Want a shot with that?
Time stood still. It was no cataclysmic event, or an “end of the world” scenario.
It merely came about because the battery in my wrist watch had run its course, and frankly, it “was out of juice.” It needed to be replaced, and I, being known as not being technically savvy, needed a watch repair person to exchange the battery and then reset the watch.
I had driven to a jewelry store in South St. Paul. It was a place that had performed the same service for me a few years earlier. It was a small place and the owner, an “older” (I should talk) gentleman, had helped me.
We had a lovely conversation about nothing in particular, and I had enjoyed my time in his store.
I was almost ready to get out of my car, but as I reached to turn off the engine, a favorite song started on the radio and I just had to listen to it. It was “A Time for Us,” the love theme from the movie “Romeo and Juliet.”
It was a giant hit in the late 60’s. All the big name singers, stars like Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra recorded the song. For two weeks it had topped the Billboard 100 singles chart.
Ah memories, how they linger.
The song ended, and I sat for a few moments, savoring the memories. I then got out of the car and made my way into the jewelry shop.
As I entered the store I looked around. The older gentleman, the owner of the store, was in his usual place, sitting on a raised stool, working on the insides of someone’s watch.
He asked, ‘May I help you with something”?
It was at that very moment that I saw the young man standing behind the counter and I saw something that I had not expected to see. The young man was packing a gun, in a holster, which was prominently displayed on his hip.
I, of course, had seen guns before. After all, in my childhood I had gone through five years of German occupation in my native country, The Netherlands.
Guns, carried by the German soldiers, were a daily sight on our streets. When I attended Creston High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I joined the R.O.T.C. (the Reserve Officers Training Corps) and had become a Marksman on the R.O.T.C. rifle team.
I had also, for a short while, hunted, and I had gone through Basic Training in the Army while I was enrolled in the National Guard.
Guns were not exactly foreign to me, but seeing someone packing a pistol in a jewelry shop was not part of my previous gun education. To be perfectly honest, it sort of shook me up.
I mumbled “yes,” to the shopkeeper’s question, all the time keeping my eyes on the guy with the gun.
I did my best to look nonchalant; but somehow I was not doing it well. Finally, even though my inner voice said, “don’t do it,” I couldn’t resist.
I said, very politely, “Don’t mind me asking sir, but why are you wearing a gun?”
The minute I asked the question my mind jumped back to a time when I was teaching in Northern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. One of our schools, which I visited twice per week, was in Mass City, a somewhat remote, former mining town. One afternoon, as I was waiting with the kids in front of the school as they were waiting for their parents to pick them up, a pickup truck drove up.
In its rear window I could see a gun rack with a rifle. It was early fall and hunting season had not yet begun. Just trying to make conversation, and also being somewhat of a curious fellow, I asked the driver,
“Hello sir, may I ask you a question?”
He said “Of course.”
I then asked him, “Why is there a rifle in your truck when hunting season is still several weeks away?”
He looked at me with a steel-eyed glaze, was silent for a moment, and then he said, “Ya just never know when ya might need it.”
I moved a little further down the walk, closer to the school door, and said, in what was hopefully my best polite voice, “Thank you.”
Back to South St. Paul. I had asked the gun packer, “Why are you wearing a gun?”
And I, just like in Mass City, was already sorry having asked the question.
He looked at me intently and in a Mass City like voice he said, “Because I can. I have a permit to carry, so I carry.”
Of course, I couldn’t leave it alone, and had to ask, “Why in a small jewelry store?”
He replied, “Jewelry stores are a favorite target of thieves, and so I carry to discourage thieves.”
I immediately started to think “self-preservation.” Growing up for five years in my home country of Holland under German occupation, “self-preservation” was a way of life. It was almost as natural as breathing.
My mental reflex was telling me, “Danger, Danger.” I quickly assessed the situation. If a thief, holding a gun, came into the store right now, the shooter would be by the door, the jewelry guy with the gun was behind the counter, and me, sort of in the middle; right in the line of fire for both shooters.
I could envision the headline in tomorrow’s local paper, “Local organist’s time is up!” (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that.)
Needless to say, I could hardly wait to get out of there, and in a flash I decided to look for a different place for my future “time” business.
When I returned to the safety of my car I sat for a moment, thanking God that I was still alive and ticking.
I thought back to the song, “A Time for us.” It ends with the words “A time for us, someday there’ll be a new world, of shining hope for you and me.”
Somehow, if I want there to be “a time for me,” if I want to see that “new world” and have “a shining hope” then I think I better stay out of jewelry stores where I might get a shot with my battery.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music professor at Suomi College. He has published a book, “Gerrit’s Notes: A compilation of essays,” which can be found on Amazon. His email address is email@example.com.