Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Blues: The Most Powerful Man in the Doughnut Shop

            What the heck, I thought as I spotted the man. Does he have a …?
He did. Two spots ahead of me in the Dunkin Donuts line was a man wearing camouflage shorts, a pocket  t-shirt, and a dirty baseball cap. Around his waist was a belt, and on that belt was a holstered gun.
I’m not a gun nerd, so I can’t tell you what kind of gun it was. It had wooden grips and a clip, and it was held in place by a strap-snap combo. 

I glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed the local balance of power, or maybe to see if I was the only one who missed a memo to go to brunch packing heat.  The closest I’d come to being armed was the 16-foot tape measure clipped to my pocket, although, I suppose, given enough lead time I could have pulled out my Leatherman and fumbled around with it to get the knife blade out.
The gunman stepped to the counter and presented the clerk with a long list of sandwiches and coffees. Likely he was from a work site, and he’d been sent out to grab lunch for the crew. Knowing the nature of cooling coffee and sandwiches, I deduced he was working locally – and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what neighborhood in Manchester, N.H. was so bad that a guy would be worried about being lunch-jacked on a sunny Saturday mid-morning.
But there it was.  And just by the simple act of bringing a gun into the mix, the man with the dirty baseball hat had become the most powerful man in the room. 
New Hampshire gun laws are pretty lenient. Anyone sans felony conviction can buy a gun, load it, and carry it around openly. The only time you need a permit is if you want to keep it in your car or carry it concealed.
But you don’t see it often, or at least I don’t, and it shocks me every time. Who was this guy? How sane was he? Was he hoping someone would make his day ala Bernard Goetz? Maybe he was on edge, just a fouled coffee order away from a violent crime. In either case, there wasn’t much I could do about it with my tape measure.  Had he carried a rock, a knife — heck even a sword — into the doughnut shop I’d have some chance. But a gun?
The only way I’d have some hope of defending myself, not to mention the three old ladies and the Mom with two kids behind me, would be to have a gun on my own belt.  But then we’re living in the Wild Wild West, and that’s not what I signed up for. I’m paying for civilization. I’m working for civility. I live in the twenty-first century.
Very likely the man with the dirty hat was just reminding people of his rights. He wasn’t scared or “crazy”; he was just demonstrating. “Look what I can do.” It’s the same mentality that makes people feel OK about driving a Humvee in the suburbs. It’s not necessary, but, hey, why not? The Second Amendment says I can.
I have that right, too. I have a lot of rights, but I don’t feel the need to run around wagging them in people’s face. I’ll speak when I want to, protest when I need to, and defend my family when I have to.  I have the power, but I don’t need to be a dick about it. I don’t need to make the people around me uncomfortable to prove my potency.
To the most powerful man in the doughnut shop: Weak.
We're better than that.


  1. I can't tell you how shocked The Girl was when we were in Panera and a strapped guy walked in. Coming from places where that sort of thing would only be seen as a precursor to crime (Brazil), or where it's just unheard of (Japan, Europe), she was pretty thrown off center for a couple of days after. And really, like you mentioned, what's the point of bringing your gun into Panera? It's pretty ridiculous the things we let slide in this country in the name of "freedom."

    1. I can only imagine what it would feel like to someone from Somalia, say, or Cambodia. Possessing the freedom to do something, doesn't mean you should. I saw lots of guns when I traveled to El Salvador in the late '90s, most of them hired to protect gas stations. I saw the need there, but still ... one misinterpreted intention and pow.

  2. "The Girl" here was really scared. The things we hear outside the US about how people go to theoretically safe places like schools and shoot everyone out of the blue, didn't reassure me when the guy entered Panera and went directly to the restroom, in a hurry... even being a physician didn't help me - after all, the guy could just be in a hurry because he actually had to use the restroom, right?- but no, my instincts were telling me call 911, call the police, an armed guy is here... but then Jason told me it was legal in NH. Legal. It's legal to go to a place where there are children and show them weapons. In real life!
    It was surreal. If you grow up seeing this kind of stuff when you are out for a bite or to have fun, it has to make you feel in danger, at risk all the time, to the point you need to carry a weapon to protect yourself, at all times, in all situations, even the most ordinary ones.. something is really very wrong with this picture, I tell you.

    1. One of the psychological aspects of carrying a gun is that you start thinking that everyone else is carrying one, too ... which is why you need to carry a gun.

  3. It wasn't that long ago that the most powerful man in the pastry shop was the guy running the newspaper with an agenda. He was so powerful, that seemingly good intentioned people began thinking that it might be a good idea to curb his essential rights, in the name of the greater good.

    The issue with making judgements like this is that we (society) cannot likely agree on the frame of reference for 'good'. Sure, we can reach consensus on things like not killing or stealing from each other, but once you dive into the details you get into the mindset that you can tell other people what to do.

    Saying this guy is nutty for wearing a holstered weapon is a bit of an extrapolation that I am not willing to make. Nor should I expect that same man to restrict my rights to say that I do not think he should carry it with him in public. It is a two way street.

    "First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me."

    1. You raise some good points. None of our rights are absolute. We have freedom of speech but we can't fake a fire alarm in a crowded theater, or slander ... We are free to assemble but if we want to march en mass down the street, we need a permit. We have freedom of religion, but if we smother a kid with autism while we're trying to faith heal him, it's a crime. Nutty, no, probably not. Well-considered? Doubtful.

  4. I spent eight years in the military and I've handled just about every type of weapon from AK-47's to our own descendants of the old M-16. I'm just not terribly fond of firearms - you have to put a lot of effort into keeping them clean and ready to use. To me, a berreta or a block of C4 is nothing more than a pain in the butt tool that I would rather not sign for.
    Even with an extensive weapons background, it still shocks me to see them on display.

    The cops in the Frankfurt airport with their mp-5's were an eye opener.

    The cops in Mumbai with Sterling 9mm submachine guns telling me that I need to give them 5 bucks if I want to keep my camera was kind of scary.

    What really freaked me out, though, was the guy in a fast food shop in San Juan with a nickle plated Browning sticking out of the back of his jeans. He looked a lot like Danny Trejo and he was definitely the most powerful guy in the room.

    Many of the founding fathers felt that the tree of liberty needed to be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. I suppose that an armed populace was seen as a good check against tyranny. That doesn't make me feel any safer when my little girl is in the same room with gun.

    I can see why they are a part of the American culture, but they let you kill a man before your conscience has a chance to get in the way.

  5. I grew up in rural Maine, always around hunter types and their gear. I'm generally OK with that. For a real hunter, a gun is a tool. It puts meat on the table and, generally, those folks know the ropes and know how to keep their tools safe. As for Doughnut Man and Danny Trejo ... who knows what they know?