49. Did I say the F word too many times? I just meant that I found the photo! I once wrote a poem about it, that’s all. It means a lot to me.

    That’s all.

  50. Okay, well, if you insist, here are the last two stanzas:

    Soldier to Soldier
    Eye to eye
    Bayonet to bouquet
    Confusion reigns at the periphery.

    Journeys begin and conclude one by one
    When each long-stemmed blossom
    Blooms warmly confident
    From blackest depths of gun barrels.

    Here’s the first stanza (I know, who cares?):

    Soldier to Soldier
    Appearing on opposite sides.
    What is won to struggle so?
    What remains the battle to be waged?

    There’s stuff in the middle but I can’t figure out how to do it here. It’s kind of T.S Elliot.

    Anyway…

  51. Y, please tell me how it is better to hire someone to do your shooting than to train and do it yourself? Because that is exactly what you are saying with the attitude of “Hire a security guard”

    Are you going to have one with you on that late night run to the store? What about in the middle of the night when some bad guy breaks in looking to rape/kill/burglarize your place? See, that’s what guys like us train for. Maybe the situation will never happen, but if that one in a million situation does come around we will be ready.

    Pepper spray doesn’t work all of the time and is only incapacitates at best. If you are determined you can bull your way through it. We we sprayed as part of our training, it hurt but I was still functional which means if you were relying on it to stop me from hurting you then you would have lost the bet.

    “The more civilians have guns, the more people get shot” Really, that must be why the murder rate in this country has dropped 20% as gun ownership has increased.

    If you don’t want to own a gun that’s fine, but guns are a TOOL to be used for good or bad depending on whose hands it’s in, just like a knife, a bat, a piece of pipe or a car. They are neither good nor bad – it’s PEOPLE that are good or bad.

    And bad guys CHOSE to be bad and so they have only themselves to blame for the results.

  52. Oh, and a taser. While that will stop one person, what if you have multiple assailants? What if it’s a gang of about four or five guys? Will you be able to hit all of them with pepper spray before they bum rush you?

    Effective range of most pepper spray is 10-15 feet, a range that can be cleared by an average person in less than a second. Good luck with getting more than one person in that time.

    With my Browning I can have 6 assailants without needing to reload (two taps per bad guy). 18 when I have extra mags on me.

  53. “I can’t really see a purpose for owning a handgun. If you find that somebody is murdering your family, chances are you played your cards wrong.”

    That’s because you are probably a member of the corporate classes. Living in gated communities on Daddy’s stock options sure turned you into a punk hippie moron. I grew up poor, and was delivering pizza and fried chicken buckets at 2 am at 16 years old. I was robbed and beaten twice, and started carrying a gun to protect my life and my livelihood. I have fought for my life and won.

    Of course, if my parents had sent to me to college and on ski trips, I probably would feel just as you do. Life must be loverly in Old Westbury. Maybe you were rich enough to have guards and police that cared what happened in your neighborhood, I know what it’s like to grow up where NO ONE cares if you live or die.

    Y, come on down to the real world. You’ll find it isn’t like the Hamptons or Gstaad, or Newport Beach. Some of us live in real danger, and have no choice but to protect ourselves. those of us in the real world know about human nature. Ask the servants to show you where they live. You’ll probably want a firearm to protect you on the trip back to the manse.

  54. Try Canada. Even the most dangerous Canadian cities are fairly safe by American standards. I live closer to downtown; the poor option is to live in the suburbs where land is cheap (yeah I know, the suburbs are still a lovely breeding ground for the upper crust too).

    As for security guards, their uniform is what makes most of the difference. Having more people with you is always safer, and if it is somebody else’s duty to prevent violence, you can concentrate on whatever. You cannot begin to compare one dedicated security guard and you with just you and a pistol.

    If you have multiple assailants, again, prepare to die. I don’t imagine it is very difficult to acquire a handgun illegally, if you are in a dangerous neighbourhood, so what are the chances that pulling a gun on a few armed guys will help?

  55. By the way, I’m on unemployment in Alabama. Yay!

    Your Slave, let’s talk about the real world, Mmmkay?

    Cuz gang related activity is not the shit.

  56. As a side note, I’d like to mention that the discussion took a big leap in terms of who “needs” a gun. Perhaps Your Slave’s neighbourhood is as bad as he says, but if that’s the case, doctors and lawyers still don’t need guns.

    Just had to make that clear, when I’m replying to multiple people.

  57. Guns in America, always a touchy subject, always will, like mentioning health care, cause a big stir. America was founded on fear and is still run by fear. I just refuse to allow fear to run me, maybe chancing to shoot a family member by accident. First we feared the native Americans (after the British of course), then the freed slaves, then the nazi’s, then communists, now it’s gangs, drug dealers and terrorists. Who will be enemy of the week next year?

  58. Guns in America, always a touchy subject, always will, like mentioning health care, cause a big stir. I just refuse to allow fear to run me, maybe chancing to shoot a family member by accident. First we feared the native Americans (after the British of course), then the freed slaves, then the nazi’s, then communists, now it’s gangs, drug dealers and terrorists. Who will be enemy of the week next year?

  59. R. Weathers – What nation doesn’t have fear play into its politics in general?

    You indicate a fear of guns, disallowing yourself the safe (when trained well. good job waiter for that.) and useful tool of a firearm because of a fear of doing something you’ll regret.

    Cars kill more people than guns do, yet I’m sure you drive.

  60. Also none of this is addressing the issue that people enjoy shooting, just like some people enjoy golf.

    Do we NEED cars that can drive faster than 65? No, we’d be breaking the law most places if we did speed (unlike, say, shooting at a range.) I bet if you asked 100 people you’d get 99 people who would buy the car that could break the speed limit.

  61. y, I call bullshit. I can compare one ‘dedicated’ security guard to my own skills. I take my pistol out and train weekly, and I’ve done security work as well. At MOST we went out there once every three months.

    Most security guards are unarmed to boot, very few places want to hire armed security because of the insurance and liability. Beside, how many security guards do you think there are in relation to civilians? Do you really think they are there to provide you with protection? Nope, there are there to clean up the mess and file paperwork, just like the cops.

    I can say this because I was an MP, my dad was a homicide cop and I have two brothers – one SWAT and one DWI and gangs. The cops don’t stop crime, we arrest bad guys who have committed crimes. It’s YOUR JOB TO PROTECT YOURSELF.

    Oh, and as for multiple assailants, if you have trained your chances are pretty dang good because most perps don’t plan for resistance. Besides, what if they want more than your wallet? This “Give them what they want” crap has been proven as a bad idea over and over yet you fools keep clinging to it.

    Oh, and R. Weathers, I grew up in a house full of pistols, shotguns, and rifles. So has my niece and nephew, yet not one person has ever been injured in my family from a gun related accident even though between all of us we have about 35 pistols, 14 shotguns, and about 12 rifles.

    Gee, how could that be? Because when you follow the rules of gun safety and teach your children the rules, and everyone lives by them then there is no chance of injury. Wow, how amazing is that!

  62. I wasn’t clear about what I mean about the security guard. If you have somebody else, ANYBODY else with you, it is by definition a lot safer. It is not even up for debate. Though that is some interesting firsthand info on police/security.

    I would like you to verify that being compliant has been “proven” as a bad idea before I acknowledge that. Besides, every time I hear about any mugging/hijacking/whatever incident on the news, the police spokesman always says that taking the law into your own hands is not recommended.

    Teaching proper gun safety is necessary, but if people can get violent over a divorce, then they are not stable enough to own a handgun. Some people let emotions throw common sense out the window.

    I don’t really have any argument with recreational shooting.

    Cars do kill a lot, but similar to gun safety, it’s amazing how safe they are if you don’t try while drunk or using your cell. Driving defensively can make a big difference if there are bad drivers around.

    Out of curiosity, what is the cost of owning a handgun and training?

  63. Wow Waiter I thought you were frugal. .85 for a round of .45acp? Try shopping at Cabelas or Cheaperthandirt – I buy rounds for under .50 a round when buying in bulk. Good to see you updating the site – we were starting to worry about you.

  64. Let me get this straight, y. You know nothing about firearms, have never trained in any defensive tactics, and have never done anything involved with police work or security work and yet you somehow know that a firearm won’t make you safer and that resisting an assailant is a bad thing to do. Do I have that right?

    I will suggest that you go and do some actual research and learn some stuff rather than listening to the anti-gun (AKA- pro-crime) lobby. You might actually learn something.

    “Teaching proper gun safety is necessary, but if people can get violent over a divorce, then they are not stable enough to own a handgun” Nice straw man argument, BTW. See, if someone ‘gets violent’ in a divorce, then maybe the person they are violent TOWARDS would be served well to have a gun, wouldn’t you think?

    A restraining order generally does nothing at all, the victim can call the police, but by the time the cops arrive it will usually be too late.

  65. You have not given me any certainty at all that resisting an assailant is a good move. Again, find me either research, or a respected member in your field saying it ain’t so. On the other hand, every police spokesman I’ve heard has said don’t fight back. But I have not had the privilege of being attacked, or to learn anything about firearms.

    As for anti-gun = pro-crime, I am again going to drop the C-bomb. Canada makes it pretty difficult to own handguns, and it also has a substantially lower murder rate per capita than America. ( http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita ) I find it hard to believe that with those numbers, guns keep you safer. You can blame the statistics on something else (population density, or the data being from 1998 for instance) if you’d like though.

    Divorce is not an instant process. Things have to escalate before somebody gets killed. Allowing things to escalate is prime mistake territory. If you are being threatened, it is neither too early nor too late to call the police.

  66. the nice thing about most places in the US, is that folks like Y are free to not own guns. at the same time, others are free to own and carry guns if they so choose. both sides are free to blab on and on about why you should or shouldnt have a gun, but it’s a no win argument. some people like to protect themselves, while others prefer to have someone else protect them.

    but when push comes to shove, the person with the gun usually wins. ;)

  67. Pingback: Daily Pundit » Speaking Of Reality…

  68. slag is so right. Americans are gun lovers and always have been. Quote from a 12 year old gang member: “On the street I usually get no respect, but if I put a gun in your face I get plenty of respect.” I’m a Social Worker. I’m not saying don’t own one, but I’m free to choose to not own one.

  69. “Do we NEED cars that can drive faster than 65? No, we’d be breaking the law most places if we did speed”
    Missing the point. If you had a car that could only do 65, it wouldn’t have enough power nor speed to get you away from the Criminal with the car that does.

  70. Well my reply is awaiting moderation for a bit more time (presumably because of the citation I made… perhaps somebody else’s blog is a poor place to have a debate, through no fault of this website), so until then.

  71. Hi Steve,
    You don’t know me but I have been reading your blog for some time. Would you like to meet to go out for coffee or something sometime? I know it’s rather bizarre, for me too, to postulate a meeting based on a blog, but, what do either of us have to lose, really? Just a thought; it seemed worth the risk to me to take a chance and take a risk…

  72. WEll…what a disappointment to see you finally return to write something so bleak and dismal at the beginning of the new year. I agree with Hannah-Moon. Start another blog with your other writing genre. Leave this one for those of us who want to read/vent about the restaurant biz. It’s not like you can’t link it to here. I also agree with #49/Dennis-You really could have stopped for 2 minutes and wished everyone good tidings. ~

  73. Kudos to you for obtaining additional training on the psychology of armed conflict. Many people are excellent shooters and know their weapon inside and out but they do not plan for the encounter that may end badly.

    Lethal use of force is something that cannot be taken lightly and must be planned for. Hopefully, you will never have to use what you’ve trained for.

    Thanks for the post.

  74. Just for the record, I’m a liberal with hippie leanings, but I’m also a realist. Innocents are hurt and murdered all the time, even when supposedly safe at home.

    Canada has a lower crime rate because, until recently, taxes were allocated to social services at a much higher rate than they are in the U.S. Over half of the U.S. budget goes to the Defense Department. If money were spent here to help guarantee basic necessities for all citizens and legal residents the crime level would drop drastically. (See, there’s the liberal hippie coming out.) I vote that way, but I’m one in 350 million, and the sensible are fighting a culture of fear.

    As to lawyers and doctors, most cannot afford to hire their own security guards, nor are the buildings where they rent space are willing to do so. No one is 100% safe, no matter what they do, where they live, or how they behave.

  75. “Canada makes it pretty difficult to own handguns, and it also has a substantially lower murder rate per capita than America.”
    I call crap on this statement. We have a friend in Canada that is in a line of police work and he says the Canadians are just as murderous. They just find more creative ways of killing besides guns. (Like lighting houses on fire!) What I want to know – how come we don’t hear about it on our US news?
    When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

  76. @y,

    I’ve worked in family law. It is extremely dangerous. People literally become crazy over the life changes. Besides the loss of the spouse and the children, the financial changes can be devastating. People find divorce to be a loss of control, become angry, frustrated and scared, and they react in all the wrong ways. That is a fact. That is the way it is.

    You can talk therapy or maturity or time, but people are one step removed from chimps throwing excrement. And chimps also use tools, including as weapons. There are records by biologists of chimp wars that went on for long periods of time.

    Frankly, we’re millions of years, but mentally only a step or two away from our ape relatives.

  77. Steve, remember that you’re not training to kill. You’re training to live. Being a “good person” has nothing to do with it. You have the right to live and to defend your life from any other person who would take it from you.

    I wonder if your trainer might be a little crazy. Even if he’s not, his method is wrong. He trained to kill because he had a (hopefully, legitimate) military objective: eliminate the enemy. Your objective is different: stop an attacker. If you are forced to shoot in order to stop an attack then, yes, your attacker may die. That was the choice he made when he decided that your stuff was worth more than your life. Train hard and stay safe.

  78. Fred, if you are calling crap, explain what is wrong with my citation or provide your own (apologies if we are waiting for mods). My source was about murder in general, not just gun murder, so I think the substantial difference in numbers is still legitimate.

    Persephone, well if you’ve worked in family law, I can’t really argue with you on this point. Not to say that I accept your position completely, but I really don’t have comparable amounts of information or experience there.

  79. Y, let’s compare apples to apples shall we. Washington DC which had the most restrictive gun laws in the country until the Supreme Court stepped in and said “Gee, the second amendment applies here too” had 186 homicides in 2008 even though they have the highest officer to civilian numbers, 5,500 officers for a population of 591,833 – a ratio of 1 officer for every 100 civilians.

    Meanwhile, in more sane cities that actually allow the people to carry concealed and protect themselves like Oklahoma City, the total murders for the 2005 (last year there were number for) was 54 even with a population of 448,593. the officer to civilian ratio is much lower too – only 1029 officers. That means that there is one officer for every 435 civilians. Less police, similar population size, and yet one has three times the number of murders.

    So, what’s the difference? Is is that all us hillbilly rednecks are less violent than you city boys and girls? Or is is that since the criminals know that any potential target is armed and can fight back they have moved away to greener pastures?

    Well, considering that recent crime statistics show an overall 20% drop in homicides that coincides with the increased purchasing of firearms since last year, it is obvious that the reason is number two.

    Oh, and Y, I love your fallback when you are wrong of “I really don’t have comparable amounts of information…” So, if you don’t know what you are talking about, then why are you still talking. Go and learn before shooting your mouth off.

    And here, since you love pointing at other countries and saying “Well they have a lower murder rate…” I give you Switzerland where every male between the ages of 18 and 45 are required to keep a military rifle in their homes which means that there is over 600,000 fully automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols in private home in a country that has a population of 7,630,605.

    Yet, with all these guns floating around their homicide rate is only 1.2 per 100,000. How can that be??? Are they all just that NICE there???? Or is it that knowing everyone has a gun has made those who would rob, kill and rape decide that getting shot in pursuit of their anti-social behavior isn’t the best idea? Think about it, and do some reading.

  80. Interesting numbers, but you still have to tell me where you found them, or at the very least they have to be from the same source.

    Yes. A fallback is a non-issue, comparable to making a point of the pun in your paragraph.

    Switzerland, IMO, is much less of an apple to America than Canada is. For instance, it has a ban on building minarets, as well as mandatory military service for males. I’m not interested in getting into those issues, but they do show marked differences.

  81. Y, like I said – do some READING. Why should I have to spoon feed you everything. Oh wait, you expect someone else to protect you so I guess you expect someone else to do research for you as well.

    All of this is very commonly accessible information so once again – go read.

  82. Besides, where do your facts come from. I don’t see your reference sources.

    Here’s another fact, There are 22,309 restrictive gun laws in force. Of those, not even one has ever reduced crime. According to research done by the National Academy of Science not ONE of these laws has helped to reduce crime. NOT. ONE.

    Now, you have some clues you can follow so I suggest you go and learn.

  83. This is getting pretty meta, but when you make specific claims, you have to cite them. I have made one citation (comment #93) backing up that Canada’s murder rate is significantly (a few times) lower than America’s. You have backed up nothing, but if you are actually doing research for me, it is because you want to. I protect myself by living in a safe place and not making bad decisions.

    Looking at the closeness of Canada and America in total crimes per capita ( http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_tot_cri_percap-crime-total-crimes-per-capita ), I conclude that everybody owning a gun is irrelevant to the amount of crime per capita.

  84. Interesting to see all the things go on in the comments section, people arguing who is right or wrong. Sort of ruins the raw reaction to your post. I suppose all of this debate boils down to what lengths people will go to protect themselves and loved ones. There are those who have been in the thick of it and those who haven’t. Those who prepare themselves to make the decision and those who do not. Life, death and the taking and giving of it should not be a decision easily made and in my humble opinion, everyone should think on it at least once in their life. But in the heat of the moment remember this, thoughts, opinions, laws, even right and wrong will usually go out the window when you’re in the thick of it. Your reaction will be instinctual, guttural, and basic. Fight or Flight and I’m pretty sure the comments section of Waiters page won’t even flash in your head… No offense Waiter:o)

    Great Post, Steve :o ) Really felt it.

  85. I’m not saying there aren’t instances when a person would need to use a gun. But if you’d ever encountered one of those instances–this goes for the commenters as well as the poster–you wouldn’t be having this enormous circle jerk about it. I promise you that. I have been there.

  86. Police are only minutes away, (sometimes LONG minutes away) a gun is only seconds away. I think that no one wants to shoot another human being. Would I hesitate if someone came into my house and put my daughter’s life at risk? NO! My job as a mother is to protect her. Do I “pack” the pistol with me? Nope…but I do keep it and loaded clips close when I sleep.

  87. Oops! I forgot to add that I love all of your writing Steve. It’s fun to read the older stuff and compare it to the newer stuff. You have always been talented, but your writing has really evolved over time.

  88. #28 henry wrote on 01/4/10 at 3:34 am :
    “Thou shall not kill” not thou shall not kill unless you have too.
    The original commandment, translated into modern English, would read Thou Shalt not Murder, as stated before. It was probably kept as ‘kill’ in an effort to civilise people, much like in earlier times, the Catholic Church in Europe extracted a promise from most European nations not to fight wars on holy days. They then increased the number of holy days, until you could technically only fight on less than 5 days out of the year. The countries had long since gone back to fighting wars and killing each other whenever they thought it necessary.

    #46 IraqVet

    Third paragraph ‘Picking a plastic training pistol off the counter the instructor says, “Okay. We’re gonna do some of that shooting from the hip stuff I showed you. Come here.”’

    And this is a probably-slightly-fictionalised retelling, focusing on emotion rather than creating a instructor’s training guide, yes?

    Waiter, please keep writing, these small snippits you share with us are engrossing reading, please keep evolving and growing your style and content. We don’t all only ever want to read about waiter/restaurant stuff and nothing else from you.

  89. I haven’t commented on this site in quite awhile, but I thought I’d add my two cents to this one. And take this from one who knows firsthand…and to this day I do not walk out of my home without my pistol strapped to my waist.

    When it comes down to it, the taking of another human life is not an easy thing to do ( unless you are a true Psychopath). Even when you are in a situation of pure self-defense, the aftereffects will be horrendous.

    That being said, when the time comes, if it ever does, do it. If some low life comes at you and you have the chance, be the one standing when it’s over.

    When it’s over, you will shake. You will probably cry. You will feel like crap for days. You will ask yourself why it had to be done.

    What you will need to keep in mind at that point is, you were a law-abiding citizen, going about your daily business, and the scumbag was not.

  90. You hit home with this one. I live in the stix and have had two illegals try to break into my house, WHILE MY FAMILY AND I WERE HOME! I learned of “that dark shadow” myself.

    I haven’t been to your site in almost a year. Now I see what I have missed. Thanks.

  91. Steve, having taught over 500 people to shoot properly and safely, your instructor made only one mistake: if he didnt’ start you out with a .22, he was wrong. If he did, he’s on target, as it were.

    Shooting another human being who has declared through word or action that they intend to do fatal bodily harm to you or your family is a societal necessity, if it’s not YOU, it is someone possibly LESS PREPARED, and you need to step up to it.

    Sunny Randall or Spenser would have popped the asshole, you should do the reality-based version of it.

    Ross

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