Hello and welcome to another fabulously interesting anecdote from my Real American Life.
I called around to a bunch of places today to try to find some 20 gauge buckshot for the Mrs.' new scattergun. She asked for something a little smaller than the 12 gauge, and the both of us are quite happy with the 20. Her because the piece itself is lighter and handier; me because an appropriate load will kill the recipient just as dead as the 12 will, but in a handier package and with less recoil.
Not that followup shots are going to be particularly easy after lighting off a shotgun indoors at night with no hearing protection on.
But I digress.
I finally found a place that had some on the shelf, all the way across town. It was one of those Mega-Outdoors Stores that is really just a garnish of camping gear served next to an entree of overpriced athletic clothing and scarlet lettered yoga pants, but they did have what I was looking for.
So I drove out, not realizing it was in the bowels of one of an unfathomably large upscale shopping complex. The term "outdoor mall" does this thing no justice. Acres and acres and acres of Crate and Barrel, Ulta, and other high end stores on an immaculately groomed campus.
Anyway, I finally made it to the gun counter only to find the lone associate totally occupied by a guy complaining about the $2000 pellet gun he bought last week. We'll call the unhappy customer The Patriarch.
A quick character sketch of The Patriarch:
Mid 40s, nondescript white male; wearing $450 dock shoes and an Omega watch worth three or four times what my car is; complaining about his new $2000 air rifle shooting to the right "even after I used a laser boresighter on it. And don't tell me it's the scope, that's a $750 Bushnell".
And so here is the poor schmuck behind the counter attempting to explain the difference between bore sighting and zeroing to a guy who thinks that if he pays enough money, he's entitled to having the laws of physics bend in favor of his ignorance. In other words, the exact reason I fucking hate sporting goods stores. Yeah, OK, I'm an elitist prick, whatever.
I didn't see what I wanted on the shelf, and thought perhaps it was kept behind the counter (in many places, buckshot and slugs are behind the counter, and birdshot is not), so I waited for about nine and a half minutes of entitled moaning before turning around to go look at hats or something until The Patriarch got tired of taking out his embarrassment on a random clerk.
As soon as I turned around, the schmuck, who with this action was no longer a schmuck and was instead a gentleman, had the excuse he needed to disengage from The Patriarch and ask me what I was looking for. I told him, and he directed me to an odd corner on an endcap. To my delight, just as the gentleman had specified on the phone, there they were - four boxes of 20 ga buckshot. Nothing fancy, but I didn't need fancy.
So I took two boxes up to the counter and the gentleman was kind enough to ask if I'd seen all four boxes.
"I did, thanks, I only need two. Someone else might need the other two."
The gentleman smiled and said "I wish more people would be that polite. It's not as bad now but for a long time there would be fights over stuff."
The Patriarch looked over at the boxes and asked, "What kind of ammo is that?"
For non-Americans, and non-ammo-buying Americans, the consumer market is just now pulling out of a very bad, years-long ammo shortage. This shortage was almost completely caused by panic buying, hoarding, and scalping, all feeding on each other in a negative feedback spiral. Certain ammo is still hard to find, but since the bubble has burst in the last 90 days or so, almost all common calibers and all the uncommon ones are available at regular retail prices, and below retail in face to face sales.
So I told The Patriarch what it was, flatly and without eye contact, not really wanting to talk to him. I was afraid he would ask if I knew about guns in an attempt to get someone to help him yell at the schmuck about his pellet gun situation.
"Is it hard to find these days?"
I explained that it wasn't particularly hard to find, but that outside of deer season it wasn't very common, and I'd been glad to find somewhere in town that had some.
Without further comment he walked over, grabbed the last two boxes, and put them on the counter.
To be honest, I was almost totally incredulous, and then downright angry. I was almost able to hold my tongue, but ultimately just could not.
I told him, "You know, this entire problem is caused by that bullshit right there. You don't even need it. You're buying it just to have it, because you think you can get one over. This is exactly the problem everyone has been having."
He was totally unimpressed. All he had to offer was, "It's a free market, isn't it?"
Just to be clear: Here's a guy who lives in the richest suburb of Columbus, wearing about $15,000 worth of clothes and watch, complaining ineffectually about $2800 worth of toy that he doesn't know how to use, and snatching up $8 worth of ammo just so someone else can't have it.
Free fucking market indeed.