So I’m at work. I’m doing the thing I’m getting paid to do, giving books to kids on scholarships and generating tons of paperwork. I’m minding my own business, the business of 12 scholarship programs and hundreds of strangers, when this cop comes and sits on the fuzzy shelf next to our desk. He’s sitting about 4 feet from me as I’m doing the filing. He’s not taking up much space as far as my eyes are concerned, but he’s occupying major real estate in my brain, somewhere around the intersection of Uncomfortable Plaza and Nervous Twitch Lane. I’m trying to file casually, walk casually, evict him from the Hotel Panic when I realize that, like most cops, he has a gun.

Guns make me very uncomfortable. I think probably that’s because my only experience with them was when I got shot. Well, that and they’re dangerous. Anyway, I’m glancing at this cop who’s occupying space in my brain, and I’m trying to be nonchalant about it because one of the last things I want is police attention, and I notice something about the gun.

The gun has a smiley face on the butt.

A little round smiley sticker, yellow in color, standard design, approximately an inch in diameter, slightly faded along horizontal lines. A smiley face sticker on the gun.

I’m scared of someone who has a smiley sticker on his gun.

I start thinking about that. How messed up is it to be scared of someone who has a smiley on his gun? How messed up is it for this guy to have a smiley on his gun? He’s carrying a deadly weapon with a happy face on it. Is this a kinder, gentler use of force, or is it some kind of Kubrickesque commentary? Is he trying to say that he’s a nice cop who wouldn’t shoot anyone, or that he loves the gun?

Obviously, the thing to do here would be to ask him what’s up with the smiley on his gun, but I’m sure he’s going to shoot me right there in the university bookstore if I so much as look at him wrong, so I keep my mouth shut and continue filing.

Is there anyone scared of bookstore clerks the way I’m scared of cops?