Update: For a solid two weeks now, this story has been on my mind, and I think I know why. It isn’t that I find myself thinking, as I was asked, the “what if?!?” questions. Honestly, and I’m not bragging here, my head doesn’t work that way. Living with the boy really has taught me to focus on right now. The “what ifs” can take care of themselves.
No the main thing that keeps popping up in my head is this: I wonder what kind of hellish life that young man must have had to make him so afraid of the world around him?
Our world can be hell. But it really doesn’t have to be.
How’s that for naïveté?
About two weeks ago on a bright, Saturday afternoon, my boy and I went to the car wash as is our custom. (As he is on the Autism Spectrum, the sameness of the car wash is perfect for him.)
While we were continuing to follow our custom of vacuuming the floor mats, so the boy could play with the vacuum for a bit, a young, white guy of about 22 years of age approached his car parked in the slot next to ours.
He had caught my attention earlier because he was smoking, and with my son’s asthma, I was going to try and keep his door shut despite the heat. It wasn’t much of a problem–we’re at the car wash nearly daily, so this was more about keeping the boy’s routine rather than cleaning the truck. So as the young man started to light up again right beside the boy’s door, I subtly closed the door as I was walking the vacuum hose back to the holder.
As I did, this young man was staring me down, following me with his eyes.
This was strange, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, when I turned around, he had turned his body so that his right hip was facing me as he continued to stare.
On his hip was a pistol (sorry, not being a gun expert, I could not tell you what kind of pistol it was), but it was in a holster that appeared to be in danger of falling from the jeans pocket of his shorts where he had it clipped.
I glanced at it and back up to him, to re-meet his eyes as he continued to stare at me. I nodded and said hello.
He eventually turned away as I walked to the driver side of the car and began to climb in to leave.
So far as I am aware, the only threatening move I offered was to gently shut my son’s door so that he wouldn’t be exposed to this young man’s second hand smoke.
Did this guy have a right to smoke? Sure. I didn’t say a word to him about it; I simply closed my son’s door, so the boy wouldn’t have to breathe the smoke.
Did this guy have a right to openly carry his firearm? I have no idea. Maybe. But as he appeared to be threatened by my closing a truck door, I certainly wasn’t planning to ask him to produce his open-carry license.
And you see, that’s part of the issue . . . I had absolutely no way of knowing if this young man who seemed threatened by my having pulled into a space beside him was a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with one.
The presence of his gun that day might have possibly made him feel safer, I really have no idea. He didn’t appear to have a sense of safety. (Maybe old white guys with their sons vacuuming a truck are threatening to him. Again, I have no idea.)
But this I do know. Despite the car wash being a place where my boy and I are on a first name basis with the employees, despite it being broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon, and despite there being about 20 people in the parking lot cleaning their cars, this young man brandishing his hip so that I would notice his firearm did not provide a sense of safety to my son and me.
A gun did nothing to make our world safer that afternoon. Nothing at all. Sheriff Woody’s empty holster is a model we should work to emulate.