Six Things I Learned Playing Paintball

I joined my landlords, and various of their religious followers, in York tonight for many rounds of exciting paintball action, phase three of Dan’s extended bachelor party.

This was my first paintball experience. Indeed it was my first “men doing manly things together” outing in perhaps twenty years. Here’s what I learned:

  • Their is an odd allure in being led. Conventional wisdom is that a web hermit iconoclast like me would buck at the notion of being told what to do. But when one of my Team Red mates took up the leadership mantle and sent me down, left and forward, it was great: sometimes being told what to do isn’t such a bad thing.
  • Their is an odd allure in men doing manly things together. This goes against 20 years of hard-edged feminist training my by various consorts. Or rather more honestly, 20 years of hard-edged pseudo-feminist posturing by me as a sort of awkward mating technique. But it’s true: running through the forest and then drinking beer and talking about it fun. Who knew?
  • Wearing glasses when playing paintball is awkward. Wearing the mandatory super-goggles over my glasses — which I need to see, I’ve only recently realized — meant that I had two layers of fog and grime to see through. When the wee glasses-free dynamo brother of the bride lunged from out of nowhere and shot me point blank, and I only vaguely knew what was happening, the true nature of my disadvantage became obvious. Please note that the “squirt some dish soap” advice that the paintball master offers as a solution to this problem only results in an extra layer of gunk to see through. By the way, as a sign of my extra-special geekliness, I kept reading the “Goggles Mandatory” sign as “Google Mandatory.”
  • Rarely engaging in physical activity makes running through the forest harder. Given that my comrades spend a roughly equal amount of time engaging in physical activity as I do, this wasn’t a huge disadvantage. But then again, they are all 10 to 20 years younger than I am, so their bodies have had less time to atrophy. I made it through the night, and even rolled down a couple of hills and leaped up into a tower once or twice under heavy fire. But I will be very, very sore in the morning.
  • Holding and firing a gun isn’t that weird. Indeed it felt strangely comfortable. I find this equally disturbing and encouraging. And for the same reasons. It’s good to realize that people who do bad things with guns aren’t a species apart: they’re just like me. That makes me hopeful because it suggests that rationality can prevail given the right environment. It also makes soldiers seem less abnormal — it’s hard to demonize a population when you’ve felt the initial tentative roots of their predilections in yourself. But for the same reasons, I’m disturbed: I would have liked to have thought that there was a stronger firewall between everyday regular rational people and the ability to comfortably wield weapons. I don’t want to make this into more than it was — essentially a video game played outdoors with more sweat — but there’s at least something to be learned here.
  • Not working sometimes is probably a good idea. Short of dating my lady-love and outings with my small family, I mostly work and sleep and eat and drink lemon iced teas and watch Survivor All-Stars. And procrastinate. It’s a good idea to do something that has nothing to do with work and family at least once in a while. I’m not going to take up paintball as a regular avocation. But doing something else has a new attraction.

The lads were very kind to let me come along for the night tonight, and, what’s more, to refrain completely from “how’s it going old fart?” or “hey, you’re the new Alan!” allusions. A good time was had by all.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 11, 2004 - 03:30 Permalink

Agreed on all points. The glasses/goggles were killer.

Mike's picture
Mike on May 11, 2004 - 03:37 Permalink

I thought the sign said ‘Google’ as well. But then again I was also not feeling 100%.

Dan James's picture
Dan James on May 11, 2004 - 18:46 Permalink

Thanks for coming Peter. It twas a blast (except for my massive neck wound). Maybe as a testorone booster shot we could head to the ‘stocks’ this summer in oyster bed bridge ;-)

Group Photo

a photo of the Ruke in cammo

Gary's picture
Gary on May 11, 2004 - 22:11 Permalink

How timely to find out about your enthusiasm for guns. There’s an opening for a guard at Abu Ghurayb Prison and you will be picked up later this evening.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 12, 2004 - 03:23 Permalink

Wow, they provide you coveralls? I hung out in the car and forewent my only paintball opportunity, which like yours was a bachelor party, because I had arrived in clothes that I didn’t want ruined and with no spares for the pending 24 hours of revelry. The place didn’t offer any covering but for the goggles. It was a good thing, though, because otherwise there’d have been no getting off without admitting I’m a chicken. Nearly all of us were recovering idealists from Berkeley, so if I’d claimed exemption just as a conscientous objector, I’d never have gotten away with it. But I can’t have been completely unconscientious, because I remember finding their wide-eyed enthusiasm on return from the paintfield offputting and scary. I’ve avoided talking to them about it up to today…and now I know to avoid talking about it with Peter as well.