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Rant #117
(published January 16, 2003)
Just a Maryland Moment
by Manish Raiji

So I'm at a gas station.

So I'm at a gas station in Baltimore.

So I'm at a gas station in Baltimore near the notoriously busy I-95 on a particularly wooded and secluded patch.

So I'm at a gas station in Baltimore near the notoriously busy I-95 on a particularly wooded and secluded patch when I hear a gunshot and think to myself "now is an extraordinarily bad time to get shot by the sniper because I haven't paid my phone bill and my apartment is a mess and I don't think I'm wearing clean underwear," because I've always thought it was important to die with your bills paid off (because good credit is important, even in the afterlife), your apartment tidy (so that when they come in to clean your stuff out, your poor family isn't further traumatized, after you untimely death, by the discovery of the squalor you lived in, not to mention the unfortunate collection of illicit Finnish pornography under your unmade bed), and your underwear clean (because, no matter what sort of professionalism doctors are supposed to have, you know they snicker at home at night in bed with their significant others about the fellow who came in today, shot up by the sniper, with six-inch track marks in his shorts).

Plus, I was almost done pumping my gas, and I had pre-paid on my credit card, so that nearly-full tank of gas would obviously go to waste because, as mentioned above, I had just been shot at by the sniper. And his aim, like Costello's, is true.

And it was at that moment, just (milli-)seconds before the sniper's 0.223-calibre bullet, traveling at a dizzying 3,000 feet per second, which gave me about 0.34 seconds to contemplate all things (assuming that he was 9,000 feet away— roughly the maximum range of his weapon— and accounting for the fact that the sound of the gunshot— moving at perhaps 344 m/s, or 1,128 ft/s, given a prevailing temperature of 19 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 85%— would take longer to reach me than the bullet itself), that I realized that, for the first time since the whole Maryland/DC/Virginia sniper fiasco began, I was sort of camped out in the middle of it all and perhaps, maybe, should have been scared and, more notably, should have altered my behavior enough to avoid finding myself at a gas station in Baltimore near the notoriously busy I-95 on a particularly wooded and secluded patch, so as to avoid having to hear a gunshot and think to myself "now is an extraordinarily bad time to get shot by the sniper because I haven't paid my phone bill and my apartment is a mess and I don't think I'm wearing clean underwear."

So this contemplative moment took up 0.103 seconds of my remaining life, leaving me with 0.236 seconds left (assuming that my on-the-spot calculations of the physics involved were, so to say, spot-on). I exhausted another 0.003 seconds contemplating what to think of next, which was really my own fault and a serious waste of my last remaining (milli-)seconds because, seriously, a man should have a contingency plan already worked out in his head regarding the final thoughts that will go through before he finds himself bloodied on the ground by his nearly-filled vehicle with unpaid phone bills sitting on the table of his repugnant apartment with a seriously flawed laundry schedule proved unfortunately by the dirty shorts he's wearing.

Regardless, with 0.233 seconds remaining, I decided to make some quick estimations about the probabilities involved here— what with me being at a gas station in Baltimore near the notoriously busy— yeah, you know the rest.

So there are roughly 9,045,688 people (plus or minus 3) in the Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC/Virginia Beach, VA area— which isn't exactly the area that the sniper was involved in, and the data itself was from the 2000 census, so population fluctuations must have changed that number, perhaps significantly, but given my rather pressing deadline, I decided to forego a certain level of accuracy with this, hoping, of course, to be forgiven in the aforementioned afterlife. For the sake of speed, I decided not to subtract the number of people that the sniper had already killed (10/13, not a bad statistic for the sniper in and of itself) because, honestly, more people have been killed in the area and more people have been born, so the exact population would have been impossible to determine anyway. Being one of those 9.05 X 10^6 people (rounded to three significant figures, again for the sake of brevity), I determined that the probability of me, little old me, getting shot by said sniper was approximately 1.10 X 10^-7, which is so miniscule that, for the first time since I heard the shot (delayed, of course, because of the speed of sound, or actually, the lack thereof, compared relatively to the speed of the bullet), I actually became angry. With such ridiculous odds, was I seriously about to be shot?

0.13489 seconds remaining, and I almost found myself about to descend into a statistical Hades where I could methodically remove bits of the population likely to not be included in the 9.05 X 10^6 population figure used to determine my odds of getting shot, such as infants and toddlers, the decrepit, those without a vehicle, those living and operating immediately within the city (and thus avoiding the notoriously busy I-95), the poor, the lame, the blind. Such an undertaking would certainly have increased the odds of my getting snipered from the abysmal 1.10 X 10^-7, but my (milli-)seconds were ticking, and I had no time to fiddle with statistics just to diminish in barely distinguishable increments the sense of anger that I was beginning to feel regarding the total improbability of that bullet rushing toward this torso or, possibly, if the sniper was choosing to really like showcase his exceptional long-range targeting skills, this head.

Anger, the sort of blood-rushing kind that one can only know if they have experienced the anguish of determining your odds of dying to be so slight, yet realizing that you are to die anyway, is a particularly unhealthy attribute to have when the trajectory of a .223-calibre hunting rifle bullet, meant to scatter upon impact and leave a vacuous hole in the body of the targeted, is aimed somewhere along the surface of your torso (or possibly head). The problem with the anger is that the bullet, upon entry, would hit vessels that are unnaturally surfeited with plasma (due to your blood-rushing anger), and any chance you had at survival (if, say, the sniper hit your hip and perhaps shattered some pelvic bone and muscle but did not hit anything really critical except maybe the old testicles) is significantly diminished because, even if major organs are spared, your anger would make you bleed much more and you might, just might, die right there from blood loss while draped over the hood of your nearly-full-tanked Honda Accord with Verizon second-notices in the mailbox and a sort of unfortunate smell steaming out from under your belt.

And then I felt it, at a gas station in Baltimore near the notoriously busy I-95 on a particularly wooded and secluded patch. The bullet.

My first thought, naturally, was that, all calculations being pretty accurate, I still had at least 0.10 seconds remaining before I should have felt that bullet (rounded down, to give that bullet the benefit of the doubt). For a moment I questioned my mathematics ability (and these moments now are of course of critical preciousness because the bullet, it's already in me, see, already burrowing in and my moments left are now not the sort of "just a moment" trills that housewives call out when the doorbell rings, but very sincere "moments," in the nanosecond sort of time frame), but then I realized that the feeling was all wrong, the force and the speed and the angle and, really, basically everything about this bullet that was making a really steady and concerted push toward my liver through a, perhaps, dime-sized hole (I didn't stop to check) in my waist, it all just did not feel like a .223-calibre hunting rifle shot from roughly 9,000 feet away. Instead, what I was feeling (and now it's getting right down to the wire, it's like breathing on my liver and the impact will, certainly, cause a mess on the new wax job and my credit card is already hurting without this really unnecessary purchase of gas because, look, I'm not even going to drive the car anymore) was a pretty close-range shot from maybe a .22-, maybe even a .32-calibre handgun, but certainly not this hunting rifle the sniper's been using.

And right then, this moment of like, "wow this is inextricably painful" as the bullet sort of took control of my liver and did things to it that are seriously illegal (not to mention rude and really pretty inconsiderate), I realized that the sniper's already been caught. So all my calculations were really off from the get-go because the entire premise I was operating under, the grand schema I had in my head, was totally baseless, because the sniper's already been caught and he's in jail and it's two guys and one is 17 and the other's a Muslim and they both, probably, under American draconianism, will probably die, as they should, because if they had never existed, I would have made the proper calculations regarding my final moments and would have been much more productive with said final moments.

And plus, a lot of Eastern philosophies are pretty adamant about the idea that, upon bodily death, you sort of merge, Finnish pornography aside, with God and become God yourself, so really, these two snipers have messed with God's head, even though it was really the head of a person in his pre-divinity (milli-)seconds of life, or maybe it's pre-life (maybe we're all sort of pre-living, waiting for this little tiny death before we really become alive in the Godhood sense). The legal arguments about whether their snipering interfered with a mere mortal or with God are really just juris issues that I don't want to delve too deeply into, because the point is that I'm God now and these people have messed with me and angered me and I, being divine, can make judgments on life and death in a manner that Scalia could never dream of, until he too dies (or gets born?) and merges with me and the rest of us in our philosophical supremacy.

And plus, now I'm just a gunshot victim instead of a sniper victim. And when's the last time CNN made a hero out of a simple gunshot victim at a gas station in Baltimore near the notoriously busy I-95 on a particularly wooded and secluded patch? A gunshot victim with unpaid bills and a kind of disgusting lifestyle and fetid underwear, to boot?

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