Tonight, my husband and I arrived at our vacation destination. It was hot and humid and we headed straight for the beach. We bought groceries and went out for music and nachos and margaritas. It was a perfect start to a relaxing week.
Until we went to bed. We teased each other about the extra pillow. I turned out the light. There was a loud exploding sound. My husband told me - quite urgently - to turn the light on. It took a second or two to figure out the switch in the unfamiliar room. When the lights came on, Rob was sitting up and it took a few seconds to be sure he was okay. Scratched on the wrist and stomach, but okay.
There were large splinters of wood in the middle of the bed. It seemed to take a long time to put the splinters together with the round hole in the headboard. Even then, I looked for another more reasonable explanation. I called security. He called the police. People came in and out. We met five or six police officers. They were all polite and helpful and professional and sympathetic.
They were largely ineffective. It wasn't their fault. They called their supervisors and looked for loopholes. There weren't any.
The man responsible for shooting at me and my husband is still in his hotel room, and he still has his gun. He put it under his pillow and went to sleep. By his wife's account he was snoring loudly when the gun went off. The burns on the pillow corroborated his story. Apparently, he felt safe sleeping on top of a Glock, and has no idea how he managed to fire it in his sleep. He had all the right papers to be carrying a gun - even into a hotel room. He had no criminal intent. And so he still has a right to his gun.
As I write this, we are a little shaky. I tell myself that it was no closer a call than many that happen as we travel busy highways. Life is like this. Sometimes it is hard to tell if one's luck is good or bad. If this is as bad as it gets, I think on the whole we have been lucky.
I am more troubled by two questions. The first is probably obvious. What happened to our right to a safe night's sleep? Why is that less important than someone else's right to sleep in a hotel with a gun under his pillow? I understand that his freedom to do something stupid was protected tonight. I wasn't. My husband wasn't. The hotel has given us another room for the evening. But the hotel won't be able to make us feel good about sleeping against a wall we share with unknown guests who might be sleeping with their guns.
The second question might be less obvious, and it is also more immediate. My parents will be traveling to Europe soon. One of my sons is there now, and a second one will be traveling over the summer. If this happened to them, I would probably want to know about it. But the shoe is on the other foot and I find I am reluctant to let them know what has happened. I don't want them to worry - especially the son who has just moved across the ocean for the next three months.
Here's what I learned tonight. Police officers in an American resort town don't seem to like guns anymore than police officers in Canada. Luck is hard to predict and hard to evaluate. Bullets can come through your wall and then disappear, leaving a hole and splinters and shattering rest. And it's hard to tell people you love that all these things are true.