I try to live an up-for-anything lifestyle but when I was invited by some coworkers to play paintball my first thought was, “Voluntarily feel pain for recreational purposes? No thanks.” But not wanting to condemn something before I’d tried it, I reluctantly said yes and spent the following days in silent panic.
The first thing I did to prepare is what everyone living in the 21st century does when they don’t know something. I Googled it. The results were mostly the same. Wear dark clothes. Yes, it hurts. No, you don’t need fancy equipment. My favorite tip came from Blog of the Erupting Volcano recounting his first time playing paintball:
“You are going to get shot – Deal with it
Getting shot is probably going to be the primary thought going through your head when you start your first match. How to avoid it, what it is going to feel like, will you get injured – you’re probably going to dwell on this more than anything else. But doing so makes you as useful as Jeremy Davies in Saving Private Ryan.”
The day of the outing, D-Day, was unseasonably cold and rainy. We met for coffee and muffins and had an oddly cheery start to a day we would spend in combat. By 8 a.m we were loaded in the car and on our way out of the city to CPX Sports in Joilet, IL.
Did I mention how cold and rainy it was? We were rained on most of the morning and the high only reached about 45 degrees. By the time we signed the waivers, got our gear and went over all of the rules I was a popsicle and just ready to run around to get warm.
Per the internet’s suggestion, I dressed for the weather and wore three layers; a t-shirt followed by a long sleeve t-shirt followed by a hoodie. I also had on CPX administered chest armor that helped alleviate some of the sting from getting shot. Because yes, it hurts. But it’s tolerable. They also gave us each a face mask and holster for extra paintballs.
I wore thin gloves as to not restrict my trigger finger and a borrowed pair of old tennis shoes. Old tennis shoes are important. Especially in the rain. Everything was extremely muddy and I was submerged in water most of the time.
We had two teams of ten and just like a schoolyard we had captains pick teams. Surprisingly, I wasn’t picked last, and that was only because one of my friends was a captain and gathered all of us on the same team. Unsurprisingly, this turned out to not be the best strategic move. Three out of four of us had never played paintball but it was the friendship-y thing to do.
We played two five minute games on each course giving both teams the opportunity to begin from both starting points. CPX is huge and has tons of different courses built with unique objectives in mind. I preferred the apocalyptic maps with abandoned buildings and cars. I liked being in a window or on a rooftop so I could pretend to be Jude Law in Enemy at the Gates.
My team won the first game and I didn’t get shot. I actually wished I had gotten shot because I just wanted to get it over with. The second game I got my wish as I tried to run from one abandoned building to the next. Bazinga! I got shot in the hip. It hurt but the pain went away after a few minutes. This turned out to be my best bruise/welt so it’s a good thing it was my first hit. None of my others were as bad.
The hardest part was definitely not being able to see out of the mask. Between the rain and the cold, my mask was fogged up the entire time. Luckily, everyone else’s was too. The face mask was, however, a complete necessity. Almost every time I peaked over or around something, I got shot in the face. Not being able to see out of the mask was a good alternative to not being able to see forever.
My main strategy throughout the day was to be “brave”. I actually did pretty well and wasn’t shot that often. That is until we played a game called Cowboys and Indians. The idea was for the cowboys to protect their fort while the Indians tried to infiltrate it. The catch was that if you were a cowboy and got shot you were out. If you were an Indian you were able to keep coming back for more. So….being the brave little Indian that I was I continued to charge in to battle with reckless abandonment. I was a sticky yellow painty mess at the end of that game.
Throughout the day, I think I might have eliminated one person, two tops. It’s quite possible that someone else on my team actually shot them, but I was aiming at them too so it could have been me. Right? Cold killer or not I was exhausted, damp but pretty pleased with myself as I changed out of my paint covered clothes for the ride back to the city.
So what did I take away from a day of paintball? Mostly, I’m proud of myself for giving it a shot (no pun intended). Paintball offers just the right combination of fear, fun and adrenaline with plenty of team-bonding, laughter, mud and gunfire mixed in. Would I play paintball again? Absolutely! I would love to play again and bring along a first-timer so I can watch them freak out but also so maybe, just maybe, there would be someone I could actually hit. :)