"You know what I do for a living now, Joyce? I'm a bounty hunter and I carry a gun, so don't [tick] me off."When I read fiction, I am often left wondering about certain aspects of life portrayed and how realistic a given portrayal might be. I grew up in a suburban area. Nice family oriented neighborhoods. No one I knew carried a gun. Or at least I didn't know it if they did. In fact, the only weapons I ever heard about were small pellet guns used for shooting neighborhood pets when they strewed trash from someone's garbage cans.
"Everybody in New Jersey carries a gun," Joyce said. She reached into her pocketbook and pulled out a 9-mm Beretta.
This was embarrassing because not only didn't I have my gun with me, but my gun was smaller.
Bertie Greenstein was under the dryer next to Joyce. "I like a forty-five," Bertie Greenstein said, hauling a Colt government model out of her tote bag.
"Too much kick," Betty Kuchta told Bertie from across the room. "And it takes up too much room in your pocketbook. You're better off with a thirty-eight. That's what I carry now. A thirty-eight."
"I carry a thirty-eight," Clara said. "I used to carry a forty-five, but I got bursitis from the weight, so my doctor said to switch to a lighter gun. I carry pepper spray, too."
Everyone but old Mrs. Rizzoli, who was getting a perm, had pepper spray.
Betty Kuchta waved a stun gun in the air. "I've got one of these, too."
"Kiddie toy," Joyce said, brandishing a taser.
Nobody could one-up the taser.
Later, after Joe and I were married, we lived for a year in Chicago. Actually in the near west suburb of Oak Park. But we were right on the Chicago-Oak Park border. Our apartment was across the street from the west side of Chicago. Within a few blocks of some not-so-nice areas.
We often took walks around our immediate neighborhood. And also ventured into some of the not-so-nice ones. I never felt endangered. I even walked the mile or so to church once with Jeremy in the stroller, and Matt not having yet made his appearance. But after getting chewed out by congregation members, I didn't try that again. Apparently I had passed by some crack houses unawares. I still walked nearly to the church on occasion, because there was park with a nice playground along the way to church. But I didn't tell the church members. Nor did I walk in the immediate vicinity of the houses of ill repute.
We noticed that although located in a purportedly crime-ridden area, the shop owners took pride in their little bit of sidewalk space. Although sometimes a lot of wrappers, cigarette filters, dust and other urban waste would build up during the day, each morning, the shop keepers would be out sweeping and cleaning up the space in front of their store-front.
But we also couldn't help noticing the apparent potential for crime exhibited in the gated doorways and barred windows.
Once there was even a shoot-out about three blocks from our apartment.
Comparing illegally concealed weapons was not a part of the normal conversation I encountered. Joe was privy to a few such conversations, however. As was Pastor Steve Schmidt, who served the same congregation after we left there.
So although the afore-quoted passage at first seems totally unbelievable, an excellent use of hyperbole, I know that such conversations do, in fact, take place.