Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You Never Know

When you've dealt with the general public as long as I have, the one true inevitable fact of life is - you never know what will walk through the door.

It was midday yesterday when the door buzzer went off. I hit the lock release and he walked inside and immediately said, "I don't feel well."

He stumbled to a chair. I don't know the man well. I knew he was a state school teacher, industrial arts; what we used to call a 'shop teacher.' The man was extremely overweight. Little streams of sweat ran down his face, breath labored. At first I thought the old boy was in the early stages of a heart attack. I was still a few feet away when he began his rant at a pace not unlike a drunk writer lost in the troughs of a stream of consciousness work out. 

He began, breathlessly, "Stephen I hate the *&^%^@#*ckers you know what I'm saying the da*n school board, I'm under doctor supervision and I had a nervous breakdown last week I'm all right really and but I need to kill one of them really man it's okay don't look so serious I swear man but I need to shoot someone."

Then, he took the handgun from under and behind his sweaty tee-shirt. He held it in both hands as if it were just a movie prop; he looked straight ahead, his voice a monotone of continuous bather. I held very still and slowly eased my hand back and hooked my thumb on my carry piece. I just did not know his intentions. I did not like this situation.

I asked, "Bubba, do you need a glass of water?" As I eased to my right. He took a deep breath, "Ah, sure. I'm fine, I just need to sit here a while." I could not take my eyes off the gun. It was a piece of crap Smith, the Sigma series, awful trigger system. Junk. Still, I could not help but notice the magazine was settled. Loaded, who knows. I just took it for granted. Booger hook was in place.

I took another soft step towards him, forgetting he'd asked for water. He continued, "They're trying to drive me crazy that stupid school board, sonsabitches (excuse the foul language) and I'm under doctors orders and I'm on medication and I need help and my life is awful but I'm okay trust me, Stephen, it's no ones fault but mine for allowing them to bring this down on me."  (or words to that effect) Sweat continued to pour and he continued to caress the handgun and I'm thinking, "What the heck is he about to do, shoot me, or himself." Like that.

I did not like this situation. I glanced outside hoping beyond hope other customers didn't choose this moment to walk inside. I took another big step and settled in the chair, but one, from him. I asked, "Bubba, would you like me to look over the handgun?" No reaction. I still had the heel of my hand rested on the stock of my Glock. Holding his piece of crap Smith in both hands he used the back of both to wipe away sweat, his face was red.

Me, "Hey, let me see your gun." I reached. Him, "Oh, ah, yeah, well I was just thinking this know, ah, well, hey you know man I'm fine, really....oh God man I'm said I just need rest maybe retire man, you know." He still held that damn gun, tight. I shifted my weight a bit to my right, calculated my odds.

Thirty years I've dealt with nut cases like him.
That isn't nice, is it, to call a man you barely know a nut it isn't. I don't live his life, haven't any idea the mental pain he deals with on a daily basis. It was obvious this poor gentleman was under some extreme stress. He was very overweight and I'm sure that fact didn't help his fragile mindset, and if you add the stress of his job, the children he dealt with everyday, and that socialist school board, well, crazy is truly understandable.

I once had a gentleman walk into my shop, dressed to the nines in a thousand dollar suit with Italian loafers and ask me if it would be okay if his mommy and daddy (his words, exact) could come inside and wait while I helped him. Mommy and daddy, really. I kid you not. I said, "Sure, no problem." He walked back out and I never saw him again. Go figure.

Or, the time a nice old man came and asked if I'd care to help him draft a plan for suicide in order to spare the pain of his children and grandchildren finding his body in a pool of blood. Wanted to know if canvas or plastic laid on his bed would be sufficient to contain the splatter of the head shot, and please, come to the house afterwards and gather his firearms and sell them for his family.

Then, there was the young man, high on God knows what, that stood in my waiting room and detailed his afternoons fun. He gave me a blow by blow of how he planned to beat his young wife; them married less than six months. Used his hands for emphasis. He looked me in the eyes and said he was 'going to' bite her nipples off, kick her in her neither regions, bite her buttocks. I reached to hold him, tried to grab his shirt while I took the phone in my other hand and he did a rabbit on me. Slammed my door so hard he almost shattered the glass. Last time I saw him he was on a hard run across the park. I gave the officer, when he arrived twenty minutes later, a detailed description. Never heard another word....

Many nights I arrive home and stand for a second and thank the Good Lord that I'm normal.

So, I ask the poor man again, "The gun, Bubba, what's the deal?"

Silence, peaceful silence as he takes in the handgun, then, "Oh, ah, whew, I don't feel good, Stephen, but, I, ah wanted to know if you'd like to buy it."

Quickly I said, "No, but let me hold it." He laid the weapon on the chair between us and I eased my hand over and took it. I slipped the magazine out, racked the slide. Empty. I could feel the tension slip from my muscles. Relief.

He in his little worried world, kept the words flowing, "I'm fine, doctors orders, and I hate the school system."

I said, "Are you able to retire?"

He looked over at me. "Yes. why?"

"Do it."

He walked out a few minutes later. God bless him.



  1. It takes all kinds. Never know what they are going to do, especially if doc says they are alright. If all the mental cases go off their meds, we are going to be in a world of _________!

  2. "Many nights I arrive home and stand for a second and thank the Good Lord that I'm normal."

    Sorry it's shifted so much and I have to inform you that you are no longer normal.

    Glad your work situation ended up OK. It does sound like the man needs to retire/get out of the situation. Whatever the underlying issue really is, sometimes we all just need a change. Sometimes we need to get slapped silly too.

  3. Wow, what a story. Glad it all ended well.

  4. TeresaK, very true. Thanks for the comment.

    Max, I hope I'm still fairly normal. I'm happy it worked out too. You'd think after dealing with strange people (the general public tends towards, strange) I'd get used to this kind of behavior. Thank you.

    MDR, thank you. Me too.

  5. Very scary. I don't know if I could have kept that calm with a weapon drawn. Especially in his state of mind. Kudos to you!

  6. Glad you're okay. Spent a couple years in retail, but 30 years ago - never anything quite that hairy. Now as a property manager, I wonder what's next. I go armed all the time.

  7. I've talked Drunks out of their car keys and other lesser things of that nature when I worked in retail. I've honestly never had to deal with something like that and hope I never do. But if I ever do, I'll try and remember you....

    I feel sorry for that man. What you said, "God bless him."

    I hope he makes it back in there one day (unarmed of course) and thanks you.

  8. mmasse, I wasn't really calm, just too busy thinking to worry.

    Rev. Paul, it happens, keep that weapon close.

    Matt, I should have known he wanted to sell the gun. It's not like I don't have people coming in with firearms for sell. It was his state of mind that had me worried. Hindsight isn't worth a plugged nickle though. I hope he makes it back around. Seems like a nice enough man when not under stress but I really don't know him that well. There but for the grace of God go I.

  9. Stephen, glad all is good. I'm afraid I am not fit to judge normal anymore....what is that anyway.

  10. Duke, 'ole buddy, damned if I know for sure. Thanks, and if not before, I'll see you this weekend.

  11. Being driven crazy by administrators and the board is a common phenomenon. I feel for the guy. Three years of that nearly finished me off.

  12. Holy crap, sorry. After all this I would have gone to a bar for a drink and I don't drink. You are a cool soul. great training.

    I don't own a gun yet, I always tell my family to watch what you say to someone else. Why? Because they maybe a nut case and have a gun.

  13. Arsenius, I can only imagine. Thank you.

    Rob's Bunker, no big deal. In my life I've had many. You should own a gun. Thank you.

  14. Wow.. that was a heckuva day!! Glad it all turned out.

    It's odd.. how a few quirks remind me of Venezuela. They as well went through economic times, their currency value plummeted.. the rich stashed their money in other currencies and became ultrarich... the middle class vaporized, the poor were now obscenely poor. You can get robbed in the street middle of the day in a crowd.. 80% of the people at the clubs are armed.. the good neighborhoods have their own SWAT teams.

    The stress all around is almost tangible..

  15. Holy crap! No fun!! Glad it turned out okay. Poor guy. I think that is half of why I write. I don't have to leave the house much.

  16. Maybe you should look into EOD work with nerves like that, friend. Good thing you cut the right color wire with that guy.

  17. i like what hillbilly said about "cutting the right wire" - i have no clue what i would i would have done. i was a bartender for 9 years and never had anything like THAT happen.

    really well handled - and great advice you gave him - he's ready

  18. PioneerPreppy, yes, indeed. No big deal.

    Anne, dear lady, very true. Stress in this old world is so thick one can almost taste it. Thank you.

    Mrs. S., thank you.

    Lila, I agree, stay inside and write. Thanks.

    Hillbilly, no that big a deal. I've had weapons pointed at me many times and lived. Thanks.

    jambaloney, it happens. Like I said, no big deal. Perhaps some day I'll write of the Asian dude and his knife. Thanks.

  19. Maybe you should put up a sign on the door, "No Crazy Nutcases Allowed Inside", well you would have to make an exception for me though.

  20. Joe, I'd lose most of my customers, like you. Thanks.

  21. oh Stephen. ugh. i can't even imagine having to deal with THAT situation. however, i have dealt with a few crazies in my life. and it drains you. it drains you emotionally and spiritually. and i sense from all of your posts that you are an empath. and really "feel" all of this when it happens. oh, my friend, i wish that you didn't have to deal with this kind of stuff.

    but man are you good at handling this kind of stuff. you make me proud to call you friend.

    your friend,

  22. kymber, I'm far from being empathetic. I do read people fairly well but that's only because I've dealt with thousands of souls over the years. It wasn't as big a deal as some have made it. But, thanks.