As you may or may not recall, I live in the rootin' tootin' gun-totin' South, where cowboys roam free and all of my neighbors take pot-shots at my sheep on a regular basis. Personal weaponry is not so much encouraged in this part of the world as it is mandated; as evidence I draw your attention to the nearby town of Kennesaw, where there is a law requiring all residents must own a gun. I am not kidding about this. But while we might scoff at such a notion, it can be pointed out in the interests of fairness that Kennesaw's crime rate is less than half of the national average, and it has recently been voted one of the top ten places to live in the nation. At least, that is what Wikipedia says. And since Wikipedia still maintains that I am the stepson of Gary Gygax, the founder of Dungeons and Dragons (I am not -- not even close) I urge you to draw your own conclusions.
Having been raised in genteel old England -- where personal handguns are possessed only by criminals -- one might assume I would shy away from guns. But that is to forget that I grew up on a farm and most certainly know my way around a 12-bore shotgun.
Am I a gun-toting maniac? Could it be that your opinion of me will go up or down depending on my prowess with a weapon of mass destruction? All these questions and more will be answered in a little spot I would like to call:
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a good pal of mine, a poker friend we shall call Big Dave, to inquire if I would like to come over to his place of employment for a visit? Apparently, his bosses had seen this video and had come away thoroughly impressed with my articulate manner and general Britishness. They had requested that I make a guest appearance, the poor deluded fools. One can only imagine they had mistaken me for someone motivational, like that dude who sells Sham-Wow on the QVC network.
It was a very nice offer, but for the life of me I could not quite understand why Big Dave was so interested in having me show him up in front of his bosses. I may be an internationally beloved comic book and video game creator and though I possess a certain boyish charm (I act like a five year-old), I hardly see myself as a motivational speaker to the sales forces of America. All I knew of Big Dave's work was that he was in sales of some kind. He mentioned he would very much like to connect me with his personnel department, and we arranged a day and date. So with that alarmingly small amount of information I found myself driving towards his business address with the full expectation that I would soon be speaking to a group of hastily-assembled insurance salesmen about the life and times of Spider-Man.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I rolled up on Big Dave's company address and found it was in a very big Industrial Park. Imagine my consternation when I entered the facility only to be patted down by a laser-wielding industrial security robot. Imagine my utter bewilderment when I saw the massive hallways and the Plexiglass security doors. Not a bad operation, I thought to myself. Certainly the insurance sales industry had come a long way, albeit in paranoid fashion.
My first inkling that I may have misjudged the situation was just after Big Dave arrived to greet me, and brought me to be introduced to his colleagues. I noticed some of them had large scars on their faces. One of them wielded a massive, belt-fed machine gun. Another guy -- I think he was a South African mercenary -- wandered lazily around the offices with an AK-47. The day was certainly picking up. I mean who in their right mind was going to turn these insurance salesmen down?
After the introductions, Dave led me into a vast area where -- and I kid you not -- literally fifty or so weapons ranging from a machine pistol to a belt-fed machine gun were arrayed in front of a massive video screen. Now at some point, I am sure Dave probably assumed he'd mentioned to me that he worked for a secret facility that supplies military training devices to the world's Special Forces. Not remember to mention such an important fact would be on a par with throwing someone in jail and forgetting to tell them what they had been charged with. Nevertheless, I had absolutely no foreknowledge of this amazing and ridiculous fact, so this was becoming my own personal little Guantanamo moment. I wondered if unsuspecting visitors were summarily executed when Dave and his colleagues were finished with them. I vowed to kiss my wife and kids just as soon as I got home. If I got home at all.
I was introduced to a very nice man whose name I believe I was programmed to forget. He was an affable chap who probably worked as a sniper for the Mossad agency. I made sure not to look him in the eye that wasn't covered by a patch.
For some reason, the assembled crew -- and there were about six people watching me at this point -- were all interested in my opinion of their weapons training system. They made careful notes as I gingerly took possession of a large.45 revolver, and was given a brief instruction by the Mossad sniper dude. Apparently, they were expecting me to shoot the bloody thing at the wall.
Well, chums, I am nothing if not a good sport. Truth be told, this is the kind of crazy shit that always happens to me and I've become so used to it that suddenly arriving in a building and firing a bazooka at a large wall does not seem out of the ordinary. I took aim at a target and squeezed off five rounds. I hit the target a few times: nothing to write home about. Sniper Guy showed me a little tracking laser that recorded information on how I was moving the weapon just before and after I fired it. I could see that I was raising it too quickly, and was urged to stay a little "quieter" on the next series of shots. I felt my instructor's advice was probably sound since he'd won a large number of international shooting awards and quite a few extra merit badges for garroting people.
When a crazed and heavily armed shooting instructor tells you what to do, chums, you pay attention. Another series of targets appeared on the wall, and I concentrated on doing exactly that. Much to Sniper Guy's annoyance, I hit a bunch of bullseyes and scored higher than he did. Twice. Which immediately made me the biggest badass on the planet.
The next routine was a video version of one of those situational cop-training exercises. Basically, I went through a video simulation that required me to enter a high school and deal with a hostage situation. I think the simulator programmers sorely underestimated me, chums: for when I encountered the hostage-taker I yelled "Put your fucking weapon down, asshole!" really loudly and forcefully at the screen. The cyber hostage-taker put his weapon down. Big Dave dutifully put his Coke and sandwich down and stepped away from it. Even the sniper guy put his weapon down. I was getting the hang of this thing.
Just to vary things up the sniper guy -- now my sworn enemy, I think -- decided to run me through the exact same simulation "with a couple of new twists." Imagine, then, that I entered the high school and moved past a few screaming kids and encountered the same hostage-taker, magically resurrected. But I had developed a new plan. I yelled, "Put your fucking weapon down, asshole!" and at the same time I pulled the trigger of my .45 and smeared his head across the far wall, much to the shock of the cyber-hostage, the sniper guy and everyone else in the room. One shot from about sixty feet, over the hostage's shoulder, right into an armed maniac's face.
"Nice shot," muttered Big Dave, his mouth open with astonishment. He was now terrified of me.
Well, chums, after that I was the big rooster in the henhouse. The guys let me have a go with an AK-47, which I used to protect a distant US Army outpost from a bunch of crazed, bomb-wielding Insurgents. Oh, the fun we had!
We moved into a contained area where I got to strut through the streets of cyber-Baghdad looking annoyed and dangerous. In this scenario I was an American soldier with a gun. My Dad, who served with the British Army in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, once told me that during various wars there was a general agreement that if you were heading into enemy territory you should always be on the lookout but that you should double that awareness whenever the Yanks showed up because pretty soon some silly bugger was going to be pulling a trigger. Well, on this day I was a proud Yank armed with a large gun. We dispatched a few more Insurgents and went to lunch.
Now it was only over a roast beef sandwich that Big Dave finally bothered to mention to me why his team were so interested in having me in as a guest: and once he explained it to me it all made sense. Since I have a lot of experience with video games and game design -- since I have on occasion innovated in the area of gameplay and story integration -- the gang at the secret facility thought it would be cool if I would check out their humble training devices and give them some feedback. I think the fact I'd become a killing machine had added a lot to my credibility. I told them I approved of their simulators, offered to come back and redesign their entire system for about seventeen million dollars, finished my sandwich, and drove home.
So that happened.
The moral of this story? I am not sure. But whatever I eventually decide it to be do not argue with me because I am one dangerous son-of-a-bitch capable of shooting your face off from sixty feet away.
This month's moment of Little Dude Awesomeness
While driving in the car with my six year-old son, I asked him if he would like to play Skylanders with me when I got home.
He told me he would have to "check his schedule." When I asked him about that he informed me that he had an imaginary schedule, and that he had checked it only to find that he would be busy with Pokemon stuff all day and could not fit me in.
And so it begins…
Paul Jenkins has a Twitter handle: @mypauljenkins. He doesn't know why it is a handle, as opposed to, say, a clown car or a blueberry but such is the way of the American vernacular. His Facebook blueberry is http://www.facebook.com/podyonkers. In addition, Paul just completed the 48-hour film race with a group of very talented and dedicated individuals, and he will be writing about this experience next time. Please go here to view his film, Concerto