L. Neil Smith's
Number 201, December 2, 2002


Unintended Evangelism
by Joel Simon

Exclusive to TLE

Okay, so I live and work in northern California. Now and then I try to remember how I ended up here, but it's all just too depressing. I work in a no-smoking, multi-ethnic office that's so gosh-darn correct a girlie tool calendar would spontaneously combust if it were ever so foolish as to pass through the door. I'm from Detroit, ma'am. My idea of a mixed drink is ice in my whiskey, and my closet doesn't contain designer anything. I'm so obviously the token angry white guy that just showing up for work regularly is an act of social aggression.

Sure, I've made certain concessions. My 4WD is Japanese, for example. But it's usually kinda muddy, because it actually does leave the road from time to time. After a couple of unfortunate incidents I stopped talking about how I spend my weekends or what I think of Mssrs. Bush and Poindexter. Too many people just found it all so -- I don't know -- atavistic. People gradually seem to have stopped making comments about postal workers behind my back.

But it may be -- heh, heh -- that I'm not the only atavistic one.

A couple of months ago, I was out in the parking lot talking to my partner when the marketing manager came out to talk to us. He's an Indian guy; a strict vegetarian. I've been told he's a Jain. I don't know much about Jains, but I've heard they make California vegans look like Ted Nugent. So imagine my surprise when he wants to talk about going to a pistol range some evening. This guy just had twin girls, no doubt with a little help from his wife. Maybe that got his protective genes kicking into gear, I don't know.

So anyway, I was happy to have him come along. It's always best to have somebody to shoot with. We made a date, and I filled my field bag with a variety of hardware and the extra pair of earmuffs I bought for my daughter. I showed him basic stance, grip, sight picture and trigger control with a Ruger .22, and then we moved to the lethal stuff. The guy was an animal. He wasn't afraid of a .45. He remembered everything I told him, picture-perfect the first time. He went out to the counter because he wanted to see what else was available in .45. They had two Glocks: the model 21 which is the big honkin' ugly one that's easy to shoot, and the model 36 which is the little concealable ugly one that's hard to shoot. The only thing I've got against Glocks is that they're just so damn mud-ugly.

So he rents the model 36. And he shoots it like he's been doing it all his life. Any minute I expect the guy to publicly renounce vegetarianism and rhapsodize about the elemental beauty of gutpiles.

Two weeks later he wants to go back. This time, the office manager -- a female Ukrainian immigrant -- wants to come with. Cool, I think. The more, the merrier. My Indian friend tries a 9mm this time. When shooting in public I always use bullseye targets, but he went with silhouettes. I began to fear I was corrupting him.

Now the company vice president, a Japanese expat, wants to come along too. We're getting quite a group.

So what's the point? Hell, I don't know; I'm just some guy banging on a word processor. Maybe it's that the 'California, land of fruits and nuts' stereotype isn't as widespread or as fundamental to Californians' natures as I thought. Or maybe that's too optimistic; maybe it's significant that all these folks are immigrants and expats and still have some sense. Whatever the cause, a stereotype I had almost begun to cherish has proven not entirely true. Nobody here is buying illegal battle rifles under the table, as far as I know. But one Midwestern redneck is a little less lonely, and one Silicon Valley office is a little less correct. That's pretty cool.


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