Until we arrived in Virginia, I’d yet to feel as though America was some completely alien place. Sure, the scenery and accents morphed as Megan and I traveled east and a little south, and things such as pacing of life and availability of arugula were noted as “different”, but it wasn’t until Virginia that I simply felt like perhaps we had entered another dimension. In no way was this bad — it was merely unexpected (and in that sense, actually quite delightful).
My date, Richard, was no exception to the Virginia rule of things are different here.
Originally, we’d planned to grab a bite of sushi, or perhaps pho, and then take in a movie — a classic “date”. During a texting flurry (where Richard super-politely asked if he could hug me upon meeting and it was okay that he’d have a Leatherman tool with him as he carried it always but would be happy to leave it at home) I made a joke that “I’d have thought you’d want to hit the gun range first and foremost to judge my mad skills.”
His text-response (textsponse?): “I was actually considering it, but thought it would make filming difficult. Want to pop some caps instead of attending a movie?”
I textsponded (yup, I just made that a word): “Do they allow shooting on Sundays? Seems unholy…or on second thought, very holey…”
A quick phone call to the awesome people at Colonial Shooting Academy and ta-da! Megan and I were meeting Richard at the shooting range.
Now is probably a good time to point out I’ve never held a gun. In fact, except on the belts of police officers passing by, I’ve only seen guns twice, and I’ll never forget those moments: one was the brother of a friend I’d met during a production of Amadeus, who for some reason pulled one out from under his bed to show us. I was 17 and wanted to impress the brother, but I slowly backed up and had a sudden need to be in another room. The second time was when a boyfriend and his dad were discussing Boy Scouts, which somehow gave way to guns. The dad held the gun out toward me and I jumped away, literally running down the hall away from said gun while the family laughed (rightfully so). So deciding to go shoot a gun was sort of a big deal.
I’m sure I met Richard, and I’m sure we hugged, but I was a bit busy being freaked out by the whole gun thing to remember much about that. I know he came prepared with homemade cookies that were heaven melting in my mouth, cookies so good I immediately declared everlasting love and commitment to them and said I’d be happy to marry the cookies. And he brought earplugs for me. And his own gun in a box that looked like a male version of a caboodle.
At Colonial, the first thing that happens is you walk through a showroom floor of all things firearms. It’s like a department store, but the only department is guns and gunny gadgets. The second thing that happens at Colonial is before you even can go to the counter and say, “Shooting range for two, please!” you both watch a safety video and are given an exam on what you learned in said safety video. Don’t pass, you don’t shoot.
I passed. Phew!
The owner of CSA may very well have been the most hospitable person ever. After selecting guns for me to shoot (which I looked away from and wanted nothing to do with) he took Richard and me upstairs to a more private range. I fretted in the corner and kind of hoped that maybe this wasn’t all going to result in me firing a gun. Richard put his ear-protection on.
There’s something you should know about shooting a gun at a range and gun safety in general: you absolutely do not touch the trigger unless you are going to fire the weapon. Don’t do it. The owner and Richard are gentlemen and don’t yell, but they do hastily correct you.
Richard showed me how to hold a gun, first practicing with only air in my hands. After a few rounds of imaginary gun-holding, I then held the real gun as far away from me as humanly possible. I think my arms may have lengthened from just that moment. As a courtesy, the owner loaded the gun and set up the target for me. Megan had a camera I’m sure. And then, someone (probably all three of them), encouraged me to pick that darn gun up, set up my shot and shoot.
Except when I didn’t do anything, then nothing was happening. So I accepted the fate that I had suggested and agreed to and picked the gun up. I did a very good job standing in the I’m-going-to-shoot-a-gun position for at least a minute, mumbling that I wasn’t sure this was the best idea and trying to back down while Richard politely encouraged me. My index finger flexed in and then back out. Did I want to shoot? Did I not want to? Why did I have to put on make-up for this, I think I’m going to cry holy mother of — BAM!
Gun was shot, kicked a little, and I threw it down faster than a hare darts for cover from an imposing shadow. The owner, Megan and Richard cheered wildly (and I only had minor tears in my eyes, which I’m sure passed off as sweat). Naturally, they made me do it again.
While perhaps I never felt safe while shooting a gun, I did eventually sort of maybe kind of enjoy it (though I never stopped getting the gun as far away from me as possible once the ammunition was out). Richard, in a very date-like role, was patient, kind and seemed to enjoy my reaction to the range. He also was a far better firearm wielder than I, and it was fun to watch someone good take shots at the target.
However, adrenaline-filled as gun shooting was, it didn’t really give us a chance to talk or get to know one another outside a how do you react in completely different environments sort of way. So off to dinner we went.
– Tune in again for the end of the Richard date, where we don’t talk guns but do talk relationships, creating games, teaching, and there are tears that have nothing to do with nerves and firearms.