I used to work for the Postal Service, during a time when offices were routinely being shot up by guys who falsely claimed to have combat records in Vietnam. I happened to work in an office where there were a couple of dubious vets, who, when they weren’t listening to Elvis on their Walkmans, were describing their collection of handguns or telling racist jokes. There were some real vets there, too: taciturn people who clearly regarded the lathermouths with deep suspicion, and gave them a wide berth.

I was always trying to work out a plan of escape while sorting the mail in preparation for getting out on the route. That all hinged on where the gunman would enter the work area, when he started shooting, and what he was armed with. At our particular office, I thought I could also factor in motivation: Our postmaster was a widely despised crank who been kicked upstairs to get him away from the mail stream (Station Postmasters are usually more public relations people than anything else, and he was an abject failure at that, too.)

Not only the local paper, but regional papers frequently ran editorials slamming his incompetence. He responded by having half-hour floor meetings where we were asked to pray, further disrupting the timely delivery of the mail. I believed that in the event of a shooting, the assailant, if he were prioritizing, would be busy chasing this guy down first, and that would give me time to snake around the concrete pillars in the office and out to the parking lot where I’d run as I’ve never been able to run before, in combination with ducking behind and beneath automobiles and any superannuated people who might provide cover.

I’m not a fat guy ( at least I wasn’t then), but I’m short, and it takes me a ridiculous amount of time to cover any ground. There may be some birth injuries to account for my lack of speed, too: When I was taking the fitness test for the phys-ed requirement in college, the guy who clocked my fifty-yard dash said I was the slowest human being he’d seen in thirty years, and he began introducing me to the rest of the staff. I even got to shake hands with a couple of the coaches.

After awhile it occurred to me I wouldn’t necessarily be among the lucky, or a target, for that matter. Especially after I read more of the accounts of actual incidents.

Ultimately, when someone walks through that door with a gun, he’s just a gun, and nothing else. Gun advocates can spout all the shit they want about “guns don’t kill people”, but there’s no human behind that thing till you remove it from him. The list of dead from previous office shootings were more likely to include people who’d tried to help the assailant through a rough patch, or a clerk who was trying to get others to safety, than some officious supervisor who was out the door at the first shot anyway.

There’s basically only one strategy. You just have to hope it never happens.

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