author moments

Big Bang Theories

At the beginning of a race, you might expect to hear a gunshot or even two.

At the shooting range, or on a hunting trip, out in a field in the country, sure. Gunshot makes sense.

But in a Mexican restaurant on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Salem, Virginia? Where we just happened to stop in the middle of a marathon whiplash road trip?

Well, maybe I am naive (ok, definitely), but it wasn’t the first place my mind went when I heard the huge bang with a slight echo. It *was* unusually loud, and I shared glances with a few other guests, but my mind told me it was a huge tray being dropped, which I then told the rest of the table. We kept eating.

One of my daughter’s friends saw the police pull up out the front window a few minutes later. Several officers casually walked back to the restroom area, where a man was seated. They put on gloves.

Many of us started to murmur, to wonder. What was all this about? All the while, we keep eating. More baskets of chips and salsa arrived with the same fanfare as the police walked in. Nothing to see here, or so it seemed.

Next, the ambulance. And then, the firetruck, all with lights flashing.

Again, the EMTs casually rolled the stretcher in. They loaded the man on. His jeans were cut open and he held a towel over his thigh. They rolled him out to the ambulance. He had really shot himself! In the bathroom! In the leg! On accident!

!!!!!

The waiter brought our check. We paid, uncomfortable and astonished. I did an 18-point turn to get out of the parking lot, weaving through the emergency vehicles. We continued on our way.

For the next hour or two as we headed down the road, every once in a while I or one of the others in the car would blurt out a “What if…” comment. What if the gun had been pointing another direction? What if I had gone to the bathroom at that time? What if his injuries had been more serious? What if there had been an argument and he had shot someone else? What if there were more guns in the restaurant?

Even years later now, I am shocked reading this. And today, in early 2021, I spoke with someone who showed me a picture of an acquaintance who had shot himself in the leg just days ago. An experienced and knowledgeable gun owner, he was planning to shoot into the ground but instead he will live with a bullet in his bone.  It could have been much worse.

Be careful out there. You never know who’s packing.