Department of Snarkosity and Sarcasm
Aka, Religion Is Such A Rational Reaction to Reality
Dateline: last Friday afternoon: To driver of the Grand Caravan minivan with the California license plates, you who made a concerted effort to pass me on the right and then cut me off in traffic  on that very busy road in Beaverton where two lanes narrow down to one:
I assume you placed the Bloody Praying Hands Of Jesus ® decal on your rear window for a reason. Do you really want your “witness” to be that which provokes a reaction like mine –
Jesus F. Christ You Drive Like A Dick!
* * *
Department Of Missed Opportunities
Neither MH nor I have ever owned a gun. MH fired a gun a few times in his childhood, on a trip to Montana with a friend to visit the friend’s uncle (uncle had a backyard target range or something). I have fired a gun twice. Once was during my grade school years, when a neighborhood kid was showing off his BB gun.  My second Annie Oakley moment took place the summer after my sophomore year in college, when I fired a shotgun for the first (and so far, last) time, giving me my first (and so far, only) Shotgun Story © .
A college friend APRIATT  and I were visiting the friend’s brother, who lived in a cabin in the mountains in Northern California. Friend’s Brother was a logger who looked like he’d applied for a job as a Jeremiah Johnson  stand-in.
Friend’s Logger Brother aspired to live the life of a Mountain Man. ® FLB liked to fire his shotgun out in the woods behind his cabin, to keep his aim sharp in case he ever needed to protect himself from, say, a marauding tin of Spam (or so I assumed, as his target practice consisted of firing at cans placed on a tree stump). FLB took us to his makeshift firing range, set some cans on a log and shot at them, knocking all but one off the log. He then winked at his brother, held out the shotgun to me, and asked me if I’d like to give it a try.
I did not hit the can. I also did not get knocked tit-over-ass, or even sideways, by the shotgun’s recoil, which is what happens to most novices, or so I was later told (in an abashedly admiring tone) by FLB. Somehow I’d managed – totally without any kind of instruction, mind you  – to instinctively brace the barrel properly and tuck the gun stock into my shoulder before squeezing the trigger.
Firing once was enough, for me. It was neither traumatizing nor titillating; it was very, very LOUD. It sounded, I told my friend, as if three Led Zeppelin concerts had just been performed in my right ear.
* * *
Time warp with me, if you will, to many years later – early 1990’s, is my guess. I was walking to downtown Hillsboro one afternoon, and on my way to Someplace Else I passed the only local gun store in town (which is no longer there). Apropos of nothing, I realized I’d never set foot in a gun shop. And so I did.
I was the only customer. There was one employee, a smiling, genial man in his late-30s-to-early40s-I-reckon. He introduced himself as the shop owner and asked if I needed any assistance. I told him my story, such as it was: I was passing by, realized I’d never been in a gun store, and spur-of-the-moment decided to see what one looked like. While relating this thrilling tale I did a quick visual survey of the shop, noting the glass display cases filled with ammunition and the variety of firearms hanging on the walls, seemingly organized into categories: shotguns on the east wall, handguns on the south wall, rifles on the west wall.
Friendly Gun Shop Owner invited me to look around and said he’d gladly show me any “piece” that caught my interest. Oh, alrighty. And, since you mentioned it, when you get a customer who is a potential first-time buyer, what is the first “piece” you show them?
Immediately after posing that question I realized the answer it would depend on if the customer had express interested in taking up hunting or target shooting or felt paranoid every time an iota of progress was made in civil rights that they needed a gun for personal protection. But before I could add this follow, FGSO whirled about and grabbed a shiny black pistol from the wall behind him. He set it on the counter in front of me and asked me to pick it up (It’s okay, it’s not loaded) and admire it.
The gun felt lighter than I’d expected. What is it that I am holding? FGSO said it was a 9 millimeter Smith & Wesson. This prompted me to ask about a gun’s designation: did the caliber size refer to the size of the bullet, or the dimension of the gun’s barrel, and if the latter was that an external or internal measurement, and either way, diameter or radius – diameter, I’d always assumed, but I didn’t know for sure and wondered…
Don’t really know. FGSO shrugged his shoulders, and seemed almost perplexed by my question. I found that odd – did he, a gun shop owner, actually not know, or did he think it something I shouldn’t bother knowing? Before I could ask a follow-up question, he began talking about the beauty of the piece he’d shown me. Yes, I said, I can see the attraction of it – of admiring the construction of any kind of mechanism, and appreciating the craft…although I had to admit that even just holding that gun made me a wee bit nervous. You see, I hadn’t been around guns much and, considering their purpose…
No, don’t think like that.
There was an infinitesimal yet noticeable shift in FGSO’s demeanor. It’s like what you first said; it’s just a mechanism – a machine. It’s a tool. A gun is just a tool. People who don’t like guns or are afraid of them don’t understand that.
His tone became insistent, and although the corners of his mouth remained his smile had transformed, from genuine to forced. A gun is just a tool, like a car is a tool. Every year thousands of people are killed and injured in car accidents, but no one tries to ban people from owning cars.
Uh, gee…how do you figure? I donned what I thought was my most disarming, wide-eyed, smile,  and gently pointed out that the auto analogy didn’t quite hold up. Injuries and deaths due to auto accidents are just that – accidental, and while certainly tragic, are also incidental to an automobile’s purpose – which is to transport people and/or cargo. A gun’s purpose, what it is in fact designed for, is to shoot (at) some thing or some one.
And he just lost it. When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns!
“Uh….?” I looked around the store; it was still just me and FGSO. “Who said anything about outlawing guns?”
Guns don’t kill people; people kill people! There are no dangerous weapons; only dangerous men! The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!
The clichés rolled off out of FGSO’s soon-to-be-frothing mouth. I thought, oh, this is great – a gun nut is going into rhetorical seizure mode, he’s likely packing some serious heat, and here is little ole moiself holding the unarmed “piece.”
Just for a moment, I thought to tell FGSO of the small but ultimately significant bridge he could be building…the opportunity he was missing – to show a non-gun owner that not all gun folk were irrational, hot-tempered zealots. Instead, I laid the pistol on the counter and thanked him for his time. He continued to spout slogans at my back as I slowly headed for the exit, shaking my head with can-you-believe-this? wistfulness.
I left the store, and left FGSO with the impression he’d likely/already held – that people who don’t own guns are fearful, naive do-gooders. In turn, he had done his best to reinforce my own stereotype of the wild-eyed, paranoid, slavering, gun nut. Not exactly an outstanding moment in the history of cultural diplomacy.
* * *
May you speak your piece without fear;
May you work for peace without regret;
May you watch out for who’s packing a piece;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Yeah, so you got ahead of me, and then stayed just ahead of me for another five miles, making me wonder what was the point to your machinations, which got you to your destination …what, twenty feet/two seconds earlier than had you not cut me off?
 A birthday present which was confiscated by his parents when they realized he was letting other kids fire the gun without adult supervision.
 And Possible Romantic Interest At The Time.
 I can only assume FLB was playing a joke on me, and thought he’d amuse his brother by having his brother’s potential girlfriend mishandle a firearm – and who doesn’t enjoy seeing that?
 The one I heretofore privately thought of as my blonde smile. All appropriate apologies to you melanin-deficient ladies and gents.