Vail Daily column: Terrified of each other |

Vail Daily column: Terrified of each other

Benjamin A. Gochberg
Valley Voices

It was on the city street I visited this past week where I was reminded that we are still all terrified of each other. The yellowed streetlights reflected against the puddles of melting snow as a storm passed through downtown in the late evening. I had pulled the collar of my long coat up around my neck and buried my chin into the scarf that I would typically let hang.

Another man had stepped out onto the dark street in front of me, and after a block of walking, I realized I had accidentally begun to close in on him from behind. Though the noise of traffic going by on a busy street should have been enough to remind us that we were in public, I caught the man glancing nervously over his shoulder a time or two.

It wasn’t until the man nearly turned completely to look me in the eyes as he crossed the street away from me that I stopped walking for a moment. I had come too close for him, though standing at least 10 paces away.

Do I look like the kind of person he should be scared of?

It was then I remembered another young man from my past. I don’t remember much except that he seemed to need the attention of others more often than the rest of the class did. I must’ve been in seventh grade and standing in the lunchroom when the boy produced a .22 pistol and started shooting. Nobody was killed or injured, but it was a good lesson. He didn’t much look like someone who would bring a gun to school.

Maybe I really do look like that.

I continued my walk down the block and glanced into an alley intending to cut up a few streets. The Kimber compact bouncing against my ribs reminded me that I didn’t have much to worry about, and then I considered if I would walk up the alley at all without it. I keep walking.

I bought it after the time I was attacked on the job. Though its been about six years ago now, I remember screeching to call the police from my office as a man nearly twice my size picked me up and threw me against the wall. I went out in secret a week later, keeping my worry from my girlfriend at the time, and picked it out. It was pretty, effective, and I was scared enough to put the money down for it. Having a concealed carry permit already made the process even easier. The training had been equivalent to basic hunter’s safety.

As I kicked the snow up the busy city street, I started playing through all the statistics, reminding myself of all the emotional reasons I carried for the years after the attack, and how incredibly nonsensical it seemed from a logical point of view.

Most folks who carry can’t even use their weapon in an emergency situation. Under stress, the gun can actually become a liability to most people. All bravado and training aside, I know that it takes me more than two seconds to pull the gun from concealment, and at least a second or two more to find a target in the sights and deliver a round. In that space of time, an assailant can cover 20 feet or more.

Of course, I can argue the other side, too. I realized, some years ago, that I’m probably not carrying in order to save my own life. In a developing situation, I have enough training to take cover and aim a careful shot. I know plenty of people who carry who have taken a great deal of time and energy to make sure they are ready for the unexpected, and I am grateful to those men and women.

I’m just tired of people killing each other.

The inside of a warm restaurant was a welcome feeling as I sat down to have a cup of black coffee before wandering back to the hotel. This time of year reminds me sharply of how good we have it here in the United States. I’m also reminded how incredibly insensitive it would be to celebrate if I personally knew the people halfway around the world, and even here at home, who are fighting and dying over ideology, politics and petty human anger.

One side yells about protecting my rights. You can post a meme honoring the military, the eagle, and the Colt. The other side highlights the horrible stories and the innocent deaths. Statistics overgeneralize the realities. They’re both right in some ways, and out of their damn minds in most. Oil, religion, money, power … freedom and justice for all … peace on earth, good will to men … or not.

I’m grateful I have enough of a mind to think for myself.

I accidentally size up the guy in the booth down from me and count the exits as I drop a few dollars on the table and head for the street.

Benjamin A. Gochberg was once a banker. He now lives full time. He can be reached at 801-725-7344 and

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