Being a man and biting the bullet

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 June, 1998, 12:00am

WHAT can you get for the man who has everything, in a backwater place like Saipan that you cannot obtain in Japan? The answer: a gun with real bullets.

That is the niche market someone has discovered. Billboards everywhere advertise 'Real Bullet Shooting' in Japanese.

I saw one across from my hotel room and stayed up all night debating, should I or shouldn't I? Finally, common sense prevailed. Like learning to swear and losing virginity, handling firearms is a manhood thing we men must accomplish.

The ad directed me to a department store on the ground floor of a shopping centre. The moment I mentioned guns, two shopkeepers rushed towards me, one with a 'menu', the other with a cash register strapped to her back.

The menu read: Plan A - four rounds with a semi-automatic rifle; Plan B - four rounds with a Magnum; Plan C - four rounds with a shotgun; and Plan D - a combination of the above.

I told the menu girl that I had never touched a gun before, and asked what I should choose. Thumping her chest with her fist, she replied: 'The shotgun of course. Boom. Real man.' But a street-smart guy like myself would not be so easily taken for a ride: never take what a vender recommends. So I took Plan D, the smorgasbord, thank you. It cost US$65 (about HK$500).

It turned out the shooting range was nowhere near the department store. A handsome Filipino man came in and pointed to an old pick-up truck outside.

'Only five minutes away,' he said. I was a little weary of the sleazy way the business was conducted, as I followed the driver-cum-shooting instructor outside.

Then I saw two meek-looking Japanese gentlemen already sitting at the back of the truck. Hey, a man's got to do what a man's got to do. I stuck out my chest and swaggered towards them.

The shooting gallery was nothing like what I had anticipated. It was dark, small, and rustic. No cocktail waitresses. The driver-cum-instructor was the janitor as well. He tidied up the place, laid three rifles and some cartridges on the bench top in front of us, and started the lesson.

'This is the semi-automated rifle, this the Magnum, and this the shotgun.' 'Boom,' I said aloud, showing off my knowledge of firearms in front of the Japanese contingent.

The instructor then said: 'Aim and shoot.' End of lesson.

Without physique and mental fortitude, firing a gun should be a cinch. We knew. Even the instructor told us so. He lavished so much praise on us it was almost embarrassing.

First we did the semi-automatic, then the Magnum, and finally, yes, the boom. The whole thing was over in three minutes. Our targets were close and all our shots good. It was obvious our abilities were grossly underestimated.

Interestingly, each of our targets was a sheet of cardboard with a sketch of a woman printed on it.

'Men shoot better at women, hahaha,' our instructor confided in us. We all nodded knowingly.

The target was given to us - a certificate of proficiency of sorts.

On the way back, I asked my Japanese comrades whether it was their first time. One of them held up five fingers.

No wonder they were carelessly folding and crunching their 'certificates' - they each had four other ones like that back home.

After slapping each other's back, I bid farewell to my buddies. I was $500 poorer, but then, a man's got to do what a man's got to do.