Paintball: Game or Cult?

By Richard White, June 8, 2014

Reader response: "I read your blog re paint ball and it made me sick.  I cannot understand how intellegent people could even think about using guns for pleasure (nevermind hunting) No wonder there are so many shootings in the US especially some people just don't know the difference between shooting paint at one another and using real bullets hense the shootings. I know none of you will agree with me and that is alright I just had to let you know how I feel."

EDT: I too had a similar thought, but tried to focus on the fun people seemed to be having, however, the whole experience was too real for me. 

Paintball: Game or Cult?

When we asked my nephew what he wanted to do for his 17th birthday, he quickly said “Paintball!”  Yikes…this could be interesting for his two 60-year old uncles (another uncle was going to be in town and he wanted to do a joint gift). We were thinking (even hoping) golf, maybe even zip lining.

But being good sports, we decided to “man up” and go paintballing.  It couldn’t have been easier. Bragg Creek Paintball is just down the road from Redwood Meadows Golf course where the two uncles would be playing golf in the morning.

We arrived at 3 pm and the parking lot was packed; who knew paintball was so popular.  I was a bit intimidated by all the people, male and female, some in full fatigue gear all carrying guns. But in some ways, it is not much different than golfers with their custom-fitted clubs and their matching designer shirts, shorts and shoes.   

A large group of players head out to one of the many different themed fields at Bragg Creek Paintball. 

This guy was covered in welts and was showing them off to everyone.  I think he played without any coveralls or protective clothing.  

Game On

We rented the standard gun, overalls, helmet and 200 balls. I had been told to wear lots of clothing to cushion the blow of the paint balls and to expect to get some welts before it was over. Really, people like paying to do this? Indeed they do!

Since there were only three of us, we were paired up with others to play a game.  It was all very well organized; everyone was friendly and there was even a guy who explained the rules and signalled, “game on.” 

The first game entailed a group of about a dozen people trying to flush out six people in a tower (I was not one of the tower people).  We had to hit the tower people in the head to eliminate them from the game (this meant they could absorb as many body hits as they could stand). They had to hit us in the head or vital organ area twice to remove us from the game.

This photo is taken from outside the screened-in playing area. Here, two people are strategizing how to flush out someone behind an old school bus.

The paintball field was full of repurposed items like school buses and cars.

The Town

I couldn’t believe how serious these people were. It was intense gunfire continuously for about 20 minutes – no wonder everything in The Town (that is the name for the area we played in) was covered in an inch of paint (all colours) that looked like something Jackson Pollock might have painted back in the ‘60s.

People were running around shooting what seemed like randomly.  I pretty much stayed in the same place and said, “I will cover you!” Not really knowing if I could, but it sounded good and I think they believed me. I later found out the other uncle had pretty much the same strategy; maybe we do get smarter with age. 

I think our team won the first game, but it took forever to flush the guys out of the tower. The last guy standing seemed very proud that he would have several welts to show off to his friends the next day.

We played a second game where there were two teams of 8 each defending a tower at opposite ends of the field. It was pretty much the same as the first game – CHAOS!  Again, I just stayed behind a wall and fired long distance, while my nephew crawled along the grass and up into the trees like some Navy Seal.  Who knew speed skating training (his real passion) is transferable to military maneuvers!

A map illustrating the many different themed playing fields.  

I managed to get inside the playing field between games to get this photo of The Town.

Game Over

After ninety minutes, the two uncles had had enough so we gave our nephew our extra balls (we were snipers) as he had run out.  Off he went to play a couple more games with strangers who seemed delighted to have another player to shoot at.

I couldn’t believe how keen he was to keep playing. There used to be an old saying “you won’t be happy, until someone has poked out an eye.” At paintball, it seems “nobody is happy, until they have a few welts to show for it.” One guy came in with a swollen hand that wouldn’t stop shaking as it had been hit several times.  He was in obvious pain, but seemed proud that he would have a swollen hand in the morning.  These people’s brains are definitely wired differently from mine.

Thirty minutes later, my nephew ran out of paint balls signalling it was time to go home.  Later that night, he too proudly showing us his welts (legs, groin, chin and belly) not once, but several times. It was like they were medals of honour.

It will be a birthday I (hopefully he too) will not soon forget. I am pleased to report that both uncles managed to escape welt-free - old guys rule! 

Nephew walking off after being hit in the head - there was a big smile under his helmet. 

Last Word

Paintball seemed very cult-like to me.  Yet, I remember when I attended my first major bingo (fundraiser for a public art gallery) and was surprised by the bingo culture - people wearing lucky hats and sweaters and surrounded by multiple bingo cards and an assortment of daubers (when one would do). It seemed cult-like! I had the same feeling when I worked my first casino.

Since then, I have realized many have a religious-like zeal for hobbies and/or activities that seems irrational to others - quilters, golfers, cyclists, runners and gardeners to name a few. I know my passion and that of my small group of summer binge golfers could easily be perceived by some sort of cult by some.

Merriam Webster Dictionary has several definitions of a cult:

  • a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous
  • a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much
  • a small group of very devoted supporters or fans 

Perhaps it is human nature to belong to a cult!

Comments:

Reader response: "I read your blog re paint ball and it made me sick.  I cannot understand how intellegent people could even think about using guns for pleasure (nevermind hunting) No wonder there are so many shootings in the US especially some people just don't know the difference between shooting paint at one another and using real bullets hense the shootings. I know none of you will agree with me and that is alright I just had to let you know how I feel."

EDT: I too had a similar thought, but tried to focus on the fun people seemed to be having, however, the whole experience was too real for me. 

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A flaneuring quickie!

San Miguel: A religious experience of a lifetime!

Everyday Tourist (EDT) note: From time to time I have shared with EDT readers emails from my 80+ year young mother about her solo adventures around the world (from New Zealand to Alaska) with tales about her adventures in staying in hostels or travelling by train, to an encounter with a bear.  On March 4rd I received the email below from her, which I thought would interest readers.  After exploring San Miguel, Mexico on her own for several weeks, she was getting ready wind things down and head home, little did she know she was in for the “Flaneur Experience” of a lifetime.

Marie White's email to family and friends:

Well, I had two adventures today.  I decided to have a pastry from the Blue Door bakery and coffee on the El Jardin (central plaza) where much of San Miguel’s action takes place. As I sat there facing the magnificent La Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel Church, I saw two men with a large crucifix being followed by many locals and didn’t think much of it. As I was finishing my coffee, they started to leave in procession behind two men carrying the five-foot cross. Realizing it was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, I decided to join them – about 100 Mexicans and me!

We went to another church, where they went to the front and knelt quietly for about ten minutes and then said a prayer; I knelt at the back and watched trying to figure out what was happening.  We all left and the procession went to three other churches, doing the same at routine. When we came out of fourth church a teenager smiled at me.  I asked if she spoke English, but she did not.  It has been frustrating not being able to speak Spanish.

The magnificent Parroquia of San Miguel Archangel

  This is not from San Miguel, but it does illustrate an Ash Wednesday street procession. 

This is not from San Miguel, but it does illustrate an Ash Wednesday street procession. 

Purple Flower

The procession continued to yet another church, which is almost next door to my Hostel Inn where I was staying.  When we came out this time a young boy gave me his purple chrysanthemum (EDT Note: the chrysanthemum is associated with death and the colour purple is associated not only with mourning and suffering, but with royalty and is often used to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty), I had noticed they all had one.  Then a lady offered me a candy. I was not sure if that was part of the ceremony or not.  A young boy, about three years old then took my hand and his mother smiled (they smile a lot here) and we walked together.

The next church was the one I usually go to, followed by another six-block procession to the last church. This time we came out, the man carrying the crucifix approached me and I thought he asked me if I wanted to say good-bye to Jesus so I did.

I was pretty emotional by then - I felt the tears welling up. Suddenly one lady decided to hug and kiss me and thanked me for joining them. Then all 100 joined in. By now I couldn´t stop the tears - the man with the crucifix said “don´t cry.” But I just couldn´t help it. To have so many strangers, old and young, men and woman all wanting to hug me, all wanted to touch me was a very emotional experience. I have never experienced anything like it before.

What a way to start Lent. I walked to the El Jardin and pulled myself together.

  El Jardin in San Miguel Mexico hosts over 100 festivals per year, as well as being the central meeting place for both locals and visitors. 

El Jardin in San Miguel Mexico hosts over 100 festivals per year, as well as being the central meeting place for both locals and visitors. 

Serving Others / Always Smiling

I then found my way to where they serve a late lunch every Wednesday to about 100 elderly people. A couple with a B&B/ Spa have sponsored it for 20+ years. They pay people to cook and do the dishes, but volunteers serve. First the people come, shake hands with all the volunteers and saying good afternoon. They are so little and wrinkled with hands so rough they feel like sandpaper- but they are always smiling.

They go into a big room for their meal where the tables are marked; with age groups e.g. 80 to 95, 70 to 80. We serve the oldest first after singing three songs.

They are served juice, soup and a hot meal. Some bring bags so we can parcel the leftovers for them to take home. One volunteer bought ice cream bars for everyone - they loved that. It was a bit like “Out of the Cold” where I volunteer in Hamilton, Ontario but somehow this is more personal, more caring. I am glad I helped, it was another very touching experience for me – two in one day!

Home Sweet Home

I went to the library and read until it was time to go to Mass at 5 p.m., which again was a lovely service and a great way to end an intense day. Being Ash Wednesday, I got the ashes and boy, they don´t skimp on them!  

Finally, time to head home (yes, the hostel does feel like home after almost three weeks) and I was welcomed back like an old friend by the front desk staff.

  Hostel Inn, San Miguel, Mexico

Hostel Inn, San Miguel, Mexico

  Marie White in the foreground in black white flower print top, enjoying her tour of Deloros Helego. 

Marie White in the foreground in black white flower print top, enjoying her tour of Deloros Helego.