Paintball: Nothing says, ‘I love you’ like getting shot in the ass
by David Weinshilboum
Nothing says, “I love you” like getting shot in the ass.
I know, thanks to my 11-year-old son, Alex.
Before you go calling Child Protective Services, I want to clarify that I was the one who got shot.
In my ass.
By a paintball.
Traveling really fucking fast.
I did it for my son. I do a lot of things for Alex. When he was a baby, I changed numerous diapers. I stayed up many a night to soothe him when he had trouble sleeping. I even watched the movie “The Last Airbender” with him!
Paintball was a new level of parental devotion, though.
He had been bugging me about paintball for the past couple months. He tried it out with a few friends and loved it. It was awesome, he told me. Apparently, Alex was a very good shot. He sniped about five or six people in the span of three games.
He had caught the paintball bug.
He begged me to let him go paintballing. Please, he would implore me. Please please please. I had reservations, though. When Alex first “paintballed,” he did it with friends, similar minded 11-year-olds who knew one another. Going up against strangers, that was another thing.
But the boy kept pestering me. Steven, a former student of mine who also had the paintball bug, said that he could set us up, make sure that Alex would be relatively safe. I felt better when Steven informed me that we would not do battle with hardcore paintballers — 30-year-old males who work at McDonald’s, live in their parents’ basement and live for weekend paintball battles.
So I gave in. I went paintballing with Steven, Alex and one of Alex’s friends.
When we arrived on the paintball field, I couldn’t help but think I had entered a scene from “Mad Max.” Dozens upon dozens of hardcore paintballers donned ersatz armor, some of it store bought, some handmade from shin guards, shoulder pads and the like.
Our pathetic band of battlers contrasted these futuristic fashion statements. I wore a sweatshirt and jeans; Alex wore a hoodie. Steven, though he had an assortment of battle gear available, stuck with a white T-shirt. I was pleased that we would not be exchanging fire with these people who seemed to relish making people’s bodies resemble a Jackson Pollock mural.
When we visited the cashier, it dawned on me that I was paying to have people shoot me. After purchasing our tickets and renting the rifles and protective masks, we attended a safety lecture. The speaker was a rotund young man who listed off a litany or rules: never remove your mask in the battle zones, always have the safety lock on in the DMZ, don’t shoot anyone who’s already been knocked out of a game, never fire at someone who is closer than about 10 yards from you…
When I glanced at the other “newbie” paintballers at the meeting, my blood pressure went up. Most of the participants were teens: some young women were there for a birthday party; a band of male high schoolers were there to hang out. When I looked into their eyes, I could see that they were only taking in bits and pieces of the safety speech. In between the adrenaline and ADHD, all they heard was “Blah blah blah battle zone; blah blah blah DMZ; blah blah blah shoot anyone who’s already out.”
Then it was time. We strapped on the masks, loaded our rifles and headed to the battlefield. Since we were on the same team, I was Alex’s protector. I was calm. I was ready. I was… dead.
I turned a corner and BLAM, my sweatshirt bled yellow. I was the first person out. My pride hurt more than my chest. Alex, who saw me walk off the field, shook his masked head in embarrassment.
With the help of Steven’s tutelage, I improved my game as the day progressed. I learned to protect myself, watch my back, try to protect Alex, and get hit fewer times. Still, I suffered multiple welts and bruises. Once, a young guy outflanked our team and sent a half dozen rounds into my back and backside. His overzealous attack gave me a grapefruit-sized cheek bruise that caused me to sit ever so gingerly for a week. Even worse, when the temperature rose into the triple digits, I abandoned my sweatshirt. That’s when a crazed 14-year old snuck up on me and, at point-blank range, landed two direct hits on my exposed forearm. I didn’t get angry until the wounds started seeping blood about five minutes after initial impact.
Luckily, paintball wasn’t about me. It was about doing something my son enjoyed — and Alex left the excursion happy. It was about being a parent, quite literally a pain-in-the-ass job at times.
David Weinshilboum, whose forearm remains a scarred map of paintball ignominy, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.