Readers may remember a post from last summer entitled A Humbling End To An Epic Weekend. Part of the reason for leaving mid-week for the trip to Chicago was to celebrate young Robbie's birthday, the star of that story. He turned 13 on St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate, we played paintball with him and a whole bunch of his friends on Saturday. His Dad, Chris, rented a big van and took us all to CPX Sports way out in Joliet. It was my first time ever. Boy was it fun.
I keep trying to put paintball into words. Controlled anarchy seems like the best description. And wouldn't you know, the sport was invented in good old New Hampshire, the Live Free Or Die state. It has since turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Good. Now I understand why.
I was admittedly intimidated by it at first. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was best to wear old, heavy clothing because getting hit was both painful and messy.
It wasn't as messy as I thought it would be, and it was only painful a few times. Chris mentioned that it hurt just enough to make you do anything to avoid getting hit, and I thought that was a great description. The incredible part was the amount of adrenaline that kicked in. I knew I had been hit a few different times, but it wasn't until the next day that I noticed I'd been hit in the back. And it hurt.
I thought about posting a photo of it, but thought it would be Too Much Information. Let's just say it is a rather impressive black and blue welt with a deep red portion where the skin was slightly broken. The normal reaction seemed to be whoa, dude.
The only difficult thing was the fatigue; I was strongly reminded that I have a desk job. My legs felt like rubber. I was doing some sniping from a rooftop in a playing field called Armageddon and stayed crouched down while I bobbed and weaved from corner to corner. I was so pumped that I didn't realize I'd been doing it nonstop for several minutes. Likewise, I was probably so pumped when I took the shot in the back that I didn't really feel it. Well, I do now.
I thought it was a fascinating socionomic experience. I learned a great many things about human behavior (way too much to list) as well as the current state of our country and we the people. If I had to bottomline the experience, I'd say the following:
1) Once you are fired upon, it is amazing how quickly you revert to primal instinct. There is no way to intellectualize it as it's occurring. You get pulled into the moment and become it.
2) Younger people are great at paintball. I was amazed by how well Robs and his friends played. Their video-gaming talents gave them an instant advantage that took those of us on the opposite side (Chris and me included) nearly all day to catch up to. They split into two squads, alpha and bravo, and worked as two-man teams. One advanced as the other covered for them. They exploited angles and developed strategies to outflank us, and most impressively, used triangulation to rack up wins. I was stunned by their talents.
I took the following paragraph from a paintball site because it described these guys so well:
Paintball, like many other games, revolves more around teamwork than it does equipment or even the skill of individual players. A well-organized team working together can defeat a team whose players are in disarray, even if individual members of the confused team have better skills and gear. Communication is key to a winning team, and often presence of mind and teamwork help to win a game.
It wasn't until the last game that our team actually worked together. Once we did, it was an entirely different outcome. And it felt really cool.
3) Girls are great at paintball. Robbie's sister Laura played on our team. During our last game, her primal instincts came out too (let's not forget that throughout nature males are the weaker sex) and she turned into an absolute war machine, hunting and stalking and even cornering her prey until we had won the game. She loved it.
4) CPX Sports had the feeling of a giant, highly organized, paramilitary training camp. Most people, with the exception of private groups like ours, came dressed as if they had just left an Army base. It felt a bit unsettling at first.
5) Do not mess with "ordinary" citizens. It's a great thing that paintball has spread worldwide. Governments of the world should therefore think twice before attempting to impose tyranny on anyone . . . anywhere.
6) I realized that when I enter situations where I feel any sort of intimidation or am unsure of my surroundings, I pull into myself to regain my focus. I'm usually a bit of a ham and love cracking quick witticisms. Entering this unknown environment I felt myself pull in and slow down. After all, I've been trying to develop my higher faculties, not my primal ones. It wasn't until the first shots were fired that I popped out of it.
Later on, Robs gave me a big compliment. I was telling his Mom how great he and his sister were at the game. He overheard me and said "Well you took out half the guys on my team twice." I had no idea. He was cool to let me know, and it meant a lot to hear it from him.
My small gift to Robs, now that he's a young man, was this book. I think he really got a kick out of it.
Now he'll know how to hot-wire a car, play a blackjack hand, take a punch, open a bottle without an opener, survive a bachelor party, tie a bow tie, cook on a grill, and many other essential and non-politically correct things that are generally frowned upon in today's nanny state.
A big thanks to Chris for treating all of us to such an awesome day. Thank You Chris!