Lessons Learned The Hard Way – No. 76

19 01 2009



                 What evil lurks in these quiet streets?              (Annapolis, MD)



Always mind your own business.


Annapolis, Maryland is a quaint city dominated by the U.S. Naval Academy and an attractive main street that is classically Colonial America. First settled in the 17th century and having a rich history, it sits on the picturesque Chesapeake Bay from which the scent of salt air is carried on sea breezes during hot summer’s days. Although lovely, it’s not exactly synonymous with adventure…but never judge a book by its cover.


Heading south towards the pristine coast of Chincoteague, Virginia and its wild horses, we had stopped in Annapolis for lunch.


It was my first time in the capital of the former royal colony, and I immediately felt comfortable. The town was positively picture-book and I thoroughly enjoyed strolling the streets and wandering around the harbour. A small shop offering naval antiques and souvenirs caught my eye and we popped in for a closer look. A bell rang as I opened the door and a gentleman at the back gave us a nod of welcome before continuing with paperwork. Glass-topped display counters were arranged around the periphery with items similar to those we had seen through the window on the right side and more modern electronics, cameras and other items at the far end. I gazed into the cases at the historic odds and ends.


When the bell rang and the door opened, I idly turned to look more by force of habit than any particular curiosity. A man walked in with a large black garbage bag under his arm. He stepped forward and the door swung closed behind him. As if in slow motion, I saw him reach into the bag and withdraw an enormous shotgun. My heart pounded and I turned my head back towards the display case in the hope that I wouldn’t be noticed. Having been raised on a healthy diet of action movies, I had always thought that if caught in a situation like this I would vault forward like the Matrix, grapple the firearm from offending hands and magnificently save the day. Instead, I found myself bravely rooted to the floor, my stomach valiantly churning like a cement mixer and my hair heroically standing on end like a hedgehog.


With time standing still and me standing even stiller, I watched the visitor’s reflection in the glass of the case, hoping that I would suddenly just dissolve into the wall. My throat was parched, all moisture evidently coursing through the palms of my hands and onto the countertop. Suddenly, saving the day didn’t seem quite so appealing and it was clear that invisibility was the better part of valour. I remained motionless, awaiting the unmistakeable sound of gunfire and the smell of cordite to which Hollywood had made me so accustomed when somewhere, from another world, I heard the storekeeper speak. His voice was calm and seemed courageous to my trembling ears.


“Sorry, we don’t buy guns,” he said, returning once more to his paperwork.


“Okay,” the assassin replied obediently over the rustle of the garbage bag, “Thanks.” With that, he turned for the door and walked out into the warm rays of sunshine.


“You okay?” my oblivious companion asked. “You look a little pale.”



Post by: Simon Vaughan   Photo by: Dan Smith



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