Editor's note. An email from well-known Rochester photographer, Richard Margolis is always interesting, but this one followed our February 2023 issue whereby Richard explained that our story reminded him of one he wrote for another journal. He wondered if we would like to share it with our TI Life readers. Nuff said... we do!
Speaking of Guns . . .
Last night we had dinner at a restaurant in Clayton; it’s a favorite of locals, where most people, particularly those at the bar, know each other and the bartender. We were in the dining room and there were only a couple of other tables occupied; the four of us were talking, catching up on news about Covid and north country politics and the possibility of Elise Stefanik being reelected.
I went to the men's room, which was locked, as was the family restroom, so I waited, not long, before a muscular, tattooed gentleman came out. We nodded at each other, as you do when you don't want to stop and chat. I entered and started my business, then noticed that the fellow ahead of me had left something on the toilet paper holder mounted on the wall. The paper holder was about 7 x 7 x 13 inches, black metal, and on it was a leather holster with a gun inside. What to do? What to do?
The dining room was now empty except for the four of us, so the fellow had to be in the bar. Should I take the gun there and ask who it belonged to? Give it to the pretty college age hostess who had smiled at me? Leave it for the next, perhaps a family, to deal with? Wait until the accidentally unprotected 2nd amendment
supporter noticed that the bulge was suddenly missing and begin to perhaps
frantically retrace his steps?
I wish I had been able to photograph it, but I had left my phone on the table. A
picture would have been memorable. Without much thought, the decision seemed nearly automatic, I went to the bar area where there were about eight people, five guys in a row but none were muscular with tattoos – and a couple, probably on a date because they were talking to each other.
From a few feet back, I asked if someone had just been in the restroom and two of the five men looked at me like I was maybe speaking Ukrainian, which is uncommon in the North Country. Then I asked the couple at the end of the bar, about the restroom, the ones that might have been on a date, or first date, because they were leaning close to each other. His head spun around, and not sure what he said, but it was in the affirmative, and he started to get up. I turned and did not sprint out of the bar but I certainly did not dawdle.
I had never – that I know of – been followed past the bar toward the dining room (where the restrooms are located) by someone who has just realized that his gun is missing and that for all he knew at the time, I might have it!
When we got into the dining room, he turned left into the restrooms, and I went straight toward our table. Sherry and the other couple did not seem to noticed that I had excused myself to deal with something of a personal nature or that I had returned, being polite folks, until I told them to turn so they could see who was going to come out of the restroom. They, of course, had no idea what I meant and asked if it was someone famous. I said just watch and I'll explain.
Well – it took a minute, perhaps two – I don't know how long it takes to tuck a gun into the waist band of a pair of jeans and pull the shirt down, glance in the mirror to see that it is normal looking, then calm down so that he could walk out casually, as though everything is routine, no big deal, no weapon potentially capable of slaughtering everyone in the restaurant, perhaps without reloading, just a couple of inches from his quick draw hand, because I've never had to do that.
So, what would he say, how to explain to his date what he had forgotten, after returning to his stool? That he had left his gun? Probably not. Perhaps a wallet? Or keys? Could he then resume the casual conversation, “What does your father do?
Where did you go to high school? Do you want to go someplace more private?"
The image in my mind of the black double roll toilet paper holder with the brownish leather holster and the black gun handle visible, was beautiful – kind of.
It could have been an illustration for a 2nd Amendment Supporters Convention brochure. It was framed perfectly, like it belonged there, and almost unnoticeable, which it had proved to be. Perhaps the suddenly unarmed gentleman was anxious to return to the lovely date on the stool against the wall and see what the possibilities were for the remainder of the evening, and perhaps breakfast.
Maybe that's why he had forgotten his gun.
I've heard of new fathers who forget their new baby at a bus stop, or folks who leave a dog in a car for too long, so maybe he had just forgotten his Glock, perhaps called "Donald" – that would be a good name for a self-protection device, for those who don't like backing up in the face of a threat – and she was a blind date, and he could not concentrate on both at the same time. I'm sorry I didn’t take more notice of her. That might help me to understand how he could be so distracted that HE COULD FORGET HIS GUN!
This rumination can go on and on, because there are so many possibilities, like multiple forks in a path.
What would happen if one of the five guys at the bar had been the next person into the rest room? What would he have done? And since it was a family restroom, not a men's room, it might have a mother needing to change a diaper. Would she have the same reaction? What role does gender play in a situation like that?
If I had decided to tuck the gun into my waist band, how would I know that he was not waiting just outside the locked door. I could have put it in the trash can, or taken it to the bar, held it up and asked who it belonged to. Or called the police and said I had just found a gun. Or gone back to the table and gotten my phone so I could photograph it – but that would just delay, insert a 60 second pause, the restrooms were that close to the table, before all of the decisions would still have to be made.
I did not touch the gun. I did not take it out of the holster to see what it felt like in my hand, if it fit well, if it was cold like metal, or warm from being tucked into a
waist band. Would I be repelled or fascinated? Might I like it and feel more secure, perhaps invulnerable, never having to back down again and able, should the occasion arise, to save innocents from a bad guy with a gun who has no idea that this elderly gentleman has an equalizer, a creepy guy eliminator, a secret defender, waiting to do the right, the heroic, thing and finally be celebrated as the good guy with a gun in the New York Times?
The evening ended uneventfully. We went home and had a bowl of ice cream. We seldom order desert in a restaurant, because we figure why pay for something when its free, or at least already available, at home, and that we can have it while watching Netflix on the bed. Ice cream and Netflix in bed is a delightful end to a nice day for us at this age. (You don't really need to know that, but it might
reveal something about me!)
Still, I keep wondering how the guy with the temporarily missing gun ended his evening. I wonder if he is now, about 18 hours later, writing his account. How is he describing me? Is he wondering how my evening went? Does he wonder what we watch on Netflix? Does he worry that if I had my own piece that might have been bigger than his? Was he the only one packing at the bar? Should he actually be writing, would he also be sending it to The New Yorker? If so, perhaps they could be printed as a pair, variations on a theme, both true, or both not.
By Richard Margolis
Richard Margolis, Rochester photographer and summer resident at TI Park says he moved to Rochester 50 years ago for the MFA program at RIT. He taught for ten years, did commercial and architectural photography, was a founding member of Photo Archives Belong in Rochester (PABIR) which campaigned successfully to keep the Eastman House photographic collection in Rochester. He also helped create Rochester's ARTWalk, and the 2nd Saturdays Open Houses for Anderson Alley Artists that grew into Rochester's First Fridays.
Richard and his wife Sherry, began spending summers on Wellesley island when their children were little and fell in love with the area. Thousand Islanders will recognize his poster BOATHOUSES ON THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER,
Thousand Islanders will recognize his recent book, WILL SALISBURY, A Retrospective (See TI Life June 2020, "The Book and the Sculptor" or Will Salisbury, Sculptor: A Retrospective - YouTube) And this editor is pleased to give you news Richard is working on another book of stories around "Living With Books:, hopefully available in 2025. Yes, Richard is also a collector, or a teller, of stories - so stay tuned.
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