Friday, January 20, 2006

Me and my pepper spray

In the UK, it’s “sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows”, though a little short on sunshine, I guess.

Here in this country, it’s “stunguns, k’rate chops, and crossbows...”
If you know the song, it works; if you don’t. Oh well.

But as my pal Bill Welker would say, “WE’RE ALLLLLLL CALMING DOWN NOW!!!!!!!!” As a shouted command to any and all family members and guests in one’s house, it’s particularly effective at about 110 Db, delivered in a booming baritone. Yes, yes, we’re all calming down now. We really really are.

On Tuesday night a bird flew across the patio at 10:30 pm, setting off the alarms. Jumpy? Yeah. We had our good friends from ADT come by, to check on us. Yeah, yeah, we’re fine, hey? Fine.

So yeah, no more negative stories, right? We’re putting all that behind us. Oscar made me take off all my jewelry, except for some tiny silver earrings, before he let me out the door to go back to the Pilates studio Monday morning. I felt bare. But slightly safer.

And, yes, we are evaluating the scene here, particularly for Miss T. Trying to take positive steps. Whatever those may turn out to be. And we’re upgrading our security (is that possible? Of course. It can always be improved.)

But anyway, on Tuesday during the day I went shopping, at the lunch hour, to Fourways Mall. A little bit of shopping can always calm the nerves. Particularly if it’s shopping at your local “Security World” store, for personal protection items. Cool. Here’s a new project to spend Mr. D’s hard earned Rand on. Just imagine, you’re at the Woodfield Mall in Chicagoland, or the Reading Oracle in Berkshire, and right next to Swiss Colony Cheese shop, or Accessorize, or the local chain bookstore, is a store selling the most amazing stuff.

I walked into the store and told the guy I wanted to buy a cosh or a stick.

“Your best choice is probably this. It’s a retractable steel baton. You must just do this!” He removed the small black thing from its carrying case sheath and, holding the 8 inch black baton, flicked his arm firmly to the side. Suddenly he was holding a black rod almost two feet long. “And there’s 21 inches of solid steel.”

And now I’m in a martial arts movie? Wow. Hope it’s Jean Claude van Damme and not Jackie Chan. I don’t think I have Jackie’s sense of humour anymore, to be honest.

“It comes in 21 or 28 inch models.”

“And the good thing is, you can attach the carrying sheath to your belt.” Oh great. Nice fashion look. Like the 9th grade nerd boys who wore pocket protectors, and attached their calculators to their belts. Somehow I’m thinking I’m going to have a hard time making this accessory look cool.

“Hmmmm.” I pondered the matter. “I don’t know. I’m not sure it would be any use. I was looking for something smaller, for my car, perhaps.”

He brightened. “How about pepper spray? That’s great for close quarters. Here, come this way.” We walked over to a very attractive display of little black and red cylinders.

“Is it legal?” I’m trying to think of different countries I’ve been in, and what’s legal where. I know you can’t take it on a plane, but after that?

“Ah, absolutely legal. Now, you have two different options here. There’s this one, where it’s like a water pistol. The pepper spray shoots out in a directed stream. Good, because you needn’t be particularly close, and if someone were to smash your car window, you can aim this at them and not worry about getting disabled yourself.”

“The second option is for outdoors use only. It makes a mist. You’d use this if you were out on a walk or something.” (Have I been “out on a walk” anytime lately? Noooo.)


“Each of these comes in two sizes, and they have a shelf life of three years. Just make sure you test each of them once, so you know they work. Do it out of doors. And then you just hope that you never have to use them.”

“Right. I think I’ll have two of each of those.”

“And,” he continued, “Here’s a fact sheet about pepper spray. It’s quite nasty, so if you get it on your skin, or you breathe it in, you’ll need to know how to treat yourself.”

Presumably I’ll read this instruction sheet BEFORE I use the stuff and get my eyes all puffed shut from pepper spray!

“Anything else I should think about?” I asked. “I mean, I’m kind of fatalistic about this, since I was just robbed at gunpoint last Monday, and none of this would have helped, but right now it’s more of a mental thing for me. So yeah, any other options?”

“Well, we also sell stunguns.”

“STUNGUNS! You’re JOKING!!! Are THEY legal?”

“Sure. Here. Two options in stock. The first has a pepper spray stream, so you can fend someone off as they approach, and then the stun gun option when they get close enough to zap. Because they have to get fairly close to you before a stun gun will work. This model has an alarm on the hand strap. If the assailant pulls the gun away from you, the hand strap comes off and sets off this alarm.” He detached the carrying loop, and a shrieking siren set off. Even though I was paying attention, and expecting it to go off, I nearly jumped out of my skin.


He reattached the alarm’s hand strap. The siren stopped. “”Of course, when you set off the siren, then the stun gun function no longer works. That’s so they can’t use your own weapon on you.”

Great. That’s the worst of all possible ideas. Your own weapon, used back on you. What a SHOCKING concept. (Ha ha, couldn’t resist, sorry!)

“And then there’s this, our most powerful model. It’s got (he named some massive number that I now can’t remember) volts of power. (For someone whose husband works in the electrical industry, I am still mindbogglingly stupid about all of electricity. The lights have never turned on in that part of my brain, I guess.) And he pressed the button, and the thing started snapping and spitting and sparking and sparkling and buzzing and jumping, like that time machine in “Back to the Future”. Scary. Again, I jumped three feet.

“Hah!” I laughed nervously. “I think I’ll wait on that one, until I’m a bit less traumatized. I don’t think I could handle that kind of excitement right now!”

He smiled sweetly, empathetically.

“Pshaw, I know what you mean.”

I looked around the store one more time. Air guns, pellet guns, knives and nun chucks, maybe Chinese fighting stars in the back room, who knows. And then, in stacked boxes along the floor, MINIATURE CROSSBOWS. Can you believe? So you can reenact the (come on, British readers, name a battle where castle dwellers defended themselves with crossbows, as marauders poured over the outer walls. Or am I just thinking of some part of “Lord of the Rings”?)

O..... My..... Goodness.

I stood at the counter as he bagged my purchases.

“Here’s hoping it’s all an investment that you’ll never need to use. Thanks for your business, ma’am.” He smiled, then looked serious again. “Be sure when you’re in your car that you keep the pepper spray in the door next to you, or better still, in your lap between your legs. That way it’s easy to access.”

Ag, man. Y’know, according to the anti-hijack workshop, I’m already supposed to be keeping my cell phone in my lap, between my legs. Now pepper spray too? It’s getting kind of crowded down there. I will be running out of space shortly. Not to mention that I can think of other things I’d much rather have there. (Though maybe not perhaps in the Mini Cooper, please. It’s way too small, and it’s brand new. Let’s be mindful of the upholstery.)

Holy moses.

No, I was done shopping for the day. I paid up with my debit card (the only meaningful money-related plastic I’ve left in my handbag) and trotted off to pick up Miss T. Success.

But will I sleep easier tonight? Doubtful.

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