My eldest son and I dug a hodgepodge of items out of the back of my truck and carried them over to the table out in front of the thrift store. The store accepted donations, which they then sold to raise money for an animal shelter. A Lady with the store was out front, busily sorting through our donations and a lot of other stuff that had accumulated on the large table.
We walked the short distance back to my truck for another round of items and heard a series of muffled, but very loud, thuds. After a brief break, another longer series of extremely loud thunks filled the air. The noise seems to come from the windowless, stucco back wall of the building just across the parking lot.
“Daddy, what is that?”
“I don’t know.”
The Lady chimed in, “The gun store across the way bought out all of the other tenants and put in a gun range.”
I do remember passing a gun store. I also remember frequently seeing the goofball they sometimes stationed out front at the entrance to the parking lot. Goofball was usually dressed in a sniper’s camouflage suit — the kind where the sniper sneaks up on his target slowly, in plain view, because he’s wearing a the equivalent of a burka grassy field. In the unlikely event that Goofball’s camouflage worked and you didn’t see him standing by the side of the road, he also sported an oversized, fake hand gun painted orange in a holster on his hip and twirled a sign touting the availability of a concealed hand gun licenses.
On a prior occasion my eldest had asked why Goofball was dancing away by the side of the road. I’d come back with something flippant mimicking Chris Rock’s spiel on minimum wage. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work, so I instead went with the tried and true, “He didn’t study hard and couldn’t get in to college so this is the only job he could find.” The truth is that full sniper camo, like a full burka, made it impossible to actually identify the individual so it could’ve been an entire team of people working taking turns making minimum wage.
Back in the parking lot another loud series of thuds made my eldest cringe. I didn’t blame him. It did sound like a German Panzer division was coming through the wall.
The Lady, apparently immune to the noise, offered, “They must be firing full automatics. They got some sort of variance for that.” With that she turned back to her pile of stuff and completely moved on with her day.
We finished unloading with the accompaniment of the gun range sound track. Our job done, we got back into my truck and I slowly crawled through the packed parking lot, marveling at the expanded gun store which now occupied the space previously filled by four different business. How had I missed this on my way in?
We came to the exit and I saw that Goofball, who must have been taking a break when we pulled in, was back on duty. He had the same camouflage thing going, but there was something different about it. I pondered what I was missing as I looked for the break in the oncoming traffic. It all clicked when a guy in a convertible, puffing on a cigarette, honked and gave a thumbs-up to Goofball as he passed. Goofball raised his fist in triumph and then slapped the large hand-gun holstered at his side.
My son, watching all of this intently from his perch in the backseat, asked, “Daddy, is that a real gun?”
Yes, that’s what different this time around. I’d almost forgotten that the great state of Texas recently made open-carry of sidearms legal. The initial version of the bill had provisions making it illegal for police to pester anyone walking around with a gun on their hip — pestering being defined as approaching or attempting to question — but the police unions managed to compel removal of those elements. Presumably a police car driving-by could therefore stop and ask Goofball what exactly he was doing with a gun on his hip whilst wearing full camouflage a few feet from a feeder road next to a freeway.
Goofball spun and waved at us as I turned unto the feeder road and punched it to stay ahead of those coming our way at highway speeds (feeder roads in Texas were originally designed to facilitate entrance onto the highway they adjoined, but have morphed into mini-highways punctuated by stoplights).
“Yeah, that’s a real gun.” My son turned as best he could in his seatbelt and continued to watch Goofball as he waved at other cars.
“Why is he standing by the road with a real gun?”
I didn’t have a great answer for this, but thought it was linked to the same reason that a shopping center sitting in front of a neighborhood can have a thrift store, a barbershop, a Chinese restaurant and a gun range. It was also not an accident that a knock-off of Hooters was located just a block further down and, in addition to the usual eye-candy and beer, it offered a nice view of the elementary school behind it.
I’ve written a fair amount recently about some of the quirks of Costa Rican culture we’ve experienced. Minus the weaponry aspect, the notion of an outing of beer and chicken consumption whilst gazing at scantily clad women followed by an hour of shooting fully automatic rifles that leaves just enough time to pick the kids up from nearby elementary school fits right in with the Pura Vida lifestyle. It’s all what you’re used to….