Tag Archives: serious

Goggle Zombie

NERDS!Let’s talk about being a stupid teenager, and how that almost got me killed.

My freshman year of college, I fell in with the wrong crowd. While other students were joining fraternities and making lifelong friends/drinking buddies, I joined a different kind of club. I joined the Medieval Society. In case that name isn’t descriptive enough for you, I joined a club that was theoretically supposed to study/celebrate medieval society… but mostly just played Dungeons and Dragons. That’s… like the same thing, right? Look, we were supposed to have a “living” chess game in the quad one time, but organizing things is hard, and… We tried, okay!? But, yes, the point is that we were a big group of nerds, so I fit in almost immediately. I was welcomed with open arms! And I had a Dreamcast!

And, if I’m being completely honest, there were a number of “adventures” with that gang that could have led to… grievous bodily harm. Don’t tell my mom, but I’m pretty sure I was sealed in a cardboard box, and then rode around campus on the roof of a car. That… somehow seemed like a good idea at the time. “Bopper Weapons” were constructed crudely, and tetanus shots may have been required. We weren’t allowed on the roof for a very good reason, but windows were fair game, and… Oh man, the more I think about it, the more I’m surprised I lived to see 20.

And then there was the time I really almost died.

It was a crisp December morning. Actually, scratch that, I just remember it as “morning” because it was my freshman year of college, and “morning” was defined as “any time before 3 PM”. Regardless, it was a nice enough day, and I was filming a zombie movie with my friends. Jim (real names used because I don’t have enough foresight or consistency to use the pseudonym “Tim”) was part of the film program at our school, and he wanted to create a sort of Romero-pastiche. Please note that this was a million years ago, and well before zombies were trendy. Just want to be clear on the simple fact that we were never cool. Anyway, because of my movie star good looks (Alan Alda is a movie star), I was chosen as the star of the piece, or at least the one remaining human. The rest of my fellow cast members were zombies, and I was the lone survivor who would, in the end, blow his brains out rather than join the hordes of the undead. This act of final defiance would, of course, require a prop gun.

And that simple prop gun nearly sealed my fate.

Unrelated EventLet’s set the scene a little further, as I don’t want there to be any questions about what was happening here. First of all, we were filming this movie on campus, and we had done so the week before without incident. Jim, our director and filmmaker, had a permit, and permission to film his school project on school grounds. It was a Saturday, and this was predominantly a commuter college, so campus was fairly deserted. And, again, I can’t stress this enough: with the exception of myself and a few camera caddies (including the aforementioned Jim), everyone was in tattered clothes and zombie makeup. Granted, the tattered clothing could have been typical college chic, but it was rare a group of people could coordinate such a look on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and, yes, as mentioned, there were people with video cameras, which, given the epoch/school funding, were not the tiny, “cute” cameras of today, but something more akin to one of April O’Neil’s gigantic accessories.

Point is that, even from a distance, a layman should have been able to identify that something “fantasy” was happening here, and not, say, a mysteriously very quiet shooting.

But one campus security guard apparently did not get the memo, and drew a gun on me while demanding that I freeze.

And I’d be lying if I said I never think about that very specific moment. I was filming a movie with my friends. These friends, it should be noted, were not the most serious people in the world. After all, after we were done with this bit of “business”, we were probably going to hit the school cafeteria and see how many dessert toppings we could pile on a waffle (scientific answer: ∞). We were a generally optimistic, lighthearted group of people, and took very little seriously. This was bound to change over the years, but we were all fresh-faced, and practically teenagers. Actually, scratch that, the majority of us were teenagers. I think only one of us was old enough to (legally) drink. We were stupid teenagers, and, while we might have also claimed to understand all of the secrets of the universe… we were also pretty likely to puke week old sushi and tequila because we somehow thought eating week old sushi and tequila would end in anything other than tears. So with these (soon to be) life-long friends by my side, I felt pretty safe and… Funny? That was the general mood, ultimately, things were fun.

So you’ll forgive me if I reveal that my first impulse was to use my fake gun to challenge campus security to an Old West-style duel.

To be clear, I did not do that! But it was my first impulse. My absolute first thought was that this was a “fake” situation, and this could not possibly be a real life person training a real life weapon on my fragile, fleshy body. My brain could literally not comprehend that I had just gone from “a fun afternoon with friends” to “literal mortal danger”. That’s the thing about guns: they kill. They are designed to kill. Once a gun is introduced to a situation, someone could plainly die. In this case, had I made the wrong move, I would have died, right there, a corpse bleeding out on campus grass.

And I want to say that this security guard was a kind, level-headed fellow who immediately realized his error. But the reality is that I dropped the gun and held up my hands (still not really believing this was happening), and the guard, who could not have been any older than 25, proceeded to call us “retards” for brandishing a fake gun. Again, we had a permit, it was already a secluded section of campus, and, unless a zombie cult had started up in the last few months, it was pretty clear these cameras weren’t here to film a documentary. But, regardless of all obvious evidence, Big Hero Security Guard was going to save the day from 100 lb. kid with a fake gun, because think of the carnage that could be caused with that apparently very, very quiet gun. That’s certainly worth someone losing their life!

So, if you’re curious about the zombie shoot, we were “politely asked” to leave campus for further filming adventures, and we wound up relocating to a friend’s surprisingly post-apocalyptic backyard for further video hijinks. I mimed blowing my brains out, and my friends dined on raw liver that you were meant to believe dribbled out of my skull. It took all freaking day, and was a comedy of errors our director still recounts to this day, but it did wind up actually, ya know, ending.

But one thing hasn’t ended, and that’s the gun control debate. I like to think my feelings on the subject are pretty clear, but I hope this story makes one thing obvious: kids are stupid. In a life or death situation, there are roughly 50/50 odds that someone will make the right decision on a good day. In what was once a safe, peaceful environment, it is very easy to misread the situation, make the wrong call, and be killed for your mistake. I absolutely know this from experience, and it is nothing short of a miracle that I survived being a dumb teenager with a fake gun. But there would never have been the threat of death without a real gun in the mix.

Keep guns out of our schools.

Period.

Post script: And the other obvious statement is that I survived because I was/am white. We’ll talk about that more on Friday…

Goggle Robbery

Two years ago this coming January, my home was robbed.

It had been a typical day, and, while I was away from my home more than usual for various work and social reasons, I had stopped back for a late lunch, so the house hadn’t been empty very long. When I finally returned that evening, I actually didn’t notice a thing initially. My kitchen was untouched, so I didn’t see anything amiss as I deposited my doggy bag and took a moment to rearrange the fridge. I then used the bathroom, and noticed the vanity was slightly ajar. I thought nothing of it, and slid the mirror closed. Then I put a few items away in my office, and saw the closet door was wide open. “That’s odd,” I said to myself in a jocular manner, “Maybe I’ve been robbed.” I looked in another room, and saw the same, unusual sight: the closet door was wide open. I then looked in my bedroom, and saw the complete contents of my bedroom closet emptied out on my bed (which included, among other items, my [open, emptied onto the bed] trumpet case, which contained at least one chocolate bar I had squirreled away during a band trip around approximately the Paleozoic Era). At this point, my brain still trying to grasp the severity of the situation, I plainly stated, in my best Tweety Bird impression, “I have! I have been robbed!”

It was at about this point that it all clicked together in my head, and I made a mad dash downstairs, home of thirty years of video games and a television larger than some cars. I found the majority of my sanctuary undisturbed (a laptop I had just left unattended on the couch was still sitting right there), though my lockbox, last seen few floors up in my bedroom closet, was now at the lowest point in the house and opened. Presumably the master thief had used the subtle lock-picking technique of “toss it down all the stairs, hope gravity is your friend”. It had worked out for him, technically, though the only items I keep in that safe are various mementos I prefer to be fire-proof, so Mr. Burglar decided to leave such worthless items as a “first receipt” from my friend’s business, or a heartfelt letter from my father (aside: my father is neither dead nor lives very far away; he simply has a tendency to only show emotion via notes written when he’s about to board a plane for vacation, and such items should be preserved for posterity/mocking his phobias later). I also discovered the robber’s entry point: a door with a glass window had been introduced to a rock, and now said rock and broken glass were scattered about my laundry room.

Naturally, I called the police immediately.

… Actually, I may have checked to make sure my copies of both Earthbound and Chrono Trigger were undisturbed. Priorities.

The police came along with my mother, whom I had also summoned, thinking that I was too shell-shocked by the event to properly answer questions or recall precise details. Oddly, my mother’s home and the police station are about equidistant from my house, but my mother arrived at the door first. Moms are tough… and quick?

While the police were investigating the area, I began a formal inventory of everything. I found that, naturally, all the cash I kept in my dresser was gone. To this day, I’m not quite sure how much money was taken. I usually keep about $60 on hand “for emergencies” (“Ugh, the walk needs to be shoveled and I don’t feel like getting out from under this blanket. Can’t I just give some kid a twenty to do it?”), but that number can rise or fall depending on various events and debits. Given the robbery had occurred less than a month after Christmas, I’m assuming my pot was larger than usual, if only because of the number of generously endowed Christmas cards I receive from various well-wishers. I was asked about a “highest estimate” and (again, remember the recent holiday) it may have been as much as $300, all told. Other than that, I searched through everything that had been opened, jimmied, and (presumably) fondled, and found that nothing else had been taken. Considering what I consider valuable, I was very lucky.

After the police left, I dealt with the part you never see on TV. Remember that broken door window? Remember the fact that it was January? Yeah. Not only was I left with a room full of broken glass to sweep up, but I also had to call around the neighborhood, now about ten o’clock at night, to find someone with a plank of wood to plug up this hole blowing freezing air into the place. Spoilers: In the end, the eventual cost of replacing that door was the greatest cost involved in the robbery.

Speaking of eventually, it was hours later, when I finally was calmed down enough to try to get some sleep, that I discovered that my usual “bed reading” was interrupted by my ipad and charger mysteriously missing. Right. One more thing stolen, and now I’d have to go down to the police tomorrow morning to report that gone, too.

The following morning I seriously considered developing debilitating social anxiety and never leaving my house again. In my head, it made perfect sense that this was not a mere break-in, but a prelude to a greater robbery: last night was just a “scout”, and today they’d be back with a truck, and I’d get home to find my home completely vacant of all but a few errant Transformers. With this fear at the forefront of my mind, I decided to at least canvas my property in the morning sun and attempt to discover any likely “entry points” that weren’t already double locked. Also, any and all rocks were to be tossed over to my neighbor’s yard. Rocks are the enemy.

I didn’t find many rocks, but in the shade around the side of my house, I did find three items:

  1. My ipad
  2. My ipad’s charger
  3. A key to a local motel room, with the room number right on the keychain

I’m no Batman, but I believe this is what people in the biz refer to as a “clue”.

I beat feet over to the local police department, explained what I had found, and dropped off the evidence. Using every ounce of restraint in my body, I successfully did not berate the officers on duty for somehow missing my bright red ipad and this similarly bright cyan keychain during their search of my perimeter the previous night. Confronting a detective with his subpar detecting skills never helped anybody.

Fast forward a few days, and the police had interrogated the person staying at that motel room. It was relayed to me by the investigating officer that Master Thief’s alibi was based predominantly on the concept that, second-hand quote, “I couldn’t have robbed the house, I was drunk.” Airtight, that defense. Other relevant data: Lupin the Third was confirmed to have been purchasing a pizza at a restaurant a block from my home that very night, and claimed the only reason his key was found against my home (with random stolen property) was that he was just walking through the neighborhood, and it was simply a coincidence that it blew into the yard of a house that was, just that night, robbed. See? It all makes perfect sense.

My money, obviously, was not recovered, as I’m sure it was spent quickly anyway (on pizza, for a start). But it was a tremendous weight off my shoulders that the perpetrator had been found. This was not some career burglar who would return for my valuables (re: copy of Mega Man Legends 2), no, this was just some drunk who got lucky and saw a dark, “abandoned” house while waiting for a pizza order. This wasn’t Carmen Sandiego, this was barely even The Looter. Just some guy.

And when I really think about it, that scares me most of all.

As obliquely referenced earlier, I was fairly terrified when this first happened. Even after the news that this was all committed by Willy the Whino, I still shelled out for a deluxe security system, complete with the capability of working without power and enough cameras to turn my life into a very boring reality show (“Oh, what’s on the Goggle Bob stream tonight?” “He’s masturbating again.” “Really? He was just…” “Yes. Can we please watch something else?”). I also purchased some other security measures, so, while I probably have about the same amount of cash in-house as before the robbery, now I have to summon Gizmo Duck and recite a few lines of Scandinavian poetry while we both turn sacred keys to access it. I no longer disparage ancients who seal their unspeakable evils behind twelve baubles hidden all over the world, as I understand where they’re coming from. My security system is unlikely to ever truly be used, but it helps me sleep at night, which is really what I wanted most.

I did not purchase a gun.

As one may expect, I’ve reviewed the robbery a thousand times in my head: what could be done, what I could have done to prevent, and what could have been different if my own timing was different. As mentioned, it was something of a fluke that I was gone that long at all that evening, so, on a “normal” night, I likely would have come home while the robbery was happening. Given everything I know now, it’s very likely Lush Cole would have simply hightailed it out of there (and, if you consider how he dropped my [and his] stuff, it’s possible that actually did happen), and I wouldn’t have “met” my robber regardless. In a weird way, that seems ideal.

And then I consider what would have happened if I had a gun.

Two outcomes continually come to mind.

One, if this all went down exactly as before, but I already owned a gun… well, I assume then my burglar would have a gun. Reminder, my one and only lockbox was broken open during the robbery. If there had been a gun in there (and, given my disposition, that would have likely been where I’d keep a gun), it would have ceased to be my gun the minute that box was opened. Then we’ve got a drunk burglar with a gun, and that can’t be good for anybody, least of all the person that is potentially coming home to Agent Armed and Nauseous.

Then there’s the option that I came home, found my home being robbed, and grabbed my gun. I’m not going to mince words here: I would have shot him. Even just living through the aftermath of a break-in is chilling: that constant feeling that someone has been here, uninvited, doing whatever they want without reproach, and any time you’re not there? They could do it again. I can’t even imagine (and believe me, I’ve tried) what it would be like to find some stranger traipsing around like they own the place. I’m the kind of person that gets shortchanged on a random dinner check and quietly plots vengeance for the next week. I still remember a time when I was in grade school and, when Mortal Kombat 3 locked up, the arcade manager “refunded” my game by giving me a free play on the vastly inferior (in my mind) Killer Instinct. One day I’ll get payback, Arcade Manager who probably was only working part time at an arcade that is now no longer in business! It’s completely irrational, and a part of me is fully aware of that, tempering me against seeking petty retribution; but that rational part of my brain is very quiet in any high adrenaline situation, when the fires of revenge burn white hot.

So, yes, if I had a gun, and found someone breaking into my home, I’d shoot him. I’d shoot him until he was dead.

I would have killed a man over a couple hundred dollars and an ipad.

It, legally, would have been justified.

I like to believe life is worth more than that.

I support restrictive gun legislation.