A lot of people are sharing their personal encounters with guns recently, so I thought I would share mine. It's not particularly profound, but I'll tell it anyway.
This happened more than a decade ago. I was around 14 years old and a new high school student. We lived about two miles from the high school. I have always been a relatively slow walker, so getting to the high school on time meant heading out pretty early.
It was a cold winter morning in Northern California. The sun hadn't even begun to crest on the horizon. As a plodded toward school it was just me and the cool morning air. No cars, no one else out walking.
I crossed the street at the place where I always crossed the street. I'm not a particularly observant person. I have issues with noise. When I was younger I always felt like I couldn't hear, but as I got older I realized the problem is that I hear too much. I hear everything all the time. Things other people would never notice--the whirring of a second hand, the shimmy of an air conditioner vent, the quiet whistle of someone breathing through their nose--constantly fighting for my attention. The reason I had always felt that I couldn't hear was because hearing everything makes it hard to understand anything. I also don't tend to look around a lot, because when I add a bunch of visual information to all the auditory information my head starts to swim and I feel a need to retreat to someplace dark and quiet until my brain settles. Anyway, the point is that I wasn't exactly paying attention to my surroundings.
A bright red cooler practically materialized out of nowhere. A normal person would have seen it coming from several feet away, but I didn't see it until it was next to my feet. It was just a standard, everyday lunch cooler, with a red body and a white top with a molded carrying handle, sitting on the curb next to the street. It surprised me to see this cooler sitting alone in the dark hours of early morning.
I started looking around to see if there was an owner nearby, but I didn't see anyone. I noticed I was in front of a two-story apartment building and that there was a light shining from one of the second floor apartments. When I looked up, I saw a man on a second floor balcony, silhouetted by the light gleaming from his apartment, pointing a long-barreled gun directly at me.
I was startled by the sight. I felt my pulse pounding in my ears. I didn't know what to do, so I just tried to pretend I hadn't seen him. For some reason, what I didn't do was run. Maybe because I grew up in the mountains around wild animals, where running just triggers a predatory response. Instead, I pressed forward, looking straight ahead, at the same speed I had been going. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the barrel of the gun following me along my path.
The man didn't shoot me. I eventually got far enough away that I felt safe... well, safer.
I'll never know what the "deal" was. Was the man just preparing for a hunting trip and having some fun with me? Was he a drug dealer and protecting a drop in front of his apartment? Who knows? Maybe he was just some crazy asshole.
Ultimately, it turned out to be a non-event, but it terrified me. Even today, I can see the silhouette of that man and his gun as clearly as if it were happening right now. I can still feel the fear. I never walked that way again, which was a real inconvenience, since that was the only direct route to school.
This isn't the worst gun-related experience I have had. It's just the only one that happened to me directly. When I was a few years younger one of my uncles committed suicide with a gun, right in front of his daughter. And about two years after I started high school, two of my friends were killed in the Lindhurst High School shooting, but I wasn't at school that day myself.