Life Before I Got a Gun
"The question you gotta ask yourself is: 'Are you feeling lucky?'
I took pride that I would go anywhere at anytime to provide service. Was it bravado? Or naivete? I don't know. My job was to repair whatever tenants broke, or ready empty apartments for occupancy, or anything else an owner or manager did not want to do. I drove around in a van. I liked to say: "I have a van full of tools, and I know how to use them!".
One of my best customers was a management company with their offices right down in the rougher neighborhood where they had many properties. It was the kind of place where you hoped to find a parking spot close to the door so if the car alarm went off you could be right there, and so you could walk in and out of the place and not up or down the sidewalk very far.
There were three men, father and two sons, that ran the place. Along with a large german shepherd. They ran the office just as if it was in a swanky locale and treated customers like they were important. It just seemed so odd to find these classy guys in this 100 year old run-down office that looked like it had not been changed since it was built. It hadn't been cleaned or painted either. Don't get me wrong - they took out the trash and rinsed out the cofee pot everyday (yes, and the coffee was good)... it just seemed weird to see three white guys, dressed for business, in the 'hood.
Tenants would come in and complain about things, report maintenance needs, and some would pay the rent. In cash. Always in cash. It always amazed me how the complaints would come from the people who did not have the rent money. It seems to me, that would be the time to shut up and lay low. Not these folks. That was the time to call the city and report the landlord for anything they could think of. My work always picked up right at the end of the month and into the first week of the next month.
Often while waiting for my next assignment, or a set of keys or something, I would get to hear their complaints. The tenants who chose the tactic of 'complain-instead-of-pay' always acted angry. I was never really scared while there, it just seemed safe somehow. After one of these times, I asked one of the guys "Hey, aren't you guys ever scared that..."
It was like some secret signal had been given! Apparently the reason for the calm safe feeling I had, was that these three men were at a constant heightened state of awareness or alertness or something. No sooner had the word 'scared' come out of my mouth and before I could say the next words - three men had drawn guns and pointed them at me (not to shoot me, just for effect) and even the dog reared up and started looking at me differently. So, THAT was the reason for their calm. They were prepared.
"Are you guys CRAZY?!" I yelled in alarm
"No, were are NOT crazy, that is why we don't come around here without protection" was the serene answer. "And you should get yourself one too" they all agreed.
I had gotten by so far without a gun. It seemed a little drastic. But after listening to their accounts of robbery and other horrors, I thought "Well, maybe...:"
Soon after that I was on assignment to board up a building for them. My instructions included a search for squatters before I might inadvertently seal them in the building. They cautioned me to not surprise any of the possible occupants, but to make alot of noise, banging on doors etc. "Don't wanna surprise 'em or scare 'em - they might shoot you".
That was it. I called back and told one of THEM to come down here and bring the dog and clear the building with me. I decided that was the last time I was going to have to call anyone to protect me. There were a few whinos in the building. They did not pose a threat. But you never know, with drug-crazed people, what they might do. (I've since learned that it's not the drug users you have to worry about - they wouldn't own anything of value like a gun, because they would have already sold it for drugs. It's the dealers and the gang members you have to worry about).
So I talked with my police officer friends and asked what kind of gun to buy. They made a few recommendations. Then later, were also nice enough to take me shooting and give me some pointers. As time went on, I carried a police scanner to hear what was happening in the neighborhoods where I worked. It was good to hear what was going on around me and be more aware of the dangers.
Eventually I too was a landlord, collecting rents in cash. And even though I had off duty police officers working with me and private armed guards for the really bad jobs - it was always a comfort to have my own gun.