Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I get to keep my job

I'm supposed to qualify on the rifle range a few times a year in order to be allowed to do my job. It's a mark of how much of an afterthought we are that we haven't had any range time scheduled for the past 3 years: almost exactly the period of time during which the vision in my right eye has been seriously deteriorating. And I am right-handed, which means that when shooting I close my left (good) eye and aim with my right (nearly blind) eye. A friend who is a Marine vet told me to always keep both eyes open, but I tried that, and I missed the target altogether.

We have a new guy, and he had to qualify at range, so we all finally got scheduled to go in and prove we can hit the side of a barn for the first time since this all started for me. I was sweating bullets (ha ha) over this. I've been worrying about it ever since I noticed my vision starting to go. I thought, the next time I'm at range I will just flunk, it's that simple, and then I will lose my job, and then what will I do?

I pushed these worries to the back of my mind, but now I realize what a load it's been on me for the past 3 years.

I got to range. I tried to shoot right-handed, as I always have. I failed miserably. I don't own a gun: I don't ever practice: I'm a terrible shot the best of times. I've always shot barely well enough to qualify. Now I couldn't even do that.

The range master was really nice, and very patient. "Try again" he said. "My left eye has always been stronger than my right" I told him (perfectly true - I've been wearing glasses for nearsightedness since I was in 6th grade), "and recently it's just been getting worse" I said. (Also true!) He was very understanding, as we are both of a certain age. "I don't know what to do" I confessed. Then all of a sudden, a somewhat obvious idea hit me. "What if I try shooting left-handed?" I asked him. He shrugged. "Why not?" he said.

I shot left handed. I aimed with my good left eye. It felt very very strange, but it was totally doable. To qualify we only need to score 75%. I managed to get 86%.

I get to keep my job.

I didn't really realize what a burden of worry I'd been carrying for the past 3 years until I left the range. I think my knees actually buckled a teeny little bit. I wanted to lie down somewhere and do some deep breathing. Or take a nap.

But since I get to keep my job, I had to run right out and keep doing my job. Which I did.


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