Back in 2005, many of the paintball players in the Charlottesville community were connected by the local paintball store; Rudy’s Paintball. For some, it served as a place to buy paint or fill up on air. For others it was a place you could get your marker teched, or be given some advice on a new piece of gear. At that time, Rudy could also get you some pretty diverse elements of military surplus. For many of us, however, the store was a family lounge. Over the course of the day teammates, friends, strangers and undeniably strange people would drift in and out of the store. Stories were told, and memories were made.
One particular day, Owen was working. We were probably discussing our paintball team, or perhaps debating the virtues of cannibalism. Conversation was always a mixed bag. Whatever the topic, it was interrupted when a customer walked through the door. The man looked to be in his late 20’s, glasses, perhaps some poorly propagated facial hair if I recall. He spent some time wandering through the surplus and paintball racks. After a little while, Owen offered the obligatory, “Can I help you with something errrrr….” It was Owen’s signature greeting. The man eventually warmed up to the counter and began engaging us in paintball discussion. It was clear that he had played some paintball, but probably wasn’t terribly experienced. He seemed interested in purchasing some starter gear as he’d been playing some walk on ball lately. As time passed, he came out of his shell more, growing more animated in telling his paintball stories, and asking about the paintball gear. Everyone loved telling his or her paintball stories in the lounge. You could set your clock by it. Everyone always looked like they were just waiting for the right cue.
I don’t remember the guy’s name, but he told a story about his recent day playing at some unspecified field nearby. As was often the case, his story cast some ‘speed ball/tourney’ players as the antagonists. Apparently these guys, in their multicolored jerseys were shooting everybody up all day. The man explained how at the start of one game, he decided to go right…. way right. He said he made his way as far right on the field as he could go, having to duck under a rope to do so. He then made his way up the field without anyone knowing because he was wearing cammo. He got all the way down to the other end of the field, came back in under a rope and started shooting all the speedballers. At this point he laughed and described how pissed off they were. I offered, “I bet they were pissed off. You cheated!” I went on to explain the purpose of the rope, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears.
The man probably spent an hour in the store before he started buying anything. But once he started, there was a deluge of purchases. From what I recall, he purchased an A5, a couple of CO2 bottles ( if not an air tank), pods, a pod pack, a new mask. This guy bought just about every stereotypical first load out woodsball set up you could name. He even did some shopping in the surplus area, picking up some BDU’s etc. The pile of stuff this guy bought was preposterous. But before he could finalize his bill, he spotted a helmet. “Hmmm, better buy that helmet as well.”
So, eventually, Owen totaled up the guys bill, which would have been sizeable. He piled everything up on the A-5 box, but realized he couldn’t carry it all. With some quick thinking, he put the military helmet on his head, then piled everything back up, picked up the box and took a step away from the counter. There he was with a pile of paintball gear from waist to chin, and on top of it all: the helmet. I don’t’ remember it, but he took one last opportunity to tell another paintball story. Standing there, arms full, wearing a helmet. Eventually, he thanked Owen, turned and made his way toward the door. Before he got to the door he turned back one more time, wearing a helmet, and questioned, “By the way, what is your return policy?”