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by Alex Colvin

Alex Colvin is an aspiring Canadian humourist who hopes to one day be regarded as "a poor man's Mordecai Richler." He hopes to take English-speaking Canada by storm and expects to be totally ignored by French-speaking Canada. That's just kind of how it works up here.

         “Hey. Is your armor bulletproof?”

         I really hate getting asked that question. And really, why would anyone ask it? Do you plan on shooting me? Are you just making casual conversation? Are you being funny? I don’t get it, but lots of the clients at the shelter ask me that. It’s probably the question I get asked the most.

         And I don’t have an answer for that question either. I have absolutely no idea if it’s bulletproof or not. Even if I owned a gun, I wouldn’t set it up in the garage to shoot it and find out. I’m pretty sure once those things have been shot once or twice, they’re useless. And I hope to never find out. If I do find out, though, I’d like the nice surprise of only being winded and denying a flock of bullets a permanent residence in my person.  

         Still, I sincerely doubt it can stop anything serious. When I had the armor fitted, my employer repeatedly stressed that the vest was ‘ballistics armor’ and not ‘bulletproof armor.’ The key distinction is that ballistics doesn’t have to mean bullets. A ballistic is anything that’s used as a projectile. A rock, a wadded-up tissue, a tennis ball, those are all ballistic weapons if you chuck them at someone. And I’d survive all of those with or without my armor on. Well, depending on the size of the rock I suppose.

         Really, I think its only purpose is to be lawsuit-proof. By not labeling it as bulletproof, if I get shot to bits while wearing it, my next of kin can’t sue anyone. Should I get mowed down, my employer can assume a practiced state of shock, “Oh! It’s just terrible that Alex was gunned down like that! Such a shame! Of course, he’d been informed that we didn’t call it a bulletproof vest for a reason! By the way, have you looked into funeral homes? There’s a lovely one just off King Street that his predecessor’s family spoke highly of. Great pay-by-installment plan.”

         But the question still stands, “Hey. Is your armor bulletproof?”

         I’ve got a couple of options for answers here. I don’t like any of them:

         a) Yea, it’s totally bulletproof. So there’s no point shooting me. Stop thinking about it.

         b) No, it’s not bulletproof. So please don’t shoot me. If you want to escape or riot, just ask nicely and I’ll stay in my security office and you just do your thing. No worries.

         Then again, if one of the boys is really industrious, they could shoot me in the face and skirt the whole issue. But to counter that point, most of the shelter clients are convicted felons, so their lateral thinking might not be aces. The question still bugs me though. Why is it that the first thing they want to know about me is how I’d react to bullets? I mean, I’ll react badly. That’s the whole point of bullets. But how badly? That’s the question, I suppose. They never ask how long I’ve worked here, or if I caught the game last night, let’s talk about the effect of bullets on Alex the guard.

         Nice to meet you too.

         I mean, if you met someone for the first time and they had a massive, throbbing, painful-looking growth on the side of their head, would you first question be, “Hey, is that growth terminal?” No! That’d be tasteless. You could open with something more easygoing, and if you’re really curious about the tumor, there’ll be time to discuss that later. Unless it really is terminal. But that answers your question anyway.

            It’s impressive-looking and seemingly durable armor though. It makes me feel more capable and tough when I wear it. I’ve tested it out a little bit during really boring guard shifts; I’ve poked at my armor with various things. Pens. Letter openers. Scissors. I never stab it especially hard for fear of stabbing myself, but the amour effortlessly stops my feeble attempts to stab through it. I’ve found this quite reassuring, even if I doubt I’ll ever find it bulletproof.

            A new client walks into the building and looks me up and down. “Hey,” he says. “Is that vest of yours bulletproof?”

            Sigh. I decided to answer without words. I scowl, squint, and give a single nod of my head. Very slowly. The client fidgets on the spot and decides to go to bed. Huh. That was cool. Even if the best isn’t bulletproof, I can pretend I am.


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