Monday, January 28, 2013

3 Different Stores, 3 Different Experiences

Tonight played out in some very unexpected ways for me. I had to go to 3 different stores- Cracker Barrel, Walmart, and Stein Mart. Three very different stores, in three very different parts of town, with three very different clientele.

My first stop was Cracker Barrel, right off the highway, on the far end of town from where I live. I had to return a book on CD I had "rented" from their library. (It's a fabulous service and I highly recommend it.) If you have ever been in a Cracker Barrel you know that the store patrons and restaurant patrons all pay at the same check out counter. I got in line behind one older gentleman. A line formed to the side of the man by people coming out of the restaurant. I was in no rush and let 3 people go ahead of me, even though I was there first. They never even noticed I was standing there. Another older gentleman did see me and saw how many people I allowed to go past me. He insisted I go next, even though, quite frankly, I really didn't care. My business was transacted quickly and easily and I left.

My next stop was Walmart. We have 2 of these behemoths in our town. One is brand spanking new and is right by my house. That was where I had purchased the items I was returning today. It's clean, bright, and rather nice. When I shop there I expect to run into people I know. I also expect courteous treatment. Don't get me wrong, there's still the "people of Walmart" crowd, but for the most part, it's not a bad shopping experience.

And then there is the other Walmart in town- the one in the ghetto. Except it isn't in a ghetto, it's just closer to the ghetto than the other store. This Walmart is actually right next to the "nice" mall, Target, Best Buy, and all of the other big stores in town. It's smack dab in the middle of everything. And yet most people avoid it like the plague (I wish I had). It's dingy, dark, and full of the scariest, nastiest people you have ever seen.

A few days ago I went to the Good Walmart to return some items. I walked straight in, went to customer service, got helped immediately, and left. I got home and realized I forgot the second bag of items, and needed to go back and return them. Because I had to drive to the far end of the galaxy to go to Cracker Barrel, I stopped at Ghetto Walmart.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Firearms, Gun Control, and the Second Amendment

My first real job out of college was for a homeless shelter for teens in Houston, Texas. At that point in time my professional ambition was to plan fancy fundraising events for the most deserving of charities. I worked there just short of one year before I moved back to my home state of Virginia. It was then and there that I got a job interview through a recruiter with "one of the oldest and biggest non-profits" in the U.S. I was shocked to find out that non-profit was the National Rifle Association. The job description sounded good, the company's location was ideal, and I had nothing against the NRA, so I went to the interview.

I wasn't a fit for the position in their charitable wing, but was referred upstairs to a different "event planning" position. I got the job- a trade show and special events planning position in the membership division. It was a fateful turn in my career path- one that would almost always include guns. 

At the time I was hired I had never held a real gun before. I had held a few BB guns, and shot them at tin cans on a fence in a field in Mississippi. But I had never seen a gun range, let alone fired a real weapon. I was a Republican with a Southern upbringing, and that was enough to convince me (and the people that hired me) that I was in favor of the Second Amendment. But to be honest, I had never really thought much about it.

I didn't work at the NRA for long before someone took me down to the range, enrolled me in the range and firearms safety class, put a .22 pistol in my hand, and taught me how to shoot. "Punching holes in paper." It didn't take long for me to discover two things- I was a natural shot, and I really liked when things go bang.

I've never had an inclination to go hunting, nor do I expect I ever will. (Although I wouldn't mind removing one or two raccoons from the population behind my house.) But the range has always held a certain appeal for me. It takes skill, discipline, and focus to get a bull's eye. Just like an NBA player isn't guaranteed every free throw, or Tiger Woods a hole in one, shooting at a target doesn't always mean a perfect shot.

I left the NRA after a while and moved on to other (event planning) jobs, just to end up working at Beretta USA a few years later. Beretta is one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the world. I worked in the law enforcement and defense division, where we sold large numbers of firearms and parts to police and military.

While I worked at both organizations I dreaded telling new acquaintances, or even strangers, where I worked. Rarely was my employer's name met with neutrality; it was always met with a heavily biased response, whether positive or negative. I was called a "babykiller" more times than I can count. If the new person was pro-firearms, I was almost always asked what kind of guns I owned. Or I was subjected to the person's testimony of the Second Amendment, and a list of their favorite weapons.