Work excursions to the paintball trenches
by Stephanie Colombini
Ever since I was a little kid, going paintballing has been pretty up there on my bucket list. This week, I’m happy to say I checked it off at last. After years of watching my brother go off with all the boys to run around the woods and play with guns shooting pretty colors while I had to like, get my nails done or something, I finally got my chance to see what it’s like. Verdict: AH-mazing.
It was a random get-together to say the least – I went with people from the restaurant I work at in Westchester. Servers, bus boys, hostesses, and bosses all joined together for the first time on a field trip. I woke up anxious (and hungover) at 7:45 Wednesday morning for a journey up to Patterson, New York. I knew absolutely nothing about paintball, and was worried about holding my ground around the aggressive boys.
As we stood around dressing ourselves in layers of baggy sweats, feeble attempts to soften the blows of the bullets, I sized myself up amongst my competition. I was satisfied to determine I was somewhere in the middle: more aggressive than the girly girls, but more afraid of getting shot than my hard-ass boss; faster than the cigarette smokers, but less athletic than the ironman-wannabes. I was out to prove myself. I didn’t want to just say I went paintballing; I wanted to say I kicked ass, which I did…sorta.
Our referees were everything I’d imagine paintball park employees to be: long-haired, gauged, and super chill. We spread out on a field, a horn blew, and suddenly I was running for my life in a sea of neon pink and yellow bullets. I sprinted almost all the way down the field (not that I had any depth perception at the time) and took cover in a bunker. My heart raced with adrenaline as I shot like a madwoman at several opponents, completely unaware if I was actually hitting them amidst the bombardment of shrapnel and paint splatter. Everyone warned me getting shot would hurt, and they were right. My first taste was a stray bullet that grazed my unprotected knuckle: MOTHERF&%@R!!!!!
Only shots that broke eliminated you from the game. This means the bullet has to explode on your body, which doesn’t always happen – sometimes it just bounces off. Still hurts like a bitch, but it keeps you in the game. I lasted an amazingly long time and impressed the ref with how many people I took out, but finally got taken down by a bullet to the goggles. Oh yeah, we were all wearing suffocating Darth Vader facemasks. Our instructors implored us to keep them on at all times: “If a paintball hits you in the eye, your eyeball literally explodes.” No further reminders were necessary.
Amped up from my not-too-shabby performance in the first round, I was eager to take some more people out in the next course. I also had a burning desire to climb all over the cool obstacles. My team’s ref had the perfect suggestion: a rocket with a ladder to an upper level, from which I could safely snipe down my opponents. It was up in the rocket that I realized paintball was the perfect place to discover individual’s true characters.
Under the threat of gunfire, a man reveals what kind of person he truly is. There is the timid type, who spends the game running for cover, concerned only with avoiding the painful bullets, shooting aimlessly only in defense – sometimes even surrenders! Most of us would never do that, though. Most people want to at least say they gave it a shot, it is a game after all.
On the offense, there is the predator, who runs fearlessly through the streaming bullets seeking to kill his prey from point-blank range. In my case, this guy was a scrappy bus boy who always seemed to take me out in the end. In the last course, I ran for cover under a bunker behind which he was hiding. Before I could even get my bearings, his gun was over the bunker and firing into my leg. You can practically see the paintball logos in the two monster welts the attack left above my knee.
So what kind of paintball person am I? I consider myself a crouching tiger. I would find a place to hide myself, and patiently snipe people from long distances. Maybe I didn’t always get the last shot or the big enemy, but I helped my team by taking out extraneous opponents, freeing up the field for the more aggressive players. I prided myself on hitting sharp targets through windows and tree branches. My selfish desire to hide and protect myself sometimes allowed me to make it through a round unscathed, but karma would always catch up with me in another round, when opponents took advantage of my sitting duck status with a kill shot.
The adrenaline rush and power trip of firing a loaded weapon is positively addicting – I HAVE to do it again.
For people who say violent games like paintball and shooting video games encourage bad behavior in the real world, I say kiss my ass – the experience was a perfect way to let off steam in a safe, controlled environment. I was in such a good mood when I was done, all negative thoughts temporarily melted away.
I ended the day high on life, and really proud of my overall performance. I was on the same team as my bosses, so I never got to take them out, but I did get the pretty-boy guido with a stud in his ear twice, so that was cool. He, like everyone, was a great sport the whole time, which is necessary in paintball. We beat the crap out of each other and all woke up the next day resembling Smurfs – but we all agree it was totally worth it.